Categorías
Estados Unidos Politica

Resultados mixtos sobre Trump tras comicios de medio periodo

WASHINGTON, DC – Los dos años que le restan a este mandato del presidente Donald Trump prometen tranques y divisiones, ahora que los  demócratas consiguieron el control de la Cámara de Representantes y los republicanos continúan controlando el Senado e incluso solidificaron su mayoría. Pero habrá cuando menos algún tipo de freno a los excesos del gobierno de Trump.

Es cierto que restan dos años de Trump en la Casa Blanca antes de los comicios de 2020, cuando buscará la reelección. Es cierto también que el Senado permanecerá bajo control republicano. Pero al menos habrá algún tipo de fiscalización en la Cámara Baja que no será un sello de goma de este presidente como lo ha sido en manos republicanas.

Mensajes mixtos

La elección de medio tiempo tuvo mensajes mixtos. Cada bando presentará la interpretación que más le convenga. Fue sin duda un plebiscito sobre Trump y especialmente sobre su mensaje apocalíptico, racista, prejuicioso y divisivo, donde el inmigrante es la “raíz de todos los males” del país.

Así, en materia migratoria algunas figuras republicanas antiinmigrantes que abrazaron el mensaje de Trump fueron rechazadas, entre otras, Kris Kobach, el Secretario de Estado de Kansas, quien buscaba la gubernatura; Corey Stewart, quien quería el escaño del senador demócrata Tim Kaine en Virginia; la titular republicana del distrito 10 de Virginia, Barbara Comstock, perdió su escaño ante la demócrata Jennifer Wexton, así como Dave Brat, quien perdió el escaño del distrito 7 de Virginia. Lou Barletta, otro Mini-Trump, perdió su contienda ante el demócrata Bob Casey por el escaño senatorial de Pennsylvania. Y Steve King casi pierde su escaño cameral por el estado de Iowa.

Sin embargo, algunos clones de Trump ganaron, como el senador republicano de Texas, Ted Cruz, aunque pasó el susto de su vida en una cerrada contienda ante el demócrata Beto O’Rourke. Otro clon, Ron DeSantis, parece haber ganado la gubernatura de la Florida, también tras una reñida contienda contra el demócrata Andrew Gillum.

Y en el Senado, Nevada volvió a probar la efectividad de sus grupos cívicos y sindicatos en movilizar a votantes de minorías, incluyendo los latinos. Esta vez la fórmula logró que el senador republicano Dean Heller perdiera su escaño ante la demócrata Jacky Rosen. Según el sondeo American Election Eve Poll, de Latino Decisions, comisionado por diversos grupos progresistas, los latinos de Nevada favorecieron a Rosen sobre Heller 71% sobre 25%, respectivamente.

Republicanos solidifican control del Senado

De todos modos, los republicanos solidificaron su mayoría en el Senado con la elección de conservadores alineados con Trump. Y los demócratas perdieron varios escaños, incluyendo en la Florida, aunque hasta que escribo estas líneas se hablaba de un posible recuento de votos en la contienda entre el senador y titular demócrata, Bill Nelson, y el republicano exgobernador, Rick Scott.

Demócratas con mayoría en Cámara de Representantes

En la Cámara Baja la historia fue diferente y evidenció las profundas divisiones ideológicas del país. Los demócratas fueron favorecidos en los centros urbanos y suburbanos, mientras los republicanos, en general, prevalecieron en zonas rurales donde Trump es rey. No obstante, demócratas destronaron a congresistas republicanos en varios estados que Trump ganó en la elección de 2016 evidenciando el descontento del electorado con los excesos de Trump. Los demócratas incluso sumaron gubernaturas a su columna. Los 3 estados que le dieron la victoria a Trump en 2016, Michigan, Wisconsin y Pennsylvania, eligieron gobernadores demócratas.

Latinos y mujeres

Precisamente esos excesos de Trump fueron el detonante de una participación electoral que batió récords en una elección intermedia y los latinos formaron parte de esa movilización, aunque en algunos casos no supuso el triunfo del demócrata, como en la contienda entre Cruz y O’Rourke en Texas. O’Rourke movilizó a jóvenes y minorías y, según el sondeo de Latino Decisions, fue favorecido por los votantes latinos 74% sobre 24%. Ojalá que los demócratas capitalicen sobre el entusiasmo de los latinos en Texas y en otros estados e inviertan efectivamente para mantenerlos movilizados rumbo a 2020. La movilización pro O’Rourke contribuyó a que los demócratas derrotaran a dos titulares republicanos de la Cámara Baja en Texas: John Culberson y Pete Sessions perdieron sus escaños.

Y otro sector que sin duda fue movilizado por los excesos de Trump fueron las mujeres. La cifra récord de más de 100 mujeres servirá en la Cámara de Representantes.

Turbulencia en el horizonte

En fin, que cada bando tiene algo que celebrar y algo que ponderar.

La Cámara Baja demócrata tendrá el poder de fiscalizar los excesos y las irregularidades de Trump. Pero tiene que balancear el proceso para no lastimar sus posibilidades de mantener esa mayoría en 2020, sobre todo si quiere obtener triunfos legislativos que mostrarle a los electores, considerando que un Senado republicano y un presidente republicano con poder de veto pueden frenar muchos de esos intentos.

Así, estos próximos dos años prometen más división, más estancamiento, a menos que ocurra un milagro y Trump y los demócratas decidan que quieren negociar para mostrar resultados en algunas áreas antes de la general de 2020.

Al hablar ante la prensa en la Casa Blanca, Trump por un momento pareció extender una rama de olivo a los demócratas de la Cámara Baja al decir que “quiero ver bipartidismo, quiero ver unidad”. Pero inmediatamente afirmó que si los demócratas de la Cámara emplean su mayoría para abrir pesquisas sobre sus impuestos o Rusia, está listo para combatirlos. Dijo: “Pueden jugar ese juego, pero nosotros lo jugamos mejor porque tenemos una cosa llamada el Senado”. Y retomó sus ataques a la prensa y a los inmigrantes “invasores”.

Ante tanto presagio de turbulencia, hay que abrocharse los cinturones.

Maribel Hastings es asesora ejecutiva de America’s Voice 

 

Categorías
English Inmigración

Protect yourself from Notarios and Immigration Consultants

The first preoccupation of the undocumented is fear from being apprehended by the Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). A close second is being able to find a job to support oneself and family members. There is a greater danger, however, that is often overlooked. The undocumented is ignorant of those who will take advantage of him, and indeed defraud him, with promises of making him legal. Most often he becomes a victim by his own kind.

Don’t be a victim

The US Department of Justice recently released a memo entitled “Do Not Be a Victim of Immigration Fraud.” It warns the immigrant that notarios, immigration consultants, and visa consultants are not attorneys and may not represent clients in immigration court. The memo lists warning signs and steps to take to protect victimization. They include:

DO NOT sign applications or papers that are blank.

DO NOT sign applications or papers that you do not understand.

DO NOT sign applications or papers that have false information.

DO NOT pay money without getting a receipt.

DO get copies of all applications or papers prepared or filed for you.

DO check that an attorney or “accredited representative” can represent you in immigration court. (See Immigration Court Practice Manual, Chapter 2.)

DO report complaints about “notarios,” visa consultants, and immigration consultants to your state Bar Association, state Office of Attorney General, and City Attorney.

The Problem

In seeking protection, the vulnerable and fearful naturally gravitates toward what makes him feel comfortable, his own kind. Worse yet, the meaning of the title notario is different in the US than it is in Latin and European countries, where a notario is a lawyer elevated by the government to special status. In the U.S. a notary’s powers are very limited, usually reserved to swearing a person to an oath when signing a document, and verifying the signer’s authentic identity. This major difference makes it easy for the unscrupulous to victimize the desperate and the naïve.

During my 30 plus years of practice I have seen this repeated not only in the Latino community, but across all ethnic groups, including British, Russian and Armenian. These consultants routinely make promises that are not legally feasible, take large sums of money, file papers with incorrect, incomplete, and often fraudulent information, leaving the client unaware of the content of the applications filed. Typically, the client ends up in removal proceedings in immigration court where he then must confront the incorrect information.

Notarios and attorneys

The real problem occurs if in the earlier immigration interview, the client did not correct or recant the false information in the applications. Such behavior would cause the judge to doubt any of his testimony offered in court.

When the client returns to the consultant or notario to complain, again he is promised that everything will be taken care of because the consultant will find a good attorney to represent him in court. This offer by the consultant can lead to another problem: Finding a licensed attorney is necessary, but if the attorney continues to work with the consultant or the attorney routinely receives cases from the consultant, there is a dependent relationship and a clear conflict of interest that may work to the disadvantage of the client.

For example: the attorney who receives the case finds that the consultant/notary made serious errors in the client’s application, or worse, that the papers prepared by the consultant/notary misrepresented facts. Does the attorney continue to work with the consultant? He should not. Does the attorney advise the client to report the consultant/notary to the City Attorney, District Attorney, or Attorney General? Yes, he should. Does the attorney prepare the client to testify before the Immigration Judge putting the blame where it lies? Under most circumstances, this is in the best interest of the client, but may not be in the interest of future business to the attorney from the consultant.

Helpful Steps

Depending on the level the client’s case has reached, different options must be taken to dislodge him from the appearance of fraud or misrepresentation. This is done by doing a detailed sworn statement of the circumstances of meeting with the notario;/consultant, what he promised, the fees paid, what was delivered, whether the client was informed of the content of the application filed, provided a copy, or properly prepared for any immigration proceeding. It is also important to detail how and when the client learned of the errors or misrepresentations in the applications.

Equally important is to file a complaint against the notario/consultant with the City Attorney, Attorney General and District Attorney. I always encourage my clients to take such steps. Without it, a complaint about the facts and testimony in court would be less credible. Reporting the actions of the notario will also make it less possible for him to cause harm to others.

Special California Laws

My most recent experience in advising a client who had been victimized was in the Russian community. A consultant charged thousands of dollars for filling out an application for political asylum. The client did not know that the information was inadequate to make an asylum claim. Her application was therefore referred to the Immigration Judge where we had to withdraw the application. I encouraged her to report the incident to the district attorney. It turned out that 4 other victims had filed complaints against the consultant. After many delays, the consultant was convicted of offenses against all the clients, ordered to return the money she had received, and sentenced to three years in jail.

Some states, notably California, offer special laws for additional protection from notarios and consultants. California Business and Professional Code (sections 22440-22448) seeks to regulate the conduct of an immigration consultant, spelling out limitation of service, obligations and liabilities. The same law also provides clients with specific rights and remedies.

Limitation of service:

The consultant /notary

1. May not give legal advice.

2. May not provide guarantees of outcome

3. May not say that he has special influence or can obtain special favors with a judge or and immigration employee

5. Must not advertise himself as a notario, licenciado, abogado, implying that he is an attorney.

6. Must not charge a fee for referring a client to an attorney.

Obligations to the client:

The consultant/notary

1. Must post a $50,000 bond with the California Secretary of State for the benefit of any person damaged or injured by the consultant’s services; by fraud, unlawful act or omission;

2. Display a large sign in the office in bold letters 1” size that he is not an attorney, name, address and bond number, the services he provides and the price of each, name of each employee, and addresses of all offices;

3. Before beginning service, the consultant must give the client written information

with (a) his name, address, telephone number and bond number, (b) name of agent for service of process, (c) name of person who consulted with client;

4. Must return all original documents;

5. Must provide a copy of all applications filed with the immigration service;

6. Must provide a written contract in your language, listing the service he will provide;

7. A typed receipt on consultant’s letterhead for each payment made;

8. An accounting every two months of total fee and payments received, on consultant’s letterhead, with a translation in your language;

Rights & remedies of the client:

1. $100,000 penalty for each violation by a consultant/notary.

2. The City Attorney, Attorney General, and District Attorney may bring action against the notary /consultant. A finding of guilty will result in restitution to the client plus a fine between $2,000 and $10,000 or jail up to one year, or both. A second violation is punishable by imprisonment in state prison. .

3. Within 4 years of the services, the client can sue for damages. The recovery is actual damages (the amount paid to the consultant) plus $1,000 or three times the amount, whichever is greater, plus attorney fees and court costs. .

4. The client can also recover damages from the consultant’s bond.

Conclusion

The best remedy is to hire a lawyer experienced in immigration law, certified specialist being the best. If that is not possible, protect yourself by requiring the consultant to comply with California law, and if that fails, take legal action against him through your local small claims court and District Attorney. Chances are that you are not the first victim of this consultant.

Categorías
English Periodismo

Obama and the Freedom of the Press

History recalls, United States presidents –but Richard Nixon—have refrained from directly attacking specific media networks or particular journalists. Furthermore, it tells us presidential figures have followed a communications strategy that embraces protocol in its treatment to the press, regardless of the political leaning of the outlet in question.  At least, they have followed the non written rule of not placing themselves in evidence, when disliking the treatment they are getting from certain media.

As the old saying recites, it is never a good idea to pick a public fight with someone smaller than you are, as it diminishes you and elevates the opponent.  Well, this is exactly what President Barack Obama and some of his administration officials have been doing to tackle criticism and prevent others from following the trend. Not a smart but yet, a risky strategy.

The last two weeks have been extraordinarily intense in this regard. The White House has escalated its grievance about the FOX News Channel from a condemnation on the White House Web-site blog challenging the political orientation of FOX commentators, to the administration passing over Fox News in a recent round of Sunday morning interviews and to White House communications director Anita Dunn saying that Fox News is not really a news organization.

“The reality of it is that Fox News often operates almost as either the research arm or the communications arm of the Republican Party (…) Obviously he [the President] will go on Fox because he engages with ideological opponents and he has done that before. He will do it again. I can’t give you a date, but frankly, I can’t give you dates for anybody else right now.”

In response to Dunn’s remarks, Fox News senior vice president Michael Clemente said the following:

«An increasing number of viewers are relying on Fox News for both news and opinion, and the average news consumer can certainly distinguish between the A-section of the newspaper and the editorial page, which is what our programming represents.

 

So with all due respect to anyone who might still be confused about the difference between news reporting and vibrant opinion, my suggestion would be to talk about the stories and the facts rather than attack the messenger, which over time has never worked.»

 

But Obama seems pretty determined in his effort to persuade other news organizations to depart from the Fox News information leaning, as White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel said on CNN that it is important «to not have the CNNs and the others in the world basically be led in following Fox,» while White House political chief David Axelrod appeared on ABC last Sunday, to reiterate that «[FOX] it’s not really news.”

Reactions have poured in to the extent that Sen. Lamar Alexander took to the Senate floor to urge president Obama and his aides to cease their attacks on White House critics; at the time he accused Obama of using Nixon-style tactics, as building an ‘enemies list.’  Alexander condemned the president’s tactic of going after political opponents and members of the media, as Rush Limbaugh, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and Fox News commentators.

One of the latest attempts from the Obama administration to boycott Fox News happened just Thursday, when the Treasury Department tried to prevent this organization from interviewing the executive pay czar.  In an action of solidarity –perhaps colleague’s interests protection- ABC, CBS, CNN and NBC all refused to interview unless FOX was included; there it was the presidential pool standing up altogether for freedom of the press.

This was an outrageous and embarrassing Constitution violation attempt on behalf of the White House. To the First Amendment to be specific, only prevented –thankfully, to the fact that the whole press pool –despite ideologies- stuck to the principles and ethics of journalism. It was inspiring to see their love and respect for the profession, beyond the potential intimidation of the WH apparatus and power.

In the other hand, the truth is that it has taken a while the mainstream media -especially the self identified liberal media- to pick up on stories from FOX, or they’re simply reluctant to do so; as it was the case, for instance, of Van Jones or ACORN.

With the poll numbers being down, and critical problems accumulating, is understandable the Obama administration is under a lot of stress. However, the attempt to quarantine FOX is not a smart idea; both by principle and for practical reasons as FOX’s three nightly newscasts have about 20 million viewers and because, as per the PEW center, the network’s audience is composed by a very diverse crowd in the political spectrum, including conservatives, liberals and moderates.

Even liberal media has labeled the White House ‘hunt’ against FOX, ‘over the line.’ David Zurawik, Baltimore Sun’s TV Critic, expressed to media:

I think is outrageous that the White House that, that’s my first reaction; my second reaction is I am really cheered by the other members saying no, if Fox can’t be part of it, we won’t be part of it. What is really about to me is the executive branch of the government trying to tell the press how it should behave.”

Certainly, it is very hard to believe that living in a Democracy as the U.S.; president Obama is directing his efforts to depict opponents -including FOX, the only major conservative news outlet- as illegitimate. The option to social and political debate it’s indispensable for the sake and balance of any nation. What is happening in the U.S. is astonishing, as even in democracies of the so called third world as Mexico, people have become extremely critical of the performance of the government, participating vigorously in the public debate sustained off and through the mass media. In that sense, the case of Hugo Chavez in Venezuela, would be the last we want to see in the Americas.

For the sake and the preservation of journalism, its media role should be understood as the watchdog of private, as well as public entities and officials, including its ability to denounce corruption and fraud when the occasion arises.

Fox News responds to Obama administration’s criticism (video)

 

The WH reasons for Fox veto

The very first major issue known to cause Obama’s irritation was the Reverend Jeremiah Wright controversy. Although the story originally broke on ABC, it was closely followed by FOX, raising the question of the type of association that the –then- presidential candidate, had with the preacher and his ideology; ideology of the same man Obama credits for the title of his book “The Audacity of Hope.”  Wright –just retired- gained notoriety by his frequent divisive statements made from the pulpit.  Within others, in his first sermon after the September 11 attacks, the reverend said that the U.S. had brought on the attacks “with its own terrorism;” making reference to the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

Then, the Bill Ayers controversy came along; the story was essentially covered by FOX as the only major network. It was very badly received by the White House.  Ayers, depicted as a ‘domestic terrorist,’ belonged to an anti-Vietnam War group that protested U.S. policies by bombing the Pentagon, U.S. Capitol and other government buildings; but despite his own confession when he wrote in his book Fugitive Days «I don’t regret setting bombs. I feel we didn’t do enough,» Ayers avoided prison when charges were dropped due to a lack of evidence. The president has always maintained he didn’t know Ayers.

The Ayers-Obama relationship became a news topic as details of the support given to his first run for the Illinois Senate and a small contribution to the 2001 Obama’s campaign, became public. Other information disclosed in the reports was that Ayers served simultaneously with Obama -between December 1999 and December 2002- on the board of a couple of nonprofit organizations, one of which (Chicago Annenberg Challenge,) was charged with doubtfully spending millions of dollars.

FOX also made a very meticulous follow up of the cabinet selection process, as several Obama administration nominees had failed to pay their taxes. Within them, former senator Tom Daschle, originally nominated to be health secretary but had to step down due political pressure for not paying about 128,000 dollars in back taxes plus some 12,000 in interest. Other prominent Obama’s nominees followed the trend, within them, a key piece for the new administration, Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner, who admitted mistakes on past tax returns, but survived through Senate confirmation, despite his belated payment of $34,000 in due income taxes.

In early September, the Van Jones resignation as the White House environmental adviser was attributed to the pressure of some republicans, and to the extensive coverage that FOX provided to its viewers over the case. Van Jones faced accusations for his association with a Marxist leaning group, for past activism that has been considered as radical, including  signing a petition that placed the 9-11 attacks as a U.S. government conspiracy, permitted by Bush administration officials “as a pretext for war.»  Although Jones offered a public apology in consideration to the 9-11 victims’ relatives, he also said he wouldn’t spend precious time “defending or explaining my past.”

Another FOX exclusive broadcast –at the beginning mostly ignored by the rest of the media, was the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now (ACORN) prostitution’s corruption case. The story broke big when FOX aired the fourth of a series of amateur videos, showing an employee at the ACORN office in San Bernardino, California, responding to inquiries of a pair of freelancers posing as an underage female prostitute and as a male pimp, respectively, who requested help in setting up a child-prostitution ring.   The scandal provoked the firing of the employees involved, the opening of a criminal investigation and that many federal instances –including the U.S. Census Bureau and the Internal Revenue Service- decided to sever all ties with the ACORN organization.

During the FOX transmissions, mentions of the president’s ties to ACORN were singled out, particularly on its editorial-opinion formatted programs. Following the story, other media has also reported that Obama as a candidate praised his background as a «community organizer,» and other links were exposed, as the fact that the Obama campaign had paid more than $800,000 to an ACORN «offshoot» for «get out the vote» projects. In February 2008, the ACORN Political Action Committee endorsed Obama over Hillary Clinton, and Obama’s campaign Web site, Organizing for America, bragged of the candidate’s support for the group.  Within others, FOX had been also reporting about the biggest case of voter-registration fraud committed in Washington State by ACORN.

The case of the ‘safe schools’ czar Kevin Jennings reported by FOX is a polemic one.  The controversy arose when Jennings admitted that he «should have handled [the] situation differently» when he didn’t report a 15-year-old student who told him that he was involved in a sexual relationship with an older man he met in a bathroom. House Republicans accuse the school safety czar of neglecting “the sexual abuse of a child.”

Jennings has been also criticized for openly supporting a gay teaching agenda in public schools and for authoring the foreword for a book titled Queering Elementary Education, which argues for the teaching of sexual «identity» (what some say is «initiation») to the children in the elementary education; and for admitting past drug use.  The controversy grew as a former FBI agent interviewed by FOX, has made very disturbing accusations about the North American Man/Boy Love Association, an organization praised by Jennings.  No other major media has followed the story, other than a few reports after 53 republicans demanded his firing.

Other FOX coverage that has irritated the White House includes several videos showing schoolchildren singing the praises

, literally, of the president, which the network named as ‘indoctrination;’ and the White House Communication Director Anita Dunn’s video, where she is praising Communist and mass murderer Mao Tse Tung, as a role model.


Categorías
English Estados Unidos

Sotomayor, Conservative Judge

What did she say ?

I spent hours watching the Senate Judiciary confirmation hearings of Sonia Sotomayor, who is about to become the next Supreme Court associate justice.

I believe I paid attention.

But after four long days of Q&A, I was unable to find even one commentary or coherent explanation of Judge Sotomayor’s origins, philosophy, history, or world view.

The entire episode was a labyrinth of code words, a game of hide-and-seek, mountains of words, all intended to achieve one thing: not to stumble or trip, avoid alienating anyone, in order to ingratiate herself with the Republican minority.

And those nosy senators who, even before the hearings began, declared their commitment to unmask Sotomayor as a Liberal, an unabashed radical, an anti-white racist? They did the same thing.

Speak for the sake of speaking. Avoid concrete meaning for all but their own crowd.

In classic commedia del arte there is a character who shouts, insults, says some half-truths to those on stage and then turns to the public with a grimace and, a wink, as if saying: “Did you watch me? I showed them!”

During the hearings, the senators’ heads were turned toward the public, with a constant wink. Never toward Sotomayor. Never engaged in a direct conversation with her.

Maybe it wasn’t necessary.

Usually, as in the cases of Judges John Roberts and Samuel Alito, the candidates speak in murmuring tones, or provide repetitious answers or unnecessary embellishments, gaining time in their non-communication efforts.

Neither Roberts nor Alito revealed to their Democratic grillers their positions on issues of the American culture wars: abortion (both are opposed); the right to bear arms (they are for it); states’ rights versus the federal government, and the like.

But they never even pretended to create an impression that they were not who they are: right-wing conservatives. They never pretended to be liberals.

Sotomayor, on the other hand…

It’s true that Republicans repeated the same questions ad nauseum, using the same words again and again, winking non-stop with code words filled with prejudice. “Judge, are you a temperamental woman? Yes or no? Are you hysterical, perhaps?” And, “When you mention the advantage of being a wise Latina, isn’t it true that you despise the white male? Do you confess to being a racist in reverse?”

For them the presidential campaign continues. They cannot avoid this; if they stop running they lose their reason for being.

Senator Lindsey Graham of South Carolina inquires whether Judge Sotomayor has a temperament problem and quotes lawyers’ opinions against her. Senator John Kyl from Arizona asks repeatedly if there always  is a legal basis for her decisions, or whether they are based on “your feelings?”

They are provoking her.

When they say “your feelings” are interfering with applying the law, they mean “your feelings as a woman and as a Latina” will interfere with the law of the traditional white male hierarchy.

Over and over, they state, “Here is the Constitution, and here are the later precedents; what do you prefer, Judge? Isn’t that true that the Constitution and every word in it is sacrosanct?” They laid traps, not because they wanted Sotomayor to fall, but because they wanted their constituencies to know that they laid these traps.

It’s all the same: Sotomayor fell into the traps. She answered the questions and the answers were like manna for the Republicans: “Yes, my task is to do whatever Congress wants me to do. Yes, my sympathies, my experiences, my opinions, my past, my family from Puerto Rico to my left, the Spanish, the poor, the minorities, immigrants… none of them will have anything to do with my decisions. I will always apply the law you legislate. To the letter.”

And after four days of listening to her repeating that mantra, I believed her.

If this is the case, what do we need “qualified” judges for, even if they are “wise Latinas”? If this is the case, we only need a robot, some computer software to hear cases and decide which law to apply in every case.

But the truth is that judges do decide while considering to their ideals. The organizations they belong to, ideologies formed over their lifetimes, the individuals who influenced them. Regrettably, sometimes they even decide accordingly to what the person who nominated them believes or the principles of the political party they identify with, as in the 2000 election debacle in which 5 out of 9 Supreme Court members gave the presidency to George W.

Bush, making such a travesty of their interpretation of the law that they stated was a sui generis case, never to be repeated or become precedent.

When legislation is the product of compromise between lawmakers it can be confusing and even contradictory. The judges then clarify the law because they must. Thus, they complete the job of Congress which is to legislate.

I know it, you know it , Sotomayor and her inquisitors know it.

With Sotomayor on the bench Obama fulfills two promises; to put the first Latino and the third woman on the Supreme Court.

Maybe he is also putting a Conservative there. Or maybe I am wrong.

Categorías
América Latina English Politica

Our Man In Honduras

“If you want to understand who the real power behind the [Honduran] coup is” says Robert White, president of the Washington-based Center for International Policy, during a recent interview, “you need to find out who’s paying Lanny Davis.”

Davis, an ally of the Clinton family who is best known as the lawyer who defended Bill during the presidential impeachment proceedings, was recently on Capitol Hill lobbying members of Congress and testifying against exiled President Manuel Zelaya before the House Foreign Relations Committee. White, who previously served as the United States ambassador to El Salvador, thought that such information about Davis’ clients would be “very difficult to find.”

But the answer proved easy to find. Davis, a partner at the law firm Orrick, Herring, & Sutcliffe, openly named them — and his clients are the same powerful Hondurans behind the military coup.  “My clients represent the CEAL, the [Honduras Chapter of] Business Council of Latin America” said Davis when reached at his office last Thursday. “I do not represent the government and do not talk to President [Roberto] Micheletti. My main contacts are Camilo Atala and Jorge Canahuati. I’m proud to represent businessmen who are committed to the rule of law,” said Davis. Atala, Canahuati, and other families that own the corporate interests represented by Davis and the CEAL are at the top of an economic pyramid in which 62 percent of the population lives in poverty, according to the World Bank.

Camilo Atala

For many Hondurans and Honduras watchers, the confirmation that Davis is working with powerful, old Honduran families like the Atalas and Canahuatis is telling: To them, it proves that Davis serves the powerful business interests that ran, repressed and ruined Honduras during the decades prior to the leftward turn of the Zelaya presidency.

“No coup just happens because some politicians and military men decide one day to simply take over” says White upon hearing who Davis is working for “Coups happen because very wealthy people want them and help to make them happen, people who are used to seeing the country as a money machine and suddenly see social legislation on behalf of the poor as a threat to their interests. The average wage of a worker in free trade zones is 77 cents per hour.”

“The tragedy” adds White, “is that the Canahuatis and the Atalas and the other big businesspeople don’t understand that it’s in their best interest to help to do things like help people make a decent living, reduce unemployment and raise the minimum wage.”

Davis disagrees. He believes that the tragedy of Honduras lies with Zelaya and that the president brought the coup upon himself. “It is an undisputed fact that Mr. Zelaya has violated the Constitution. It’s my job to get the facts out.”

Asked if he had qualms about representing business people linked to a coup government denounced and unrecognized by the United Nations, the Organization of American States and many countries across the globe (including the United States), Davis responded, “There are facts about Mr. Zelaya that the world community may not be aware of. I’m proud to represent clients who support the decision of Secretary of State Clinton to back the mediation of President Arias in the conflict [between Zelaya and coup leaders]. But my biggest concern is safety and security of the Honduran people.”

Davis is not the only one concerned about the safety and security the Honduran people. The Committee of Families of Disappeared-Detainees in Honduras (COFADEH), a non-governmental human rights organization, released a report last week documenting over 1,100 human rights violations – arbitrary detentions, physical assaults, murders, and attacks on the media by the government and affiliated clandestine forces — that have occurred since the coup began on June 28.

COFADEH has also placed responsibility for the coup and the terror it has wrought directly on many of the founders of the Alliance for Progress and Development of Honduras (APROH), a predecessor of CEAL.  Though now defunct, APROH brought together some of the same business and military interests that compose the political and economic hub of Honduran’s radical right, including the Canahuatis, Atalas and other CEAL families and businesses represented by Davis.

The CEAL predecessor’s track record on human rights has been less than stellar. In 1983, Honduras’ El Tiempo newspaper leaked an internal APROH document that recommended a military solution to problems in Honduras — and the rest of Central America — to Ronald Reagan’s Kissinger Commission, a bipartisan committee charged with formulating U.S. policy in the region. Perhaps more damning, APROH is considered by COFADEH and other human rights organizations as the eminence grise behind the death squad killings conducted by the infamous “Batallion 316″ in the 1980s.

Jorge Canahuati

Upon hearing Davis’ statements, Jose Luis Galdamez, a journalist for Radio Globo, laughs. “Mr. Davis is either ignorant of Honduras or is knowingly bloodying his name and that of the Clintons for lots of money,” he says. Galdamez recently went into hiding after members of the armed forces and paramilitary organizations harassed him and his colleagues. The military raided his radio station, beat workers there and threatened them for working at one of the few independent media outlets willing to “report about what’s actually happening in Honduras,” says Galdamez.

“I wish Mr. Davis would come here where I’m hiding so I can show him what it’s like to feel threatened not just by [de facto Honduran President] Micheletti and the military, but by the Canahautis and other groups of power he represents,” says Galdamez.

Galdamez, Gilda Rivera of the Center for Women’s Rights, and others interviewed for this story fear that, in hiring Clinton ally Davis, Canahuati, Atala and CEAL are using the liberal sheen of the Democratic party to divert attention from the dark history behind the current Honduran coup.

“The rich simply send you out to kill you and then kill with impunity. They never investigate into who killed who because the groups in power control the media, control the judiciary and now control the government again,” says Galdamez. “Mr. Davis is trying to legitimize people who use psychological intimidation and violence. He’s representing the interests of state terror.”

In a recent statement denouncing the coup, COFADEH described its backers as “the same group that in the 1980s was known as Alliance for Progress and Development of Honduras, which maintains its terror thru death squads.” The COFADEH report documents four cases of extra-judicial killings, including the July 5 shooting of 19 year-old Isis Obed Murillo, captured in a graphic video subsequently posted on YouTube.

Asked about human rights violations by the Micheletti government, Davis again places the onus for the current crisis on Zelaya. “I researched the facts on what occurred during the presidency of Mr. Zelaya. Mr. Zelaya led mob violence and you can see that on a YouTube video.”

When pressed about the grisly footage of the shooting of 19 year-old Isis Murillo, Davis responded, “Is there a video of the shooters? We need to know the facts.” He added, “If you can show me facts proving that my clients are involved in violations of civil liberties, I’ll resign.”

(This article appeared originally in the American Prospect, www.prospect.org)

Categorías
América Latina Colaboraciones English

Good cop, bad cop: America’s policy in Honduras

When finally reached by telephone, the very hard-to-reach Bertha Oliva was in the middle of a typically tragic day in post-coup Honduras. “ [The military and paramilitary operatives] just bombed a nearby labor union,” she said. Oliva leads the Tegucigalpa-based Committee for the Detained and Disappeared of Honduras (COFADEH), which is recognized worldwide as her country’s leading non-governmental human rights organization. “Fortunately,” she said, “all of the members of the union were at the burial of one of the boys the death squads killed on Saturday near El Paraiso [The Paradise], and no one was killed this time.”

Following us

“They are following our every move,” Oliva added. “They’re surveilling our offices and we’ve received threatening phone calls. And they make it extremely difficult or impossible to take water, medicine and food to all the people they’ve detained,” she said.

Ousted Honduran President Manuel Zelaya, while making camp at the Nicaragua-Honduras border last Friday, called for new protests in Honduras. This prompted U.S. Secretary of State Hilary Clinton to declare: “’President Zelaya’s effort to reach the border is reckless. It does not contribute to the broader effort to restore democracy and constitutional order in the Honduras crisis.”

When asked about Clinton’s statement, Oliva quickly responded, “Bombs are going off, people are being detained without due process, young men’s bodies are found with signs of torture and 45 stab wounds. [Clinton’s] declarations and her silence about human rights are strengthening criminals and signaling to those committing crimes against humanity that they can keep on doing it. Isn’t that ‘reckless?’”

“Instead of disqualifying Zelaya,” she continued, “Secretary Clinton should take actions in favor of democracy, in favor of constitutional order. That can really help us, that would be a great contribution.”

Human rights violations

If a recent report by COFADEH is any indicator, there has been an exponential rise in the number of human rights violations since the June 28 coup. The report documented over 1,100 cases of arbitrary detentions, attacks on the media, killings and other human rights violations.

“Why don’t Mrs. Clinton and the Obama administration say anything about this, this ……terrorismo that the [de facto Honduran President] Micheletti and the coup backers are committing?” asked Oliva.

The questions and concerns raised by Oliva about the Obama administration’s policy towards the Honduran coup reflects what many fear is a growing distance between the Administration and the democracy movements backing the reinstatement of President Manuel Zelaya, who was ousted my the Honduran military on June 28th. Oliva and others fear that the Obama Administration’s handling of the coup may reflect the same willingness to overlook human rights violations that has characterized previous U.S. administrations.

Observers around the world question, for example, why the United States has chosen not to declare the Honduran putsch a “coup” in the legal sense, which would require stronger actions including a complete cutoff of military and other aid, withdrawing the ambassador and other measures the Obama Administration has refused to take.

Coup or not coup

Instead, critics both inside and outside Honduras, say Clinton and Obama have chosen a ‘good cop-bad cop’ strategy in which Obama gets to perform symbolic actions like declaring the coup “illegal” while Clinton gets to deliver the bad policy news to the media and the world about how the Administration has chosen not to designate the situation a “coup.”

In his own increasingly pointed responses, Zelaya noted that the possibility that the Obama administration may actually be enabling and strengthening the hand of those perpetrating the killings, torture and other human rights violations documented by Oliva and COFADEH. “The position of secretary Clinton at the beginning was firm,” Zelaya declared, “….now I feel that she’s not really denouncing (the coup) and she’s not acting firmly against the repression that Honduras is suffering.”

Oliva, Gilda Rivera of the Center for Women’s Rights, José Luis Galdamez, a journalist with Radio Globo and others fear that the Obama administration’s handling of the coup may reflect the same willingness to overlook human rights violations that has characterized previous U.S. administrations.

As she looks at the numbers and as she visits killing fields, prisons, private homes and other sites where human rights violations are taking place, Oliva said she couldn’t help but be reminded of the past.

Bertha Oliva’s husband dissappeared

She and her family founded COFADEH along with 12 other families that, like hers, had lost a family member disappeared by death squads linked to the U.S.-trained Honduran military. Her husband is still “disappeared,” she noted. “Some of the same businesspeople and military officials involved in the disappearances and killings of the 1980’s are the same people behind the coup today,” said Oliva. “And as happened back then, the United States government seems willing to back them politically by sponsoring talks that make the coup leaders look like legitimate partners to negotiate with.”

Oliva saved her most impassioned pleas for Hillary Clinton. “As a Honduran that has worked for justice her entire life, I ask Mrs. Clinton to listen to her heart and formally declare this a coup so that [coup leaders] know that her country stands for human rights,” she said.

“As someone who has sought the truth, I ask you, Mrs. Clinton not to hide the truth about what’s happening here. And, finally, as a creator of life, as a mother, I plead with you to put yourself in the shoes of so many mothers whose sons are victims of repression by the government. I know [the coup leaders] will listen to you. With God as my witness, I know it.”

Categorías
English Estados Unidos

The Obama Vision: immigrant detention centers

An article in the New York Times provides an outline of the Obama Administration’s vision of immigrant detention reform: more prisoners, more prisons-but a “truly civil system” . That there will be no fundamental changes to the massively corrupt and widely criticized detention system can be seen in these statements from the story:

John Morton,head of Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE): “Detention on a large scale must continue, he said, “but it needs to be done thoughtfully and humanely.”

“So far, the new administration has embraced many of those policies, expanding a program to verify worker immigration status that has been widely criticized, bolstering partnerships between federal immigration agents and local police departments, and rejecting a petition for legally binding rules on conditions in immigration detention.”

Janet Napolitano, the secretary of homeland security, said last week that she expected the number of detainees to stay the same or grow slightly.”

“Asked if his vision could include building new civil detention centers, he (Morton) said yes.»

As can be seen from these statements coming from Administration officials, President Obama appears willing to maintain and even expand a system of immigrant prisons that civil and human rights organizations across the country and around the world have criticized for the subhuman conditions and deaths found in that system.

The Obama Administration’s talk of “truly civil” immigrant prisons and of imprisoning immigrants more “thoughtfully and humanely” are reminiscent of similar talk by the Bush Administration. After civil and human rights groups criticized the Bush Administration for the the terror fostered by and the illegality of its raids, Bush’s Homeland Security officials began talking about how they would “humanize” immigration raids.

A recent report by the Cardozo School of Law documented how the widespread racial profiling and other violations have continued even after the announcement to “humanize” the raids, raids -and violations-that continue under the Obama Administration.

Many immigrant prison reform advocates believe that failure to fundamentally alter the “crimmigration” laws that have caused the immigrant prison population to mushroom over the past several years, means that such announcements by the Obama Administration will ring as hollow as President Obama’s talk of “racial profiling” did after his administration quietly announced an expansion of 287(G),one of the largest racial profiling programs in the history of federal government.

It is doubtful that any but those desperate to either secure favor from or provide political cover to the Obama Administration will lend their public approval to what many consider an insulting attempt to put a cosmetic cover on the beaten, bruised and sometimes dead body of the rotting detention system.

It is also doubtful that pronouncements of a “truly civil”immigrant prison system will do anything to stop the increased attacks on Janet Napolitano -and Obama- from their allies in the immigrant rights community. If anything, the pronouncements may intensify that anger by virtue of the insult to their intelligence and moral sensibilities many advocates may feel such a cosmetic politic of prison reform represents.

Categorías
Cuba English Musica

The magic of Os Mutantes: Influential Brazilian band visits California

Few musical bands have the merit of being little known yet influential like Os Mutantes of Brazil. Although that part about being little known is already history. Precisely because history seems to be giving back the fame that it was once denied.

“It’s fantastic, it astounds me,” said Sergio Dias, the leader of Os Mutantes, in a phone interview from Brazil. “The music has its own life, doesn’t it?”

Dias was trying to explain the band’s renewed success.

Os Mutantes emerged in 1966 in San Pablo, Brazil. The group was made up of brothers Arnaldo Baptista and Sergio Dias and the voice of Rita Lee. Soon they incorporated the musical movement called “Tropicalia”, which unified rock with traditional Brazilian music.

Prominent Brazilian musicians collaborated with Os Mutantes, who besides their powerful music would stand out because of the extravagant outfits worn by its members.

In 1972 Rita Lee left the band to continue her career as a soloist, while Baptista and Dias continued in a line of progressive rock.

The band broke up in 1978.

Although it had little commercial success outside of Brazil, Os Mutantes influenced musicians internationally like David Byrne, Beck Hansen, Kurt Cobain and Devendra Banhart. In 1998, Beck released the album Mutations which included the single Tropicalia.

These influences transformed themselves under pressure. That’s why in 2006 Os Mutantes reunited and performed in London, followed by thousands of fans. As a result of that, they were invited to perform in the United States and Brazil.

“The young people are the reason we came back,” Dias said regarding the new generation of rockers who claim to be their fans. “We’ve changed so much and we’ve also changed musicians, but I never dreamed that this could happen to us.”

To mutate is to change

The band appears to have changed as much as is indicated by their name: The Mutantes. To mutate is to change, move, a natural process in music.

“Although I would like to associate myself with the kaleidoscope because it’s also color,” said Dias who enjoys dialogue mixing Spanish and English and his contagious laughter.

The lyrics of the songs by Os Mutantes just like its dress appear strange, although they reveal nonconformity, criticism and juvenile passion.

Those ingredients were not to the liking of the government of Brazil, which suffered under a military dictatorship from 1964 to 1985. Many artists were expelled from the country.

Os Mutantes sorted through the condemnation and the pressures of success.

After the band broke up in 1978, Dias emigrated first to Italy and afterwards lived in New York for 10 years. There, he worked on musical producti ons. And now, Os Mutantes has a new CD called “Haih”, whose songs will be part of their performance at the end of the month in California.

“The name means ‘crow’ in the Shoshone language and we included varied songs on the CD,” Dias said. For example, “Anthems of the World” is an edition made up of various anthems, especially from Brazil, the United States and Russia. “It starts with a discourse by Putin (Russia’s president), you know the United States looks very lonely without the Soviet Union,” Dias said with a hint of craftiness.

One of the most significant songs is “Samba a Fidel”, in which Os Mutantes mixes tones, idioms and political messages. Dias seems to enjoy himself when he talks about the song, whose message he does not reveal.

Samba a Fidel

“That’s like a lot of our music, something of a collage. We also talk about Brazil, Argentineans, Bush and Obama.” He composed it in Miami, he says. It was when rumors about the death of Cuban leader Fidel Castro filled the various media of that city.

In keeping with the theme, Dias asks himself what is happening with the world. Although he prefers a return to music.

“In Brazil music has personality but it is flexible, it receives and integrates a lot of ordinary material.”

It’s mutant, naturally.

Additional Facts

Outside Lands Festival took place in San Francisco over three days from August 28th through the 30th. Scores of musicians, bands and theater groups were in action simultaneously on various stages, including Os Mutantes.

HispanicLA.com will post a photo gallery directly from the festival.

Categorías
English Estados Unidos Politica

The Fall of Dobbs and the Immigrants

As I watched the sad eyes of Lou Dobbs last night while he bade an abrupt farewell to his long career at CNN, I shed the tears that he apparently couldn’t. I cried in part because, regardless of the Basta Dobbs campaign’s — and my own — constitutional differences with his brand of anti-immigrant, anti-Latino propaganda disguised as news, one couldn’t help but be moved by the fast and fiery demise of a media titan. It really was sad to watch the aging Dobbs go out without the slow grace and good will that characterized Walter Cronkite’s departure in a previous media era.

Yet, while slightly moved by Dobbs’ personal drama, I cried primarily because, as a member, relative and friend of the groups most vilified by Dobbs for so many years — Latinos and immigrants — I was inspired by the power of the movement to oust him, a movement that these same groups and their allies led. In the words of many a jubilant Twitterer and Facebook friend celebrating Dobbs’transition as a victory,»Si Se Pudo» (Yes We Could).

At one level, Dobbs’ departure was influenced by internal dynamics at CNN, a network in need of rapid changes required by the economic, political and demographic shifts transforming media. But at another level, the victory over Dobbs shows that our community is mobilized like never before. It reflects how we have taken important strides since the immigrants rights marches of 2006, and are now using the latest technology and organizing tactics to make our voices heard. Lou Dobbs led us to march with our feet — and with our fingers.

In their search for the right frame for the story, many have commented that ours was a struggle against the kind of hatred promoted by Dobbs and his many guests. But for those working daily to defeat Dobbs, the guiding force of our movement was not hate but love — the love that we show ourselves when, in the face of daily attacks, we stand up and say «Basta,» «Enough.»

More than the media or technology or organizing capabilities of Presente.org, Drop Dobbs, DemocraciaUSA, NDN, America’s Voice, NALACC or any other organization, the will of the many to push the powerful few has again reminded us of the centrality of spirituality to social change. I cried mostly because I saw in Dobbs’ departure some of the same intense desire for change that made many of us cry at the election of Barack Obama.

Dobbs himself said it best when, during his farewell, he linked his rapid departure to how «strong winds of change have begun buffeting this country and affecting all of us.» I was touched by these same winds during my travels throughout the country, where I met some of the more than 100,000 people who signed our Basta Dobbs petition. I heard it from the septuagenarian Tejano who, from his hospital bed had a family member text message to tell me, «I’m getting ready to leave the hospital and will be ready to help you get Dobbs out soon.» I saw it in the youthful optimism of the troop of Latina Girl Scouts from south Georgia, who said they wanted to go to Atlanta to protest CNN’s headquarters. And I felt it among the tens of thousands of non-Latinos who responded quickly to our call to demand Dobbs’ removal. Taken together, these people and others are the embodiment of the «strong winds of change» that buffeted Dobbs and CNN.

While on the surface, the anti-Dobbs movement appears as a recent development, its roots go as far back as the beginning of Dobbs attacks on immigrants. Many of the grassroots groups and bloggers allied with our campaign as well as national groups like the National Hispanic Media Coalition, the Southern Poverty Law Center and Media Matters have a long and distinguished history of challenging and checking Dobbs. Without their efforts, there would be no movement.

But for me, the most moving, poetic aspect of the entire Dobbs drama is that it begins and ends with immigrants, including undocumented immigrants. In this sense, the victory reinvigorates the important work of immigration reform. Hopefully Republicans and Democrats are taking note of the power of immigrants and the immigrant rights movement that mobilized to defeat Dobbs. But that’s for tomorrow. For now, let us commemorate this historic event by saying along with immigrants, «Justicia Poetica.» Poetic Justice.

Categorías
América Latina Colaboraciones Economía

Más tratados mal tratados

México discute ahora tratados de libre comercio con Brasil y Colombia como un reimpulso al neoliberalismo panista y priista. Son armas de doble filo: si bien podrían generar más fuentes de empleo también podrían abrir la puerta para más maltratos al estilo del TLC entre México, EE.UU. y Canadá.

Llevamos ya más de una década y media con el TLC con dos fuertes socios comerciales al norte. Y lo que hemos visto en todo este tiempo ha sido un tratado muy maltratado.

1. La pobreza extrema no ha disminuído, sino que se transfirió del campo a los centros urbanos.

2. Ya hemos tenido dos fuertes crisis financieras, un Fobaproa y otro este año a escondidas, y el desempleo es hoy más alto que nunca.

3. El 5% de la población sigue teniendo el 95% de la riqueza en México.

4. Los trabajos sólo se suplantaron del abarrote a los empresarios. El que antes te hacía la gordita en la calle para mantener a su familia hoy te voltea la hamburguesa en el McDonalds.

5. El crimen organizado y el narcotráfico ha aprovechado las grietas de un tratado maltratado para explotarlo y ganar terreno en las áreas comerciales y los puertos de entrada y salida.

El problema no es que tengamos o no un tratado, sino que nos han maltratado. Una anécdota se cuenta de la época del gobierno del presidente Carlos Salinas de Gortari, justo cuando se finiquitaban los detalles del TLC. Cuentan por ahí que los tres encargados de negociar se sentaron en la mesa con los mediadores:

El mediador habló:

Bueno, en este TLC todo, absolutamente todo está en la mesa para ser intercambiado entre los países libremente.

Imediatamente el representante de Canadá alzó la mano:

En Canadá estamos de acuerdo que todo sea libremente tratado, somos una economía muy abierta. Una sola, diminuta y pequeña excepción. La madera y la industria de tala de árbol es un orgullo nacional y por lo consiguiente no podemos abrir este sector libremente. Pero lo demás, adelante.

El representante mexicano al oír tal, alzó la mano y dijo:

Bueno, así como los canadienses, nosotros también tenemos una excepción chiquitita. El petróleo no se toca. Es patrimonio nacional y por lo consiguiente no podemos andar negociando con el. Lo demás, adelante no hay problema.

Finalmente el representante gringo al escuchar a los otros dos alzó el brazo:

Bueno, así como los canadienses y mexicanos nosotros también tenemos nuestro orgullo. Y es el laboral. No nos podemos dar el lujo de permitir entrada a cualquiera, y protegemos nuestros empleos, nuestra frontera, nuestros comerciantes y a nuestros campos con todo el peso gubernamental.

Así, el dizque tratado de libre comercio no es nada más que otro tratado simple de comercio. El “libre” se lo inventaron. Y nadie salió ganando. Si de verdad queremos un TLC entonces adelante… pero abran fronteras, abran todo.. que no haya requisitos, ni reglas. Obviamente, es imposible porque los grandes intereses comerciales y multinacionales saldrían perdiendo, y eso no lo permiten.

Volviendo al día de hoy, se habla de hacer lo mismo que se hizo entonces con Brasil y Colombia.

¿No sería mejor arreglar primero el del norte antes de maltratar nuestro paso por el sur?

(Publicado originalmente en Metáfora Política)

Categorías
Periodismo Sociedad

Ya resucité: prensa bilingüe en California

FRESNO, California.- A principios del año, me enteré con pena que el periódico bilingüe «El Mexicalo«, de la ciudad de Bakersfield, había cerrado.

Fundado en 1979, la Sra. Esther Manzano lo compró a los pocos meses y a partir de ese momento El Mexicalo se convirtió en fuente de noticias y activismo, ya que Manzano y su esposo estaban muy comprometidos con la causa del Sindicato de Campesinos (UFW) y otros aspectos de la politica local.

Aunque el periódico se autosostenía, la familia Manzano no vivía de él. En los últimos años muchas cosas cambiaron y la actual crisis económica dio su golpe de gracia a El Mexicalo.

Era el periódico latino más antiguo del sur del Valle Central y uno de los pocos de propiedad personal, a diferencia de otros más recientes, operados por corporaciones.

Intenté comunicarme con la Sra. Manzano a principios de año para actualizar una nota que hace dos años había realizado sobre el periódico, pero por distintos motivos fui postergando esta idea, hasta que hace unos días recibí un correo electrónico de un amigo de Bakersfield anunciándome el fallecimiento de la Sra. Manzano. Quedé dolido y perplejo. Y lamenté mucho no haber insistido en mi idea de comunicarme con ella a tiempo.

De inmediato le envié un correo electrónico a su hijo para escribir una nota sobre su madre y para pedirle algunas fotos.

Como no recibí respuesta, la semana pasada llamé a lo que había sido el local de El Mexicalo. Me atendió su hija Erminda.

Erminda es notaria pública. Me cuenta que trabaja en lo que era el edificio del periódico y también uno de los primeros centros de envio de dinero a México en Bakersfield.

Ella me contaba estas cosas y en cierto momento, dice: «esta mañana, hablando con mamá del edificio….»

«Pobre», pensé, «está delirando».

Con la mayor delicadeza de la que soy capaz, le pregunto, «¿dijiste que hablaste con tu mamá?»

La respuesta fue natural, sin mostrar ninguna emoción: «Si, esta mañana….».

Insisto, «¿Con la señora Esther?».

Silencio. Y luego, con tono risueño, «Ah, ya veo que a tí también te llegó esa noticia de su fallecimiento, ¿no? Pues ocurre que quien falleció fue una señora que tenía exactamente el mismo nombre de mi madre, ¡pero ella está muy bien, en casa!»

Me río y del otro lado del teléfono también hay risas. «¡No te imaginas la cantidad de pésames que recibimos!» Colgamos y Erminda me promete comentarle a su madre que yo le había llamado.

Después de salir de una breve reunión editorial, hallé un mensaje en mi buzón telefónico.

«¡Cómo que no estás muerta, si lo leí en el diario!», le dijo alguien.

«Eduardo, soy yo, Esther… ¡Ya resucité!». Empecé a reirme a carcajadas.

«Imagínate que tomo mi café, a la mañana, y empiezo a leer el periódico», me narra luego Manzano, de 72 años. «¡Y de pronto veo mi anuncio fúnebre!» Era otra Esther Manzano, una señora de origen Filipino, residente de la ciudad de Delano, a pocas millas al norte de Bakersfield.

Desde ese momento, cuenta Manzano, empezaron las llamadas telefónicas. Y las grandes sorpresas cuando ella misma atendía el teléfono. «¡Cómo que no estás muerta, si lo leí en el diario!», le dijo alguien. Otros, a pesar de haber recibido la aclaración, seguían organizando servicios y honores.

Interesante, pensé: el valor de la palabra escrita (e impresa) sigue siendo muy fuerte. Qué lástima entonces que El Mexicalo no existe, porque  la señora Manzano lo hubiese utilizado para desmentir su propia muerte. Así le creerían más rápidamente. 

Categorías
Colaboraciones Estados Unidos Politica

Los valores familiares de los políticos conservadores

En los ultimos años el tema de los valores familiares dejó de ser personal -o familiar- para convertirse en asunto político estadounidense.
Sectores conservadores de la sociedad, agrupados en la llamada «derecha cristiana» -cuya expresión política se encuentra principalmente en el Partido Republicano- incorporaron con decisión y empeño elementos morales de su arsenal en el corazón de su agenda politica.
El objetivo, naturalmente, es ganar el apoyo de amplios sectores de la población para sus intereses políticos.
Así, además de proponer recortes de impuestos, expansión por medio de la fuerza, imposición del modelo neoliberal de capitalismo, reducción de los gastos sociales y de la participación de sindicatos en asuntos políticos, los conservadores proponen prohibir el aborto, imponer la religión en las escuelas y dar más poder a las iglesias y sus valores familiares -incluyendo, claro, el repudio a la homosexualidad.
Estos conservadores, que critican el «fundamentalismo» islámico, quieren imponer su propio fundamentalismo, eliminando el principo de separación iglesia-estado.
La mayoría de los políticos conservadores profesan «valores familiares», lo gritan a todos los costados, critican el divorcio y juzgan a los demás con base en  estos valores. Aseguran que dichos valores se encuentran en la Biblia y citan partes de dicho libro.
En realidad, la interpretación de lo escrito en la Biblia varía según la ideología de cada persona. Y gran parte de la misma contiene larga descripciones de patriarcas cambiando de mujeres -incluyendo hermanas y parientes de sus esposas- y asesinando a sus opositores.
Precisamente, se trata del nacimiento de la ideolgía patriarchal. Por eso es tan venerada por la derecha cristiana de hoy.
En cuanto al matrimonio, no recuerdo haber encontrado en la Biblia una seria descripción sobre esta institución. En el terreno del derecho civil tardaría muchos siglos en definirse.
Pero si bien esta es una discusión interminable, lo cierto es que imponer al conjunto de la sociedad valores basados en la interpretación de un texto histórico-religioso por parte de un sector social, es mas bien a una acción propia de una dictadura.
Y no cualquier dictadura, sino una dictadura patriarcal.
Pero dejemos ese análisis para otra oportunidad.
Lo que me llamó la atención en los últimos meses son los «tropiezos» de algunos de estos moralistas. Políticos todos, naturalemente.
El mismo día del funeral de Michael Jackson, el diputado de Nueva York, Peter King, no perdió tiempo en disparar con munición pesada: llamó a Jackson «pervertido» y pedófilo -cosa que jamás fue probado en el caso del cantante fallecido.
Pero un caso más divertido fue el del gobernador de Carolina del Sur, Mark Sanford, quien el pasado 24 de junio reconoció públicamente haber tenido una aventura amorosa… ¡En Buenos Aires! Si, nada de irse a un hotel cercano o de alguna ciudad aledaña. No. El gober tomó el avión y viajó unos 8.000 kilómetros para pasarse unos días con su amante. Para esto, dejó acéfalo el poder del estado durante cinco dias, y sin avisar a nadie.
Para colmo, el Sr. Sanford habló a la prensa sobre ese y otros amores (según él algo más platónicos). Justo él, defensor de los valores morales familiares, como el matrimonio y la fidelidad.
Como era de esperarse, derramó lágrimas y pidió perdón a su esposa, cuatro hijos y a la ciudadanía del estado -no faltó nadie en la lista.
Todo indica que si bien su futuro político no es tan brillante como se esperaba, Sanford será perdonado por muchos -incluyendo su esposa- por que en esta clase de valores familiares lo que cuenta principalmente son los derechos… patriarcales.
Cabe destacar que Sanford, además de moralista, es un conservador muy particular. Después de criticar al presidente Obama por su plan de estímulo económico, fue el único gobernador que rechazó una partida de $700 millones destinados a combatir la pobreza de su estado, que tiene uno de lo niveles más altos de desempleo en la nación.
Pero quizá el campeón de los valores familiares es el senador de Nevada, John Ensign, quien el 16 de junio reconoció haber tenido una aventura de casi un año con una de sus empleadas, esposa de un miembro de su equipo de trabajo y «amigos de familia», según sus propias declaraciones.
Ensign, quien durante unos meses también contrató al hijo de su amante, es miembro del movimiento cristiano Promise Keepers, que busca fortalecer la institución del matrimonio en base a los principios de la Biblia.
Este senador, casado y padre de tres hijos, fue uno de los tantos moralistas que exigió la renuncia del entonces presidente Clinton cuando este reconoció haber tenido relaciones con una voluntaria de la Casa Blanca.
Ensign tampoco dudó en exigir la renuncia de su colega Larry Craig después que aquel fuera detenido en el baño de un aeropuerto en 2007 por «actos lascivos».
De más está decir que Ensign se opone al aborto y apoya el derecho a la tenencia de armas.
Creo que a diferencia de Peter King, el gobernador Sanford y el senador Ensign tienen mucho que agradecer a Michael Jackson -o a su muerte-: gracias el él, los medios de comunicación y la audiencia dejaron de ocuparse de sus hipocresías.
Pero seguramente pronto volverán al ruedo a propagar los valores familiares (patriarcales), usando sus experiencias a manera de confesión y mea culpa interminables, lo que les dará, según ellos, mayor autoridad moral. Se nota.

Categorías
América Latina Politica

El pueblo hondureño tiene derecho a rebelarse

Menos de cuatro semanas después, los militares de Honduras organizaron un golpe de estado que derrocó al presidente Manuel Zelaya. En otras épocas, los adictos a las teorías conspirativas hubieran inmeditamente asegurado que la mano de la CIA, el Departamento de Estado y la United Fruit estaban detrás de la asonada militar. Pero en esta nueva era, la administración estadounidense, en vez de ponerse del lado de la conspiración militar salió en defensa del orden constitucional.

La crisis institucional en esta nación de 8 millones, comenzó el jueves pasado cuando el presidente Zelaya destituyó al jefe del Estado Mayor Conjunto, el general Romeo Vázquez Velázquez, por negarse a cooperar con la logística asociada a una consulta electoral que se debía realizar el domingo. Este sería el primer paso de un proceso que llevaría, de ser aprobado, a una posible Asamblea Constituyente que tendría la misión de reformar la carta fundamental de la nación.

Miedo a los trabajadores

Pero parece que los militares hondureños, y sus aliados de las clases propietarias más acomodadas, le tienen pavor a la idea de auscultar la opinión de esa gran mayoría de trabajadores y campesinos que, con un ingreso per capita de $4,400, viven en uno de los países más pobres de las Américas. Por eso es que el domingo, bajo las órdenes del depuesto general Vázquez, un comando de soldados encapuchados entró a los tiros en la casa del presidente Zelaya, lo secuestraron, lo pusieron en un avión y lo dejaron, en pijamas, en un aeropuerto de Costa Rica.

Ante tremenda ofensa, es totalmente irrelevante si Zelaya, como algunos lo acusan, estaba desobedeciendo las órdenes de las cortes judiciales de suspender la consulta electoral. Si ese fuese el caso, hay que recordar que Honduras, hasta el momento del golpe, era una sociedad de leyes y que existían los mecanismos constitucionales a fin de hacerlo responsable por sus acciones. El item 15, del artículo 205, del capítulo 1, del título 5, de la Constitución hondureña, referido a «Los poderes del estado», establece que es prerrogativa del poder legislativo «Declarar si hay lugar o no a formación de causa contra el Presidente…»

O sea que, claramente, la misma Constitución incluye los instrumentos y procedimientos para lo equivalente a un juicio político contra el presidente. Pero en vez del juicio optaron por el secuestro.También es irrelevante si Zelaya se estaba alineando con el izquierdista venezolano Hugo Chávez, como acusan histéricamente algunos sectores privilegiados de Honduras. La política exterior de Honduras la establece el poder ejecutivo ya que la Constitución Nacional (item 12, artículo 245, capítulo 6, título 5) dice que el presidente tiene la responsabilidad de «Dirigir la política y las relaciones internacionales».

Condena unánime

Por eso no extraña que la comunidad internacional, pasando por la Asamblea General de las Naciones Unidas, la Organización de Estados Americanos y hasta la Unión Europea hayan unánimemente criticado al golpe y hayan exigido el retorno al orden constitucional. Esta legitimización de la administración Zelaya implica la criminalización del golpe militar y, por ende, la reafirmación del principio fundamental de que el pueblo, en base a una doctrina que se origina con filósofos de la Ilustración como Rousseau, Locke y Montesquieu, tiene el derecho a rebelarse ante una autoridad ilegítima. La misma Constitución Nacional establece esta idea en su artículo 3, capítulo 1, título 1, al afirmar que «Nadie debe obediencia a un gobierno usurpador ni a quienes asuman funciones o empleos públicos por la fuerza de las armas o usando medios o procedimientos que quebranten o desconozcan lo que esta Constitución y las leyes establecen. Los actos verificados por tales autoridades son nulos. El pueblo tiene derecho a recurrir a la insurrección en defensa del orden constitucional».

Cuando el presidente de Honduras Manuel Zelaya se baje del avión en ese retorno histórico, no solamente estará defendiendo su derecho a terminar su mandato constitucional sino que, aún más importante, estará reafirmando que América Latina está encaminada en este nuevo sendero democrático y que finalmente dejó atrás las aventureras militaristas de otras épocas.

Categorías
Opinión

La Edad Media en Florida

Si estuviésemos en la Edad Media o en un pueblecito español de aquellos anteriores a la película ¡Bienvenido Mr. Marshall!  (y conste que este pleonasmo se me ha deslizado involuntariamente), la ordenanza municipal que van a leer ahora podría ser dada a conocer a los vecinos de la siguiente manera, en la plaza mayor y previo toque del correspondiente redoble de tambor y el no menos correspondiente desafinado del cornetín:

«¡De orden del señor alcalde del Condado de Manatee, en la costa del Golfo de México de la Península de la Florida, se hace saber! : Que toda persona del sexo femenino que sea sorprendida en público mostrando más de un 75% de su pechuga y/o más de dos tercios de aquél lugar donde la espalda pierde su honesto nombre y llámase glúteos, podrá ser sancionada con una multa de 500 dólares o con sesenta días de prisión».

Pero no estamos en la Edad Media o en un pueblito español anterior a la película ¡Bienvenido Mr. Marshall!, y lo que acabo de traducirles de esta guisa era hasta hace poco cruda realidad (espero que no lo siga siendo) en un lugar que, después de consultar los más encopetados atlas, y de quemarse un servidor las pestañas investigando las más mínimas huellas fecales de varias moscas, pude localizar muy cerca de la bahía de Tampa.

Después de lo cual me siento obligado a plantear coram pópulo una serie de preguntas:

1ª) ¿Advirtieron los ediles del condado de Manatee de que si su ordenanza crease escuela estarían exponiendo las acciones de los fabricantes nacionales de silicona a una auténtica debacle en Wall Street?

2ª) ¿De que por el contrario estarían beneficiando a los accionistas de la firma francesa Michelin, y dando así, para subrayar mejor las consecuencias de mi primera pregunta, un pobre (qué digo pobre: pobrísimo, paupérrimo) ejemplo de patriotismo bursátil?

3ª) ¿Por qué excluyeron de la ordenanza a las personas del sexo masculino que, munidas de sugestivas «tangas hilo dental», fueran mostrando no ya dos tercios sino hasta diecinueve vigésimos de sus glúteos?

4ª) ¿Cómo se justifican las excepciones de la regla que exoneran a las señoras que se prueban ropa en los grandes almacenes y a las madres que dan de mamar a sus bebés, si no se incluían entre dichas excepciones a las urgidas personas del sexo femenino que perentoriamente deban hacer aguas menores y/o mayores en los arcenes de las autopistas?

Y 5ª) y última, de momento: ¿No estaría detrás de todo este asunto un negocio no muy limpio de algún edil que quisiera sacarse la contrata para la provisión de cintas métricas a la policía del condado, con las cuales los agentes de turno podrían dedicarse a la mensura de cuanta desnudez femenina les pareciera que lo ameritase?

Naturalmente, la antecitada ordenanza municipal se inserta dentro de un cristianismo de doble moral, que nada tiene que ver con aquella hermosa aseveración de Stuart Mill según la cuál, en un país donde todos profesan la misma religión, basta que uno solo comulgue en otra distinta para que se deba promulgar la ley de libertad de cultos. O dicho de otro modo:

En un lugar donde en los kioskos de la prensa se pueden adquirir las revistas con mayor exhibición de carne femenina (y masculina) por página satinada, y donde los niños crecen creyendo que las mujeres tienen una grampa aproximadamente a la altura del ombligo, una ordenanza como la de marras no es otra cosa que un ejercicio municipal de hipocresía.

Sea como fuere, ya el humorista argentino Enrique Pinti dijo alguna vez, y a mí por lo menos me convenció, que «ni Franco consiguió / que la maja se tapara». Así es que aquí les doy un consejo a las vecinas del condado de Manatee, donde espero que haya el suficiente número de visitantes de este dominio como para que luego no puedan alegar ignorancia de mis desvelos:

Ustedes, manateenas, harían bien en emigrar dentro de la propia Florida, unos kilómetros más al Oeste, hasta el lugar llamado Panacea. De por sí, el nombre es -ya- todo un programa.