Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Cesar Chavez: Presente

César Chávez: "Presente"
By Duane E. Campbell

The spirit of Cesar Chavez lives on in the struggle for union rights and justice in the fields of California. Along with Dolores Huerta, Philip Vera Cruz, and others, César created the United Farm Workers (UFW) the first successful union of farm workers in U.S. history. There had been more than ten prior attempts to build a farm workers union.
The United Cannery and Packinghouse Workers (UCAPAWA) organized in the 1930's, the National Farm Workers Union (NFW) led by Ernesto Galarza tried to organize Farm workers in the 40's and 50's. In 1959, the AFL-CIO tried to organize again with the Agricultural Workers Organizing Committee (AWOC). AWOC had several weaknesses, including a top down leadership selected by AFL-CIO leaders, not by farm workers, and a strategy of working cooperatively with labor contractors. AWOC continued the prior efforts of Ernesto Galarza and the NFW in struggling against "braceros" or guest workers, contract workers imported from Mexico, from breaking strikes. A renewed "guest worker" bill is presently before Congress.
Each of the prior attempts to organize farm worker unions were destroyed by racism and corporate power. Chávez chose to build a union that incorporated the strategies of social movements and allied itself with the churches, students, and organized labor. The successful creation of the UFW changed the nature of labor organizing in the Southwest and contributed significantly to the birth of Latino politics in the U.S.
Today, under the leadership of UFW president Arturo Rodriguez, over 28,000 farm workers enjoy benefits on the job. They are incorporated into California's educational, health and civic communities. The UFW has shown the AFL-CIO that immigrants can and must be organized. In 2002 we won significant victories in the legislature and numerous elections.
César Chavez, Dolores Huerta, Philip Vera Cruz, and others deliberately created a multiracial organization, Mexican, Mexican American, Filipino, African-American, Dominican, Puerto Rican and Arab workers, among others, have been part of the UFW. This cross racial organizing was necessary in order to combat the prior divisions and exploitations of workers based upon race and language. Dividing the workers on racial and language lines always left the corporations the winners.
In the 60's Chávez became the pre-eminent civil rights leader for the Mexican and Chicano workers, helping with local union struggles throughout the nation. He worked tirelessly to make people aware of the struggles of farm workers for better pay and safer working conditions. It is a testament to Cesar Chavez's skills and courage that the UFW even survived. They were opposed by major interests in corporate agriculture including the Bruce Church and Gallo Corporations as well as the leadership of the Republican Party then led by Ronald Reagan. Workers were fired, beaten, threatened and even killed in pursuit of union benefits . Non union farm workers today continue to live on sub-poverty wages while producing the abundant crops in the richest valley, in the richest state in the richest nation in the world.
In response to corporate power, Cesar developed new strategies, such as the boycott, based upon his personal commitment to non-violence in the tradition of Ghandi and Martin Luther King Jr. César Chavez died in his sleep on April 23, 1993 near Yuma, Arizona.
Today Mexican, Mexican American and Puerto Rican union leadership is common in our major cities and in several industries. For myself and others, the UFW was a school for organizing. Hundreds of activists in labor and community organizations owe their skills to UFW training and experience. Along with improved working conditions, salaries, and benefits, training this cadre of organizers remains a major legacy of the UFW.
César taught us that all organizations have problems, that all organizations are imperfect. But, if you wait for the perfect organization, nothing gets done. Building popular organizations builds people's power, and democracy. Chavez' legacy to popular struggles, to Chicano/Mexicano self determination and to unions for the immigrant workers is beyond measure. He is present in all of our work. I plan to march on March March 31,2007 in memory of Cesar Chavez' contributions building a more democratic society for working people. You can find our more about this remarkable leader at
Duane Campbell is a Professor of Bilingual/Multicultural Education at Calif. State University-Sacramento and the author of Choosing Democracy; a practical guide to multicultural education. (Merrill/Pren Hall.2004)

Sacramento March. 10 Am. South Side Park.

Democracy, Honest government in Bolivia

Democracy Pays Off in Bolivia

By Mark Weisbrot
March 19, 2007, McClatchy-Tribune Information Services
March 26, 2007, Taiwan News

"In our culture, there is a cosmic law. Don’t steal. Don’t lie. Don’t be lazy . . . in our culture, honesty is very important. I’m convinced still that it was that honesty that allowed me to arrive at the presidency."

That was Bolivian President Evo Morales in an interview during his first trip ever to the United States last September. Morales, an Aymara Indian, is the first indigenous president in South America in more than five centuries.

He appears to be practicing what he preaches. The workday for the President and his cabinet begins at 5 a.m. and often goes past 11 p.m. There is no hint of corruption in the presidency, nor would it be tolerated. And as he passed his first year in office last month, the benefits of honest government were showing.

In the last year the government's revenue from hydrocarbons (mostly natural gas) has increased by more than $340 million dollars, an amount that – relative to Bolivia's economy – is about 70 percent bigger than our federal budget deficit. It has tripled in the last two years, and is expected to triple again over the next four years, due to the government's decision to re-nationalize the industry.

In the United States we don't usually associate nationalization with good government, but for a country that is highly dependent on natural resource exports it can make a huge difference for the public to get its share of the revenues from these resources, rather than having corrupt officials give them away to foreign companies.

This is especially true if the government is committed to using these revenues to benefit the poor. In Bolivia, the poorest country in South America, this includes 64 percent of the population. The Morales government has been investing in the poor: for example, it has approved a program of free reproductive health services for women, is expanding health care to children and people over 60, and building rural clinics. More than 5 million acres of previously state-owned land have been distributed to people in the countryside, and the government has plans to redistribute an area the size of Nebraska.

These are all reforms that Morales promised in his electoral campaign, which he won with the largest margin in Bolivia's history of democratic elections. That is the way democracy is supposed to work: people vote for change, and they get it.

Not everyone sees it that way. Last month, the former US National Intelligence Director, John Negroponte, now the number two official in the State Department, said that democracy "is at risk" in Bolivia. And Bolivia's government is often portrayed here in Cold War terms reminiscent of the 1950s: as part of an "anti-American" alliance of left governments – generally including Venezuela and Cuba – that we should be worried about.

This obscures what is really happening in Bolivia, which has little to do with any foreign countries but is a product of its own political process. The drafting of a new constitution, re-nationalization of the gas industry, land reform, and the rejection of a U.S.-sponsored trade agreement are all demands that came directly – and very insistently – from the Bolivian people. The Bolivians tried Washington's prescription for economic development for decades – and it failed miserably. Aside from the glaring inequality that is obvious to any visitor, the country's per capita income today is less than it was a quarter-century ago. So now they are trying something different, and have put together their own national development plan. But the government has maintained good relations with Washington and still sees the United States as an important trading partner.

The Morales government has made mistakes – for example in dealing with movements for local autonomy in the wealthier eastern regions of the country. But it appears to learn from its mistakes, and has avoided the repression deployed by its predecessors – the prior government killed dozens of people in the streets -- even in the face of violent protests. It faces many daunting challenges, mostly in putting together an efficient and effective government at all levels and implementing a development strategy that can reduce the country's dependence on natural resources. But honest government at the top is a good start, and worthy of respect.

Mark Weisbrot is co-director of the Center for Economic and Policy Research, in Washington, D.C.

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Chiquita and terrorism

Posted on Mar 20, 2007

By Amy Goodman

What do Osama bin Laden and Chiquita bananas have in common? Both have used their millions to finance terrorism.

The Justice Department has just fined Chiquita Brands International $25 million for funding a terrorist organization ... for years. Chiquita must also cooperate fully with ongoing investigations into its payments to the ultra-right-wing Colombian paramilitary group Autodefensas Unidas de Colombia. Chiquita made almost monthly payments to the AUC from 1997 to 2004, totaling at least $1.7 million.

The AUC is a brutal paramilitary umbrella group, with an estimated 15,000 to 20,000 armed troops. It was named a terrorist organization by the United States on Sept. 10, 2001. Among its standard tactics are kidnapping, torture, disappearance, rape, murder, beatings, extortion and drug trafficking.

Chiquita claims it had to make the payments under threat from the AUC in order to protect its employees and property. Chiquita’s outside lawyers implored them to stop the illegal payments, to no avail. The payments were made by check through Chiquita’s Colombian subsidiary, Banadex. When Chiquita executives figured out how illegal the payments were, they started delivering them in cash. Chiquita sold Banadex in June 2004 when the heat got too intense.

While the AUC was collecting U.S. dinero from Chiquita, it was butchering thousands of innocent people in rural Colombia. Chengue (pronounced CHEN-gay) was a small farming village in the state of Sucre. About 80 AUC paramilitary members went into the town in the early hours of Jan. 17, 2001. They rounded up the men and smashed their skulls with stones and a sledgehammer, killing 24 of them. One 19-year-old perpetrator confessed, naming the organizers of the mass murder, including police and navy officials. To date, he is the only one who has been punished. This is just one of hundreds of massacres carried out by AUC.

Chiquita has had a long history of criminal behavior. It was the subject of an extraordinary exposé in its hometown paper, The Cincinnati Enquirer, in 1998. The paper found that Chiquita exposed entire communities to dangerous U.S.-banned pesticides, forced the eviction of an entire Honduran village at gunpoint and its subsequent bulldozing, suppressed unions, unwittingly allowed the use of Chiquita transport ships to move cocaine internationally, and paid a fortune to U.S. politicians to influence trade policy. The lead reporter, Mike Gallagher, illegally accessed more than 2,000 Chiquita voice mails. The voice mails backed up his story, but his methods got him fired. The Enquirer issued a front-page apology and paid Chiquita a reported $14 million. The voice-mail scandal rocked the Enquirer, burying the important exposé.

Chiquita was formerly called the United Fruit Co., which with the help of its former lawyer, Secretary of State John Foster Dulles, and his brother Allen Dulles’ Central Intelligence Agency overthrew the democratically elected president of Guatemala, Jacobo Arbenz Guzman, in 1954. And you can go back further. Colombian Nobel Laureate Gabriel García Márquez wrote in his classic “One Hundred Years of Solitude” about the 1928 Santa Marta massacre of striking United Fruit banana workers: “When the banana company arrived ... the old policemen were replaced by hired assassins.”

While the U.S. is seeking extradition of Colombia-based Chiquita executives, the administration of President Alvaro Uribe in Colombia, with its own officials now linked to the right-wing paramilitaries, has countered that Colombia would seek the extradition of U.S.-based Chiquita executives. Colombian prosecutors are also seeking information in Chiquita’s role in smuggling 3,000 AK-47 rifles and millions of rounds of ammunition to paramilitaries in November 2001.

A $25-million fine to a multibillion-dollar corporation like Chiquita is a mere slap on the wrist, the cost of doing business. Presidents like George W. Bush and Uribe, businessmen first, while squabbling over extraditions, would never lose track of their overarching shared goal of a stridently pro-corporate, military-supported so-called free-trade regime. As long as that remains the same, union organizers and hard-working farmers, like the men of Chengue, will continue to be killed on behalf of Chiquita or some other multinational company.

That next organic, fair-trade banana you buy just might save a life.

Amy Goodman is the host of “Democracy Now!,” a daily international TV/radio news hour airing on 500 stations in North America.

© 2007 Amy Goodman; distributed by King Features Syndicate

A Progressive Journal of News and Opinion. Editor, Robert Scheer. Publisher, Zuade Kaufman.
Copyright © 2007 Truthdig, L.L.C. All rights reserved.

Monday, March 12, 2007

Indentured servants in the U.S.: braceros

Indentured Servants in America

By Bob Herbert
New York Times March 12, 2007

A must-read for anyone who favors an expansion of guest
worker programs in the U.S. is a stunning new report
from the Southern Poverty Law Center that details the
widespread abuse of highly vulnerable, poverty-stricken
workers in programs that already exist.

The report is titled 'Close to Slavery: Guestworker
Programs in the United States.' It will be formally
released today at a press conference in Washington.

Workers recruited from Mexico, South America, Asia and
elsewhere to work in American hotels and in such labor-
intensive industries as forestry, seafood processing
and construction are often ruthlessly exploited.

They are routinely cheated out of their wages, which
are low to begin with. They are bound like indentured
servants to the middlemen and employers who arrange
their work tours in the U.S. And they are virtual
hostages of the American companies that employ them.

The law does not allow these 'guests' to change jobs
while they're here. If a particular employer is
unscrupulous, as is very often the case, the worker has
little or no recourse.

One of the guest workers profiled in the report was a
psychology student recruited in the Dominican Republic
to work at a hotel in New Orleans in the aftermath of
Hurricane Katrina. The woman had taken on $4,000 in
debt to cover 'fees' and other expenses that were
required for her to get a desk job that paid $6 an

But after a month, her hours were steadily reduced
until she was working only 15 or 20 hours a week. That
left her with barely enough money to survive, and with
no way of paying off her crushing debt.

The woman and her fellow guest workers had hardly
enough money for food. 'We would just buy Chinese food
because it was the cheapest,' she said. 'We would buy
one plate a day and share it between two or three
people.' She told the authors of the report: 'I felt
like an animal without claws - defenseless. It is the
same as slavery.'

Steven Greenhouse of The Times recently reported on a
waiter from Indonesia who took on $6,000 in debt to
become a guest worker. He arrived in North Carolina
expecting to do farm work but found that there was no
job for him at all.

The report focused primarily on the 120,000 foreign
workers who are allowed into the U.S. each year to work
on farms or at other low-skilled jobs. In most cases
the guest workers take on a heavy debt load to
participate in the program, anywhere from $500 to more
than $10,000. Worried about the welfare of their
families back home, and with the huge debt hanging over
their heads, the workers are most often docile, even in
the face of the most egregious treatment.

The result, said the report, is that they are
'systematically exploited and abused.'

Some of the worst abuses occur in the forestry
industry. The report said, 'Virtually every forestry
company that the Southern Poverty Law Center has
encountered provides workers with pay stubs showing
that they have worked substantially fewer hours than
they actually worked.'

A favorite (and extremely cruel) tactic of employers is
the seizure of guest workers' identity documents, such
as passports and Social Security cards. That leaves the
workers incredibly vulnerable.

'Numerous employers have refused to return these
documents even when the worker simply wanted to return
to his home country,' the report said. 'The Southern
Poverty Law Center also has encountered numerous
incidents where employers destroyed passports or visas
in order to convert workers into undocumented status.'

Without their papers the workers live in abject fear of
encountering the authorities, who will treat them as
illegals. They are completely at the mercy of the

President Bush has been relentless in his push to
greatly expand guest worker programs as part of his
effort to revise the nation's immigration laws. To
expand these programs without looking closely at the
gruesome abuses already taking place would be both
tragic and ridiculous.

'This is not a situation where there are just a few
bad-apple employers,' said Mary Bauer, director of the
Immigrant Justice Project at the Southern Poverty Law
Center, which has initiated a number of lawsuits on
behalf of abused workers. 'Our experience is that it's
the very structure of the program that lends itself to

Copyright 2007 The New York Times Company


Thursday, March 08, 2007

Unity position: Immigration reform


MAPA and the Hermandad Mexicana Latinoamericana present the document below - Unity Blueprint for Immigration Reform - as the culmination of months of consensus-building between literally hundreds of organizations, their allies, affiliates, and friends for the purpose of presenting the story and legislative proposals of the immigrant communities in favor of federal immigration reform. The organizations have worked very hard to reach consensus on the most difficult issues, and this is our legislative program. We present this to the U.S. Congress and we will use this to organize our communities, build broader consensus across communities, and continue building the immigrants' rights movement throughout our country. Where disagreements continue to exist between our organizations, we will continue to press for unity, maintain a constructive dialogue, and deepen our consultation with our own immigrant communities.

To: Members of the United States Congress
The Unity Blueprint for Immigration Reform provides specific legislative proposals for rational and humane transformation of the current immigration policy disaster in the United States. These proposals were developed in several meetings in California, Arizona, and Texas, with over 150 organizations participating in discussions leading to the Unity Blueprint proposals. While organizations may vary widely on the strategies they adopt to bring about immigration reform, the Unity Blueprint provides positions of unity on the substance of immigration reform.

As stated in the Preamble to the Unity Blueprint, the United States urgently requires a workable, just, and fair immigration system that addresses the interests of the nation and the millions of immigrants who give their labor, talents, and investments to it without the benefit of protections and rights extended to its citizenry. We believe that the Unity Blueprint proposals are both in the national interest and in the interest of its immigrant communities. The Blueprint is built upon the unity of interests between the nation and its immigrant workers and communities.

The following is a summary of the essential provisions of the Unity Blueprint

1. Protect the well-being and safety of immigrant and U.S. citizen children. Amend the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA) to permit the parents of U.S. citizens to petition through their US citizen children under 21 years of age, avoiding the deportation of the parents of US citizen children and allowing such children equal opportunities with other citizen children. Support enactment of the DREAM Act. Support enactment of the Child Citizen Protection Act. Amend the INA to require that apprehended immigrant children are informed about rights they possess to legalize their status under existing laws enacted by Congress and are afforded the assistance of counsel.

2. Achieve faithful enforcement of immigration laws by reinstating the jurisdiction of the federal courts to review agency decisions involving immigrants. Repeal provisions in the Anti-Terrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act of 1996, the Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act of 1996, and the 2005 Real ID Act that strip the courts of their historic role to ensure that the Executive faithfully implements the laws of Congress.

3. Achieve maximum protection of the labor rights and working conditions of U.S. and immigrant workers. Repeal current Employer Sanctions laws that are ineffective in stopping the hiring of undocumented migrants but cause widespread discrimination against citizens and are used to further threaten and exploit undocumented workers. Bring antidiscrimination protections in the INA into line with those in other civil rights laws. Ensure that immigration enforcement complements rather than undermines the enforcement of labor and employment laws. Review international trade agreements that contribute to undocumented migration. Prohibit States from considering immigration status in determining worker benefits. Increase budgets for the Wage and Hour Division of the Department of Labor and the Occupational Safety and Health Administration.

4. Achieve maximum reduction in the size of the undocumented population. Enact a single-tier and truly comprehensive legalization program offered to all undocumented persons who have not committed serious crimes so as to make them a danger to their communitites. Provide an expedited legalization program for long-time resident Central American and other refugees previously granted some form of temporary status.

5. Achieve a realistic legal framework for future migration. Restructure the immigration quota system to better match the known family and employment-based demand. Ensure that the issuance of permanent and temporary employment- based visas are determined by labor needs based upon reliable economic indicators, rather than an employer-driven system that is easily gamed. Temporary worker programs should not be expanded and must be reformed to provide full labor rights and the ability to seek resident status after three years. Repeal the 3 and 10-year and permanent bars that prevent immigrants from legalizing their status. Restore the ability of immigrants to legalize status in the U.S. despite overstaying visas or entering without inspection.

6. Achieve rational and humane operational control of the borders. Require that migrants apprehended entering the country be informed of rights extended to them by Congress before they are deported (rights available to victims of trafficking and violent crimes, and abused and abandoned unaccompanied juveniles). Prohibit the use of U.S. military forces for border enforcement. Make enforcement of laws to prevent vigilantism a priority and monitor vigilante activity. Decriminalize humanitarian assistance to migrants injured while attempting to enter the country. Make border enforcement solely a federal function. Repeal the Secure Fence Act of 2006 in its entirety. Prohibit Border Patrol high speed chases and use of deadly force except when required to protect life or serious injury. Repeal recently enacted laws that permit “expedited removal” of certain migrants apprehended within 100 miles of the border. Enact legislation permitting border crossing by indigenous people. Set up an Independent Commission to provide accountability, consultation, and monitoring of federal border policies and practices.

7. Achieve rational and humane interior enforcement and related policies relating to the presence of immigrant communities. Enact legislation prohibiting mass non-individualized detentions of citizens and immigrants at work sites and elsewhere. Repeal the recent law that bars States from issuing drivers licenses to undocumented immigrant drivers. Grant suspension of deportation or registry to immigrants of good moral character with five years continuous residence. Repeal recent laws that prevent release on bond for apprehended migrants who are not a flight risk or risk to the community. Enact legislation making removal proceedings open to the public. Enact legislation making technical violations of registration requirements punishable by civil penalties. Require accuracy in the National Crime Information Center database. Enact legislation to amend the definition of an “aggravated felony” in the INA (now includes misdemeanors and non- aggravated crimes). Enact legislation to prohibit the retroactive application of immigration laws. Enact laws to grant immigrants full access to financial institutions.

Long-range immigration policy must also address the underlying root causes that drive migration to the United States, including massive inequality in wealth distribution, economic dislocation in major sending communities, and free trade agreements that have caused workers to loose their jobs in migrant sending communities. No rational policy can ignore these realities.

The Unity Blueprint of legislative proposals is intended to guide legislators, advocates, and the public on the framework of a rational and humane immigration policy that protects and promotes the interests of children, U.S. workers, immigrant workers, sending communities from which immigrants come, and the communities in which they live and work in the United States.

[If you support the framework of the Unity Blueprint and would like to co-sign this letter, or have comments, please email Pablo Alvarado, Dolores Huerta, Rosa Rosales, Angela Sanbrano, and Peter Schey]

Pablo Alvarado
National Coordinator, National Day Laborers Organizing Network

Maria Elena Durazo
Executive Secretary- Treasurer, Los Angeles County Federation of Labor, AFL-CIO

Father Richard Estrada
Our Lady Queen of Angels, Los Angeles

Antonio Gonzalez
President, William C. Velasquez Institute

Dolores Huerta
President, Dolores Huerta Foundation & Co-Founder of the United Farmworkers Union

Victor Narro
Project Director, UCLA Downtown Labor Center

Rosa Rosales
National President, League of United Latin American Citizens

Angelica Salas
Executive Director, Coalition for Humane Immigrants Rights of Los Angeles, and

Angela Sanbrano
Executive Director, Central American Resource Center (Los Angeles) and President of the National Alliance of Latin American and Caribbean Communities

Peter Schey
President & Ex. Director, Center for Human Rights and Constitutional Law (CHRCL).


Washington is Losing its Grip on Latin America

Washington Is Losing Its Grip on Latin America

By Mark Weisbrot, McClatchy-Tribune Information Services
Posted on March 6, 2007, Printed on March 8, 2007

"State of Denial" is the title of Bob Woodward's famous book on the Bush team's road to disaster in Iraq, but it would have served just as well for a description of their Latin America policy. This week President Bush heads South for a seven-day, five country, trip to Latin America to see if he can counter the populist political tide that has brought left governments to about half the population of the region.

Carrying vague promises of a joint effort on ethanol production -- but no offer to lower tariffs protecting the U.S. market -- President Bush hopes to entice Brazil into taking his side against his nemesis, President Hugo Chavez of Venezuela. This is a fantasy.

President Lula da Silva of Brazil made a point of visiting Venezuela for his first foreign trip after being re-elected last October. There he presided over the dedication of a $1.2 billion bridge over the Orinoco river, financed by the Brazilian government, while he lavished praise on Chavez and gave the popular Venezuelan president an added boost in his own re-election campaign.

The Bush Administration's policy of trying to isolate Venezuela from its neighbors has only succeeded in isolating Washington. Last week President Nestor Kirchner of Argentina, speaking in Caracas, flatly rejected the notion that Argentina or Brazil should "contain President Chavez," who he called "a brother and a friend." In another thinly-veiled swipe at Washington, Kirchner said: "It cannot be that it bothers anyone that our nations become integrated." At the same time he announced that Venezuela and Argentina will jointly issue a "Bond of the South" for $1.5 billion.

If Washington is in denial about the political reality of Latin America, it is even more in denial about the economics. For twenty-five years our government has pushed a series of reforms throughout the region: tighter fiscal and monetary policies, more independent central banks, indiscriminate opening to international trade and investment, privatization of public enterprises, and the abandonment of economic development strategies and industrial policies. The Bush team thinks that these reforms, known as "neoliberalism" in Latin America, were just the right formula to stimulate economic growth.

But in fact Latin America's economic growth over the last 25 years has been a disaster -- the worst long-term growth failure in more than a hundred years. From 1980-2000 GDP per person grew by only 9 percent, and another 4 percent for 2000-2005. Compare this to 82 percent for just the two decades from 1960-1980, and it is easy to see why candidates promising new economic policies have been elected (and some re-elected) in Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Ecuador, Nicaragua, Uruguay, and Venezuela. They also came close to winning in Mexico, Peru, and Costa Rica.

The left governments that have introduced new economic policies have done pretty well: Argentina has grown by a phenomenal 8.6 percent annually for nearly five years, pulling more than 8 million people out of poverty in a country of 36 million. Bolivia has increased government revenue from hydrocarbons by about 6.7 percent of GDP, an amount that would equal $900 billion in the United States, and is using the additional revenue to increase to help its majority poor. Venezuela is also using the government's increased take of oil production to provide health care, education, and subsidized food for the poor. All of these governments have succeeded by implementing policies that Washington opposed.

President Bush will get a good reception from the right-wing governments he is visiting: his close allies in Mexico, Colombia, and Guatemala. Colombia is in the midst of a huge national scandal over the responsibility of government officials for mass murder and assassinations of political opponents. More trade unionists are killed in Colombia each year than in the rest of the world combined. Guatemala is another right-wing ally with a terrible human rights record: two weeks ago three Central American parlimentarians were murdered by a Guatemalan police death squad. All three governments have been linked to narco-trafficking, but President Bush will likely praise them for their co-operation in the war on drugs.

It's all about denial. The political and economic changes sweeping Latin America are a serious break with the failed policies of the past. Washington's influence has collapsed, and is not likely to recover.

Mark Weisbrot is co-director of the Center for Economic and Policy Research, in Washington, D.C.

Friday, March 02, 2007

MAPA and immigration

Mexican American Political Association
March 02, 2007

NCLR’s Embrace of Bracero-type Program a Trojan Horse
“Is this indentured alien – an almost perfect model of the economic man, an ‘input factor’ stripped of the political and social attributes that liberal democracy likes to ascribe to all human beings ideally – is this bracero the prototype of the production man of the future?” – asked Ernesto Galarza, the legendary author, labor organizer, community leader, and founder of the National Council of La Raza in his seminal work, “Merchants of Labor” in 1964, wherein he described the managed migration of Mexican farm workers in California from 1942 to 1963.
Fast forward to the current national debate around federal immigration reform and we encounter Galarza’s creation, NCLR, morphed into a naked apologist for that sector of corporate America, which is clamoring for modern-day braceros – and not solely reserved for agriculture. But, then again, it probably couldn’t have been otherwise. NCLR has been marketed by American big business as the “largest Hispanic civil rights organization in the U.S.” – a figment of a not too sophisticated marketing strategy, but almost entirely funded and subsidized by the Wal- Marts of the U.S. corporate landscape.

There is nothing in the distant or recent history of similar contract-worker programs in the U.S. that would inspire confidence in any of the current proposals for what NCLR’s CEO, Janet Murguia, has called a “new worker program.” She recently declared in an op-ed piece published in the Washington Post on February 11, 2007, that her “organization and many Latino leaders find ourselves in the interesting position of being principal advocates for a significant new worker visa program as part of comprehensive immigration reform.” Yet, she fails to identify what other “Latino leaders” advocate such a position, or organization that has a track record of advocating for and representing immigrant workers, or immigrant leaders and organizations. She couldn’t because there are none. In the same piece, Murguia lays out the historical experience of bracero programs as “dreadful,” “infamous,” and “synonymous with worker abuse,” yet goes on to advocate for a modern version of the program – an incredible summersault of logic.

We should remember that this is the same organization in the early 1990s – in the name of the Latino community - that was a vociferous supporter of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), which has resulted in the loss of millions of American jobs, and the displacement of no less than three million Mexican small farmers from their lands, notwithstanding the opposition by labor and community-based organizations on both sides of the U.S.-Mexico border during those debates. This is relevant because it goes to the question of whose interests are served by NCLR’s position on a new bracero program, and whose interests are prejudiced. Simply put, who wins and who loses?

NCLR has no history, trajectory, or reputation for serving individual immigrants in the problems that they encounter in America. It has no first-hand experience in case management in filing wage claims or addressing the systematic violations of the terms and conditions of existing contract-labor programs – H-2A and H-2B, for example. It has no stomach for litigating endemic injustices committed by employers who rob the contract laborers of the value that they create, and that stab to undermine existing prevailing wage standards, and thus, make more tenuous the social standing of native-born workers. Neither has NCLR advocated for the just resolution of the claims made by previous bracero workers who were denied the social security benefits, the funds of which were deducted from their wages, and due them by the U.S. and Mexican governments.

The Essential Worker Immigration Coalition, comprised of agribusiness, and major American corporations, but also includes NCLR, the National Immigration Forum, the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) and UNITE-HERE, with cozy relations with the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, has been at the forefront in advocating for the 21st Century bracero program.

Contrariwise, all other labor unions affiliated with the AFL-CIO and Change to Win, immigrants’ rights coalitions, national and regional Latino organizations, and immigrant-member organizations have steadfastly opposed bracero-type programs.

What we are witnessing today is a debate shaping up similar to that which occurred prior to the passage of NAFTA in 1994. Let’s call it NAFTA II, or NAFTA coming home to roost. A massive “guest-worker” program constitutes nothing more then the importation of bound labor, cheaper than domestic labor, the inverse effect of the massive exportation of manufacturing jobs to cheap labor aboard. Speaking before the American Trucking Association recently, Newt Gingrich, former speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives, stated that a successful guest- worker program could “give all of you all the truck drivers you can hire.” Trucking companies are currently experiencing driver shortages. This is the real intent of big business with regard to any new contract-labor program, however the advocates of such may seek to soften the name with “guest,” “temporary,” or “new worker.”

U.S. Senator Ernest Gruening, who served in the U.S. Congress during the previous bracero period, observed at the time that, “Although American private enterprise was the beneficiary of an ample and docile labor supply, a large part of the costs were borne by the U.S. Government, i.e., the American taxpayers.” He characterized the program as one in which “corruption and exploitation were its steady concomitants. Gradually the imported labor replaced the domestic.”

Murguia claims that the critics of her position offer “no practical solutions for the flow of migrants that will surely continue or for the abuses these workers will face if they survive the trip across the border.” More than a decade after the approval of NAFTA, a fair trade to the new migrants who come to America to provide valued labor and service is a permanent visa – either employment-based or family relative-based. This would be the best measure to assure that prevailing wage standards are protected, that domestic labor not be undermined, and that labor and civil rights, and civil liberties, are more easily guaranteed. There can be nothing more practical to the migrant worker than permanent legal residency, which provides the minimum modicum of negotiating power with the employer, freedom of movement cross borders, a true statutory path to citizenship, and the ability to immigrate other loved ones.

Only such permanence in visa status will assure that new migrant workers not become a stratified permanent second-class workforce available primarily to benefit employers. Permanent legal resident status in exchange for the valued labor of the migrant worker is what I would call a fair trade, instead of the notoriously unfair “free trade” concept associated with NAFTA.

Nativo V. Lopez, National President of the Mexican American Political Association (MAPA), and the National Director of Hermandad Mexicana Latinoamericana. 2-26-07

WASHINGTON POST (Murguía Op-Ed): A Change of Heart on Guest Workers
By Janet Murguía Sunday, February 11, 2007; B07

After President Bush highlighted the need for a temporary-worker program as part of a larger immigration reform in his State of the Union address, Rep. Charles Rangel (D-N.Y.) compared the president's proposal to slavery. Rangel is right to be concerned. Our nation's history with such programs has been dreadful.

Many Latinos still have searing memories of the infamous bracero program, which more than 50 years ago became synonymous with worker abuse. The current guest-worker programs for agriculture and other "non-skilled" labor are not much better. Experience tells us that there is good reason to be concerned that a new worker visa program could repeat these mistakes, creating a permanent, sizable subclass of workers who endure harsh treatment while simultaneously undercutting their American co- workers.

Despite these concerns, after decades of strongly opposing temporary-worker programs for the very reasons that Rangel articulates, my organization and many Latino leaders find ourselves in the interesting position of being principal advocates for a significant new worker visa program as part of comprehensive immigration reform.

Some think we got here as the result of some devil's bargain with our allies among business leaders: They get a new worker program, and we get a path to citizenship for undocumented workers. Not so. We have concluded that a new legal pathway for the future flow of immigrant workers to the United States is the safest, most reasonable path for immigrant workers, for their co-workers in this country, and for a nation hungry for order and control at the border.

We share that hunger. Latinos know that even if we pass immigration reforms that include a path to citizenship for millions of immigrants who work, pay taxes and otherwise contribute to the United States, we will have failed to fix our nation's broken immigration system unless we do what previous reforms did not: Acknowledge that there will continue to be a flow across the border and that we will do everything we can to control and regulate it.

If this year's immigration debate accomplishes what the debate in 1986 did -- marry a legalization program with additional enforcement without addressing the future flow of migrants -- we will have addressed the symptoms of our broken system without repairing it. The cost of this mistake will be enormous: a continued death toll at the border; a sizable flow of undocumented workers who come to this country under harsher conditions; increased harassment of and discrimination against Hispanic Americans often mistaken for immigrants; and exacerbated public frustration that the immigration issue is still not under control.

But we do not have to repeat past mistakes. The immigration reform bill the Senate passed last year contains a much different model of a worker visa program than the unjust model we have lived with for decades. Workers would not be at the mercy of abusive employers in that they could change jobs and alert the authorities to mistreatment. Rather than becoming a permanent second-class workforce, they would have the opportunity to earn a path to permanent status -- and ultimately citizenship -- as one of the only classes of migrants able to petition for themselves rather than relying on an employer or relative to petition for them. There are important labor protections for immigrant workers as well as for their American co-workers, including a requirement that immigrant workers be paid the prevailing wage in an industry to avoid undercutting the wages of American workers employed there. The 110th Congress has an opportunity to build from this strong start and do even better.

We are deeply aware of the risks of going down this path in the immigration reform debate, including accusations that we are selling out one group of immigrant workers to help another. But our critics offer no practical solutions for the flow of migrants that will surely continue or for the abuses these workers will face if they survive the trip across the border. We owe it to migrants, as well as to the nation that their hard work will sustain, to shape a new path for migration that is legal, safe and endowed with protections for immigrant and American workers alike.

The writer is president and chief executive of the National Council of La Raza.

Join us in this prolonged campaign for driver's licenses and visas for our families. The first step in making change is to join an organization that pursues the change we desire. We welcome you to our ranks.
Other organizations leading this movement include: Hermandad Mexicana Latinoamericana, Mexican American Political Association (MAPA), MAPA Youth Leadership, Liberty and Justice for Immigrants Movement, National Alliance for Immigrant's Rights, and immigrant's rights coalitions throughout the U.S..

Nativo V. Lopez, National President of MAPA (323) 269-1575

Thursday, March 01, 2007

Minute men conspire against each other

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Coup Inside the Minuteman Project
The "citizens patrol" Minuteman Project is eating itself alive. Board member Marvin L. Stewart, described as an "accounts receivable technician" at Veterans Affairs and leader of My Lord's Salvation Ministries Inc., has orchestrated a coup to oust the group's chairman, James Gilchrist, over allegations of "gross mismanagement."

Of course, the dispute is over money. Stewart says the Minuteman Project can't account for $400,000 that a direct-mail company helped raise last year for the organization. Gilchrist (pictured left) is disgusted with his former supporters and says it could destroy the whole organization:

"It certainly could come to that," Gilchrist told The Washington Times. "We have led the fight for stricter immigration enforcement, but I have reluctantly come to the conclusion that the people I am fighting against, including the open-border lobbies, are better than the people I'm fighting for."

Gilchrist firmly rejects the idea that $400,000 is missing, and he has asked a Superior Court judge for a restraining order to halt his firing. A hearing is set for March 21 in Orange County. It's not the first divorce for Gilchrist; he already has split with the Minuteman Project's co-founder, Chris Simcox, who started the Minuteman Civil Defense Corps.