US-Mexico Relations

The Love/Hate Relationship between Two Neighbors

As if it were taboo, US-Mexico relations were discussed today without a mention of the oh-so dirty topic of immigration. After watching President Obama and President Calderon’s press conference this week, immigration reform didn’t seem quite pressing enough for either of them to address.

They did manage to talk – first and foremost – about the situation in Libya and the death of an ICE agent in Mexico (okay, these were important to discuss). But of all the things to bring up, why did they spend any time at all on the National Football League’s (NFL) labor dispute?

Is football really more important than addressing our broken immigration system?

Hmm…once again immigration reform takes a back seat to other pressing, or not-so pressing, issues. It’s look like two neighbors trying to remain friendly, while knowing that their two teenagers are dating. They have to talk about other current events to avoid taking about their childrens’ relationship:

Father A: “How about them Packers, Tom?’
Father B: “Great team, but I was kind of rooting for the Steelers.”

an awkward silence

Father A: “So Tom…Angela tells me T.J. is taking her out for a ride in your new Cadillac?”
Father B: “…Uhh…Yeah. I’m just hoping he doesn’t treat her how he treats his own car.”

another moment of awkward silence

One of them should bring up the issue. I mean, Rage says, “It has to start somewhere; it has to start some time. What better place than here? What better time than now?”

Both men are going to have to deal with the certainty that their children are (hush hush) intermingling. But isn’t that the melting pot society we came to live in? I mean, shouldn’t all immigrants have the opportunity to achieve the “American Dream.” We all contribute to the greatness of this country.

The US-Mexico relationship will continue to be dysfunctional so long as our leaders continue to disregard what is best for both countries: comprehensive immigration reform.

Without it immigrants will continue to be mistreated and exploited, while US citizens will continue to feel like they are being used for their privileges.

So what kind of advice would you give our two fathers/leaders here? Should they continue to disregard their children’s relationship? or should they get over the uncomfortable silence and talk about the future generations?

Former Guatemala President on Trial for $15 Million Embezzlement

The prosecution of former President of Guatemala Alfonso Portillo is underway for the embezzling of public funds to the ministry defense fund. During Portillo’s 2000-2004 term of presidency, he is believed to have transferred more than $15 million, according to BBC. Not only is he wanted in Guatemala, but the US wants to prosecute him as well for committing fraud with donations for educational projects in Guatemala.

Why has it taken seven years? Portillo fled shortly after his presidency but was forced back to Guatemala in 2008 to continue his trial. The US cannot prosecute him until he is done with his trial in Guatemala, in accordance with Guatemalan law.

Brazil Elects First Female President

Dilma Rousseff

On Oct. 31 Brazil elected its first female president. A former Marxist guerilla, Dilma Rouseff was the Energy Minister before running for president. She was picked by outgoing President Luiz Lula da Silva as his party’s candidate, and she will now take the head of one of the world’s most growing economies.

Uranium in the Mix: Friction between the U.S. and Iran

Iran’s president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, has indicated his country may be ready to ship uranium abroad for enrichment, an action in line with a U.N.-backed proposal. Why now? The offer has been on the table since October of last year, but it seemed the leaders of Iran would never agree. For months, Iranian officials have criticized the plan proposed by the U.S., Russia, China, Britain, France and Germany last year advising Iran to send out the bulk of its low-enriched uranium to be processed and returned as nuclear fuel to power its reactor. However, conservatives in Iran were bitterly disappointed with the president bid to quickly make concession to the West.

In an interview with Islamic Republic of Iran Broadcasting, President Ahmadinejad said, “Iran has the technology at its disposal to produce uranium enriched to the level that could be used as fuel, and now that Iran possesses that technology there is no problem in sending the uranium outside…some people made a fuss about it. There is no problem. We will seal a contract and we will give you 3.5 percent uranium to enrich it to 20 per ent levels in four or five months and return to us.”

This announcement comes a day after Iran opposition leader Mir Hossein Mousavi stated that he will continue his struggle against the government. At the Eve of the Republics 31st anniversary, one of the most important dates in Iran’s political calendar, Mousavi and reformist ally Mehdi Karroubi called on their supporters to attend political rallies. Musavi publicly stated that “the green movement will not abandon its peaceful fight…until people’s rights are preserved. Peaceful protests are Iranians’ right.” Mousavi also said that the Islamic revolution in Iran had failed to eradicate the “roots of tyranny and dictatorship” that he believed marked the shah’s era. He said he no longer believed, as he once did, “that the revolution had removed all those structures which could lead to totalitarianism and dictatorship.”

President Ahmadinejad announced his government would be willing work with the U.N. as Mussavi continues to rattle the saber of the green movement. Iran has successfully launched a probe into space with two turtles, a hamster and a worm on board. The Islamic republic unveiled three new satellites on Wednesday, Feb. 10. The U.S. and other Western nations believe that Iran’s space program is only a mask to cover its true purpose: the development of intercontinental ballistic missiles that would be capable of reaching the United States.

U.S. officials have said that they positioned Patriot batteries in four Gulf States: Kuwait, Bahrain, the United Arab Emirates and Qatar. U.S. anti-missile ships are also being stationed in the Gulf. However, Iran has criticized the U.S.’s move to expand the missile defense systems in the Gulf region.

The situation in the Middle East is very volatile already and the tension between Iran and the U.S. is only creating barriers for the rest of the region, drawing more lines in the sand.

The Value of Education: Crisis in the Budget

José races down the courtyard between Royce Hall and Powell Library as he hurries to meet me. As he runs, all he can think is that in two days he will be taking his first midterm at UCLA. The quarter has been bittersweet for the AB 540 freshman. Although attending his dream school, he finds himself in a world of financial insecurity.

Like thousands across California, he knows that the UC Regents meeting on Nov. 18-19 will impact his future. If the Regents raise fees yet again, this time by 32%, his dream of becoming a doctor will prove more difficult.

Both UC President Mark Yudof and Chancellor Block stated that the decline in state funds is a major factor in fee increases. “The State has become an unreliable partner through chronic underinvestment,” said Yudof in an October letter to students and parents.

José grew up in Tijuana, Mexico. “My mom worked three jobs and still wasn’t making enough…she came to the U.S. to work.” Economic problems pushed José’s family to move often. To escape gang violence in his low-income neighborhood, José worked any job he could and opted to pursue a higher education. “I always tried to make the best of it and seek the resources. Whatever I could do,” José said.

Undergraduate Student Association Council (USAC) president, Cinthia Flores, is committed to raising awareness about the issue. “We have been organizing an educational campaign in partnership with the External Vice President’s office,” she said in an interview with La Gente. Partnering with Block, USAC reinstated Night Powell, a 24-hour library service.

2009 has been a year of unemployment in which Nobel Peace Prize winner Barack Obama gave billions to financial goliaths such as AIG instead of the ailing American people. California’s Governator chose to close the state’s massive budget deficit by slashing $637 million from education, according to Yudof.

Californians have come to terms with the grim economic reality. But let us reflect for a moment; a democratic society should provide its members quality education as an unalienable right rather than a privilege.

What is democracy, but an institution founded “for the people and by the people”? The future of any democratic society depends on the quality of education by which individuals can develop an appreciation of the democratic principles that make America so great and actively engage with the promises of democracy. While we question how the proposed fee increases and cuts in services affect UCLA’s 34,000 students, we must question the California’s values as it continues to undermine and marginalize quality over costs.

José doesn’t have the luxury of contemplating the principles of democracy. He has to take his midterm while crunching numbers to figure out how he can afford another quarter. “Honestly this is all new to me, I am the first in my family to go to college. It’s a privilege, but I am sometimes frightened because I don’t know exactly what to do, having that feeling of constant uncertainty and financial insecurity,” José said.

Obama Takes Step Backward on Cuba

Republished with the permission of New America Media

The Obama administration took a step backward on U.S. relations with Cuba when it included it on a terrorist list. We urge the administration to reconsider this decision.

The list of 14 nations the United States considers either sponsors of terrorism or countries of interest includes Cuba and Saudi Arabia. U.S.-bound air passengers from these nations are to receive extra security checks, including pat-downs. This was in reaction to the Christmas day terrorism attempt during a flight from Amsterdam to Detroit.

Last we understood, the attempted attack broke through because of a failure of national intelligence, not out of a terror campaign by Cubans. As is, the United States applies a long list of restrictions to Cuba under a decades-old embargo policy.

The U.S. State Department has said that Cuba harbors fugitives from justice and has supported Colombian and Basque rebel groups. The Cuban government disputes these claims or offers political rationalizations for individuals it brands as asylees.

But we know that if Cuba posed such a clear and present danger to the United States, that President Obama would not have relaxed some travel and other restrictions on Cuba, as he did last year. Representatives like Jose Serrano and Sam Farr have called for building on that momentum to change stagnant, ineffective policies toward Cuba.

In the context of the last eight years and specifically the events since Christmas day, the nation has been focused, and rightfully so, on terrorism campaigns against U.S. citizens. It makes sense that Saudi Arabia, where the Sept. 11 attackers trained, is included on that list.

While the Castro regime is not innocent, putting Cuba in the same league as Iran, for example, is unfair and undermines efforts towards a 21st century foreign policy.

Jesuit Massacre Still Haunts Salvadorans After 20 Years

Republished with permission of New American Media

Written by Mary Jo McConahay, Originally posted: Nov. 16, 2009

SAN SALVADOR — Twenty years ago, three colleagues and I were the first reporters on the scene of the murders here of six Jesuit priests, their cook and her daughter, a turning point in the civil war that cost 75,000 other Salvadoran lives. As gatherings the world over commemorate the special anniversary, I remember details of that morning I do not want to forget.

“They’ve killed Ellacuria,” said the young priest in the hotel parking lot.

He had rushed over to tell reporters, he said, and we were the first he met.

We reserved belief. The death of Ignacio Ellacuria, rector of San Salvador’s Jesuit university and a world-renowned theologian, had been announced more than once during the civil war. We jumped into a jeep anyway.

At the university side gate, we knocked on a black iron door. From across the street, a soldier in a guardhouse kept watch. Guerrillas of the Farabundo Martí National Liberation Front (FMLN) had been trying for six days to take over the capital. The army was fighting back with all the U.S.-supplied arms and aircraft it had. At this hour of morning, just after curfew lifted, you didn’t know what lay behind any closed door.

Inside, on the grass, we saw four bundles covered with white sheets stained with what looked like blood.

“Come with me,” said José María Tojeira, the Jesuits’ Central America provincial. My colleagues, radio reporters, were already striding with their mics toward two clerics, one elderly and one very young, who stood gazing at the bundles. I followed Tojeira.

“Come, look,” he said as we stepped inside the residence.

A man lay lifeless in the hall. A priest, I supposed, but not Ellacuria. A smear of crimson streaked the floor. Tojeira stood by an open door to one of the rooms. He didn’t speak, but tilted his head for me to look inside. A narrow room with a small bed and books, one fallen on the floor, next to a man’s body, some blood. Not like knife wounds, likely bullets. I wrote in my reporter’s notebook furiously, sloppily, tethering myself to the pages. Each time, Tojeira waited.

Instead of returning to the garden, however, we descended a short flight of outdoor steps. A door stood ajar. I asked myself what more might be possible.

The body of a woman lay over that of a girl. The woman’s remains faced the door, as if she had stood in front of the girl at the last moment. I could hardly breathe. My own daughter was three at the time.

By the time Tojeira and I ascended to the garden once more, news photographers had arrived.

“Father, you have to take the covers off the bodies,” I said.

Tojeira looked alarmed for a moment, then decisive.

“Promise me that these pictures, all this, will reach the Jesuits, will be known,” he said.

I felt a jolt. Tojeira’s words told me he was uncertain whether he would live through the day. Jesuits, most notably Ellacuria, had had the ear of both sides in the civil war, from President Alfredo Cristiani of the right-wing ARENA party, to leftist FMLN commanders. The scholar-priests pushed for a negotiated, non-military solution. To radical rightists, this was intolerable. A call for “Death to Jesuits” had surfaced, along with threats to others in the atmosphere of war.

I knew the photographers. I promised Tojeira. The sheets came off.

There was Ellacuria, still in his bathrobe, looking up, as if he had faced his killer. There was Ignacio Martin-Baro, the psychologist I had first met in San Francisco years before, when he explained to me how difficult it was to treat traumatic stress while people were drowning in war. Segundo Montes lay there, the sociologist to whom we always went for facts about the exodus that was making Los Angeles the second largest El Salvadoran city. He had tracked the uprooting carefully, sadly, holding back anger -– it seemed to me -– when he had described how the war was separating families, and emptied old towns.

I did not know the other priests who died that day, Amando López, Joaquín López y López and Juan Ramón Moreno. I did not know (but felt I did) the cook and her daughter, Julia Elba Ramos and Celina Ramos. When I visited the place of the murders recently, I saw that the roses Julia’s husband planted in the days after the massacre had grown to dominate the garden. Ellacuria’s brown bathrobe hung behind glass in the nearby museum.

An engineering student named Martin sat in the little room I had last seen disheveled and smelling of death, with the bodies of the two women on the floor. Young Martin was describing to visitors the history of that day, allowing them to choose which of two photo albums they wanted to see, one that was more “difficult” to pore through, and one that was “softer.” How in God’s name, I wondered, might there be a “soft” version of the images I saw?

I did not feel like speaking, but carried away something I heard Martin say. He was only a toddler on that day 20 years ago, but as he learned how the men worked to end the war, minister among the suffering, and how they died, he decided to join others volunteering for the “museum.”

“We cannot allow forgetting,” he said.

Journalist Mary Jo McConahay’s “Maya Roads, Travels through Space and Time in the American Rainforest,” will appear in 2011, from Chicago Review Press