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Posts tagged Mexico

Meanwhile, in Minarchistan…

Steven Rhett gets pinched by the border cops at San Ysidro while he’s trying to peaceably move some marijuana across an imaginary line for some willing customers in the United States. Dale Franks, a California limited-governmentalist blogger who opposes drug prohibition, gets to sit in as Juror #1. If Dale Franks doesn’t vote to convict, the jury will hang and Steven Rhett will be able to go on living his life. After a short chat about the facts of the case, Dale Franks does his civic duty by voting to convict Steven Rhett on all charges, because that’s what The Law says. Back at QandO, Dale Franks blogs about his interesting experience. Meanwhile, Steven Rhett will be having an interesting experience in federal prison for the next ten years of his life.

Down in the comments, several anarchists ask Franks how he justifies directly collaborating in ruining a harmless man and robbing him of ten years of his life, when Franks himself doesn’t believe that anything Rhett did should be treated as a crime. Franks answers their objections decisively by getting into an argument with another limited governmentalist over whether or not the Constitution says it’s O.K., and what the word regulate meant in the 1780s.

If this is how the trains run around here, I’ll pass. I’m not interested in Dale Franks’s kind of railroading.

Gynocide: mass graves and bodies uncovered in Juarez and Basra

Kyrie eleison.

Forensic teams in Ciudad Juarez in Mexico are unearthing more than 4,000 bodies buried in common graves.

A local government official said DNA samples from the bodies would be compared to those of missing persons.

It is thought that some of the bodies could belong to women killed in a wave of unsolved murders that began in the city in 1993.

The official said the corpses were buried in common graves because they had not been claimed after 90 days.

The bodies being exhumed were buried between 1991 and 2005 – all unclaimed bodies buried since 2005 have been identified first.

More than 300 women have been murdered in the town in Chihuahua state since 1993, and an unknown number have gone missing.

There is no generally accepted motive for the killings.

They have been variously attributed to serial killers, drug cartels and domestic violence. Some of the killings are believed to have been sexually motivated.

Many of the victims were poor working mothers employed in factories in the industrial city, which is on the border with Texas.

There have been several arrests, but the killings have continued.

— BBC News 2007-12-05: Bodies in Juarez graves exhumed

In southern Iraq:

BAGHDAD (AP) — Religious vigilantes have killed at least 40 women this year in the southern Iraqi city of Basra because of how they dressed, their mutilated bodies found with notes warning against violating Islamic teachings, the police chief said Sunday.

Maj. Gen. Jalil Khalaf blamed sectarian groups that he said were trying to impose a strict interpretation of Islam. They dispatch patrols of motorbikes or unlicensed cars with tinted windows to accost women not wearing traditional dress and head scarves, he added.

The women of Basra are being horrifically murdered and then dumped in the garbage with notes saying they were killed for un-Islamic behavior, Khalaf told The Associated Press. He said men with Western clothes or haircuts are also attacked in Basra, an oil-rich city some 30 miles from the Iranian border and 340 miles southeast of Baghdad.

Those who are behind these atrocities are organized gangs who work under cover of religion, pretending to spread the instructions of Islam, but they are far from this religion, Khalaf said.

Throughout Iraq, many women wear a headscarf and others wear a full face veil although secular women are often unveiled. Since the overthrow of Saddam Hussein and the rise of a Shiite-dominated government, armed men in some parts of the country have sometimes forced women to cover their heads or face punishment. In some areas of the heavily Shiite south, even Christian women have been forced to wear headscarves.

Before the U.S.-led invasion in 2003, Basra, Iraq’s second-largest city, was known for its mixed population and night life. Now, in some areas, red graffiti threatens any woman who wears makeup and appears with her hair uncovered: Your makeup and your decision to forgo the headscarf will bring you death.

Khalaf said bodies have been found in garbage dumps with bullet holes, decapitated or otherwise mutilated with a sheet of paper nearby saying, she was killed for adultery, or she was killed for violating Islamic teachings. In September, the headless bodies of a woman and her 6-year-old son were among those found, he said. A total of 40 deaths were reported this year.

We believe the number of murdered women is much higher, as cases go unreported by their families who fear reprisal from extremists, he said.

— Sinan Salaheddin, Associated Press (2007-12-10): Vigilantes Kill 40 Women in Iraq’s South

(Via Feminist Law Professors 2007-12-10 and Majikthise 2007-12-10.)

Further reading:

The Border Wall

I don’t feel particularly bad about the fact that Ephraim Cruz lost his job with the Border Patrol. The Border Patrol should not exist at all, and the men and women who decide to join it are, whether they realize it or not, violently inflicting injustices on innocent people every day, as an essential part of their job duties. Cruz seems to me like a basically decent man with an acute conscience, and it will be better for him now that he has to find an honest line of work.

But Jenn’s interview with Cruz at reappropriate is still powerful, and important to read, because of what it tells us about the institutional culture of policing in general, and border policing in particular. It should be no surprise that the Blue Wall stays in place when the uniforms change from blue to green; if anything, it is worse, because abusive border cops can rely on getting away with even more than abusive ordinary cops can. Their usual victims have no formal standing as citizens, often cannot speak English well, have few advocates with high profiles in the media or the legal system, and are about to be forced out of the country, far away from anyone who might do anything about their mistreatment.

Ephraim Cruz, a former patrol agent with the U.S. Border Patrol, tried to do something about Border Patrol agents who abused captured and imprisoned immigrants. Here are some of the things that he saw while he was stationed in Arizona:

Ephraim was also amazed to find cells were frequently filled to two or three times their posted capacity, while neighbouring cells were not being utilized at all. Not only was this a clear violation of fire codes, but Ephraim feared this practice could pose a serious health risk for detainees.

But, most heart-wrenching for Ephraim was the observation that detainees were frequently going twenty to thirty hours at a time without food. In his March 21, 2004 memo, Ephraim recounts how he watched a young ten-year-old boy — whom his mother described as in good health — break out into red bumps after going more than twenty hours without a meal. Later that same day, Ephraim remembers how a young girl went more than thirty hours without food, and complained of feeling faint. These were hardly isolated incidents: Ephraim remembers countless children and pregnant women who went without food for two or three shifts at a time.

According to Border Patrol spokesperson Andy Adame (quoted in archived Tucson Citizen article Border Agent Claims Detainees Mistreated in Douglas, written by Luke Turf, published May 22, 2004), Border Patrol policies state that all detainees should be fed at 6am, noon and 6pm and … crackers and juice are always available for immigrants. However, Ephraim writes in an August 5, 2004 memo (Memo from E. Cruz to R. Bonner, SUBJECT: Ongoing Mistreatment of Illegal Aliens and Processing Issues):

The integrity of those meal times are habitually violated, and crackers and juice are not always available. Furthermore, when crackers and juice are indeed available, it is not readily provided to the detainees… It is station policy that we feed all illegal aliens held beyond six to eight hours. Many illegal aliens easily go two to three times beyond that time frame without one meal.

In that same memo, Ephraim recounts how on July 31, 2004, he approached the control room that 220 meals would be needed that day, only to be told that 70 meals would be ordered. Most likely, Ephraim opined, two-thirds of detainees at the facility went hungry that day. According to Ephraim, the Douglas station also went weeks at a time without replenishing their supply of juice and crackers, and even when such items were in stock, they were not always made available to detainees. In one incident, Ephraim left some juice and crackers near the door of a holding cell only to have a fellow Agent remove the food moments later, muttering to Ephraim that by leaving it within reach of detainees, they might assume the food was for them.

Ephraim further notes that there was a distinct lack of concern for detainees amongst Agents; an almost dehumanization of the UDAs [Undocumented Aliens –R.G.] that helped perpetuate the mistreatment. Ironically, the Agents — who were predominantly Mexican American — looked down on UDAs as if to say that they, as legal Mexican Americans, were better than the Mexican detainees. Many seemed to feel that detainees deserved their mistreatment; Ephraim recalls how in one instance, while denying food to a detainee, one agent remarked that [the illegal aliens] knew they were coming, they should have brought food with them.

The dehumanization extended in one case to abuse reminiscent of the Abu Ghraib scandal (which ironically occurred only a few months after Ephraim began writing his memos). On March 1, 2005, Ephraim wrote a memo that included a recount of an incident he observed(Memo from E. Cruz to M. Nicely, Chief Patrol Agent, Tucson Sector) :

[I] informed FOS Jeffrey Richards and FOS Ignacio Luevano, in the presence of SBPA Robert Marrufo that SBPFA Marrufo directed BPA Jon Gleber to put an undocumented alien in our custody in a stress position. The incident took place about two weeks ago on the north side of the processing floor and to the knowledge of other agents. The stress position consisted of the alien performing the chair which entails leaning against the wall with both legs at a 90 degree angle and both hands straight out. They had the alien remain in that position until he buckled and cried.

Marrufo then suggested that the alien be placed in the forward leaning rest position, a push-up position, to give him some exercise, however I don’t know if Agent Gelber followed through with the suggestion.

— Jenn @ reappropriate (2007-11-05): The Price of Conscience: An Interview with U.S. Border Patrol Agent Ephraim Cruz

In 2004, Cruz, believing that a man’s conscience is God’s voice, began to write memos and letters to try to make his supervisors, politicians, and the media aware of violations of policies, training, state laws, fire and health codes, and illegal aliens’ civil and human rights within [the Douglas, Arizona] processing facility. Here is what happened:

Ephraim writes in his March 21, 2004 memo (Memo from E. Cruz to supervisors, 2004):

This culture… reflects a disturbing level of complacency and lack of accountability and is coupled with responses… that this is the way things are done.

Ephraim describes this culture of complacency as fostering the sentiment that, management condoned [the mistreatment] and Agents knew that management knew and [were] not correcting it. Therefore, Ephraim says, Agents asked themselves why should I rock the boat?

… Despite his 117 letters, Ephraim received little support from the Senators and Congressmen he contacted. Andy Adame, Border Patrol spokesperson, told the media that the Office of the Inspector General (OIG) would conduct a generic investigation of Ephraim’s accusations, but a recent article by the Tucson Weekly reports that this investigation — though supposedly having found Ephraim’s claims to be unsubstantiated — may never have actually taken place.

— Jenn @ reappropriate (2007-11-05): The Price of Conscience: An Interview with U.S. Border Patrol Agent Ephraim Cruz

After he began speaking out, Cruz found that his employee review scores suddenly plummeted. One supervisor encouraged his co-workers to take care of him for the accusations. Then, in 2005, he was brought up on federal charges for transporting an illegal alien across the border. He and some friends had gone across the border into Agua Prieta after work, and on his way back he gave Maria Terrazas — a waitress who lived in Douglas and who was dating one of his colleagues at the Border Patrol — a ride back across the border to her home in Douglas. Later, in an unrelated criminal investigation against her boyfriend, it turned up that she didn’t have her papers. Cruz, who had no way of knowing this at the time, was brought up on federal charges. Nobody else involved in giving Terrazas the ride was charged. If he had been convicted, Cruz could have been sentenced to up to 20 years in a federal prison for this non-crime. As it turns out, the jury found the prosecution baseless and acquitted him on all charges. But that didn’t stop the retaliation. Last month, he received a letter from the U.S. Border Patrol stating that he would be fired on administrative charges — the same charges that a federal jury had already acquitted him of. He has been forced to resign so that he could avoid having this baseless smear go on his record; he could not afford a lawyer to fight the dismissal in court.

When it comes to cases of corruption or abuse, it’s often said that cops will protect their own. That’s close to the truth, but it misses the mark in one important respect. Cops — and this manifestly includes border cops, too — will try as hard as they can to intimidate, harass, defame, abandon, hurt, fire, imprison, or even kill any of their own who speak out against their colleagues’ crimes.

That isn’t cops protecting their own. It’s cops protecting their power. And they’ll do just about anything to absolutely anybody who endangers it. Ephraim Cruz is the latest of many victims to get the long knife treatment.

Quidditative essence

In a remark on my last post on Iraq, Sam Haque points out:

The situation is that occupation forces have taken for themselves the role of guardians by and large without the consent of those who they are ostensibly protecting.

— Sam Haque, comment (2006-05-10) on GT 2006-05-08: Why We Fight

This is true, and not just of the situation in Iraq. It is as accurate and concise a description as you could make of what governments do for a living, always and everywhere. It’s war that brings this into the sharpest relief, because the normal restraints on brutality are released, the beneficiary-victims are strangers in a faraway land, and the public intellectuals and the official press line up to shout down any serious challenge to the progress of war aims. But war and occupation are only the starkest and most explicit expression of what State power essentially means, not just with bombers and soldiers and tanks, but also with every spook, cop, G-man, prosecutor, jailer, and hangman whose paychecks we are forced to cover. Consider, for example, the local cops in New Britain, Connecticut, who protected the hell out of an 11 year old boy and his mother in the name of serving a drug search warrant without interruption, or last week’s riot and reign of terror by Mexican police asserting their authority to protect and serve the people of San Salvador Atenco, whether they like it or not.

The State is, as Catharine MacKinnon says, male in the political sense. But not only because the law views women’s civil status through the lens of male supremacy (although it certainly does). It is also because the male-dominated State relates to all of its subjects like a battering husband relates to the household of which he has proclaimed himself the head: by laying a claim to protect those who did not ask for it, and using whatever violence and intimidation may be necessary to terrorize them into submitting to his protection. The State, as the abusive head of the whole nation, assaults the innocent, and turns a blind eye to assaults of the innocent, when it suits political interest — renamed national interest by the self-proclaimed representatives of the nation. It does so not because of the venality or incompetance of a particular ruler, but rather because that is what State power means, and that is what the job of a ruler is: to maintain a monopoly of coercion over its territorial area, as a good German might tell you, and to beat, chain, burn, or kill anyone within or without who might endanger that, whether by defying State rule, or by simply ignoring it and asking to be left alone.

Or, as Ezra Haywood once put it, A cruel kindness, thought to be friendly regard, assumes to protect those who, by divine right of rational being, are entitled, at least, to be let alone. We are not among wild beasts; from whom, then, does woman need protection? From her protectors. And so it is for us civilians, facing the doorkeep before the Law.

Further reading:

The Labor Movement and Women’s Organizing

A little while ago I stumbled across a great page on the history of Women and the Labor Movement [TheHistoryNet], including the formative role that women played in labor radicalism (organized industrial work stoppages were going on in Lowell, Massachussetts as early as the 1820s) and the way that the mainstream, AFL-line labor movement conspired with the Progressive regulation movement to cut women out of the labor force in the late 19th and early 20th centuries through protective labor restrictions which discriminated against women and by excluding women from the mainstream wing of the labor movement, which negotiated itself into a powerful alliance with the bosses and the government (this move, conveniently, induced greater labor shortages and drove up profits for their own all-male membership).

We think of unions as primarily male institutions these days, responding to the problems faced by men in industrial labor, but that neglects the fact that women have always been the first victims of industrialization (through textile mills and garment sweatshops, for example; this is still happening today in Mexico, Indonesia, immigrant communities in Los Angeles, etc.) and therefore had some of the first and strongest incentive to organize. The male-dominated condition of the labor movement and the industrial workforce today is precisely because of to the discriminatory laws that a powerful coalition of male mainstream union bosses, male corporate bosses, and male government officials managed to concoct during the labor struggles of the Gilded Age.

Of course, the ciritical role that women such as Sarah G. Bagley (a leading organizer in Lowell), Rose Schneiderman, Lucy Parsons, the female membership of the Knights of Labor, and innumerable others played in forming the labor movement, are often ignored in mainstream labor history. So are questions of women’s labor, the horrendous conditions imposed specifically on women under industrialization, and the struggles around the question of women’s labor and the anti-woman line that the mainstream male Left took in order to expand working men’s profits at the expense of working women’s (much like they used the racism and nativism of the post-Reconstruction era to exclude Blacks, Chinese-Americans, and poor immigrants from entering into unionized segments of the industrial workforce, thus protecting the profits of American-born white workers at the expense of all other workers). All of this isn’t too surprising, when we consider that the collective consciousness of the labor movement and labor history continues to be defined primarily by male organizers who aligned with the sexist AFL line and supported the discriminatory protective labor regulations that cut women out of the work force.

It’s also worth noting a couple of points about the relationship of all of this to feminism.

  1. This unholy male supremacist alliance between mainstream male unions, male corporate bosses and Progressive regulation activists, emerged–like many other anti-woman alliances–during the post-Reconstruction period up to the 1920s, which happens to be more or less the same time as the peak of the struggle for women’s citizenship (with women’s suffrage finally being constitutionally protected in 1920). We may thus add it to the list of anti-woman institutions forming the backlash against First Wave feminism, including such illustrious company as Freudian psychoanalysis, the criminalization of abortion across the Western world, the flourishing of violent rape-based pornography in Victorian cities, and the AMA‘s efforts to seize control of women’s reproductive medicine away from midwives and other women into the hands of male surgeons.

  2. The most effective forces in fighting the abuses inflicted on women laborers were organizations such as the Women’s Trade Union League, an organization allying women of across social classes around the abuse specifically faced by women in the industrial workplace. The WTUL’s organizing efforts galvanized general strikes and other massive actions which eventually helped massively reform the horrendous sweatshop conditions faced by many garment workers (virtually all female) in New York. Not to be monomaniacal or anything, but once again organizing uniting all women on behalf of women (i.e., feminist organizing) was the most effective force in fighting patriarchal power.

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