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Welcome To The Other Latin America

World  (tags: women, bush, healthcare, abortion, latin america, poverty )

- 4445 days ago -
Having just completed a mini-tour myself of Guatemala, Belize and Mexico , I learned a lot about women workers president Bush should know about. I also learned a great deal about how pandering to his right-wing base on abortion and birth control plays out


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Blue Bunting (855)
Tuesday March 20, 2007, 12:30 pm
Welcome To The Other Latin America
Martha Burk
March 20, 2007
Martha Burk is a political psychologist and director of the Corporate Accountability Project for the National Council of Women's Organizations.

I waited all last week while President Bush was on his get-out-of-Dodge tour of Latin America. But as far as I could tell, he never uttered the word “woman” when talking about the problems he saw and the few solutions he proposed. It reminded me of the joke that makes the rounds in Washington every January when he gives his State of the Union message: If you take a drink every time he says “terrorist” you quickly get plastered, but if you wait for him to say “woman” you go home stone-cold sober.

In Bushworld, women are mostly invisible except when it’s convenient to pin a purge in the Justice Department on Harriet Miers. So we shouldn’t be surprised that he missed a few things on his recent trip. Having just completed a mini-tour myself of Guatemala, Belize and Mexico sponsored by Ms. magazine, I learned a lot about women workers the president should know about. And I also learned a great deal about how pandering to his right-wing base on abortion and birth control plays out on the ground.

Irasema Coronado, an expert on cross-border issues from the University of Texas at El Paso, told us how female employees in Mexico are still being victimized by the North American Free Trade Agreement. The maquiladoras, factories that moved thousands of U.S. jobs just across the border to Juarez, continue pay pennies per hour with no benefits, despite years of protests from human rights and women’s groups. Young women, more docile and less willing to fight back, are the preferred employees to exploit. We saw plenty of pictures last week of Mr. Bush helping workers load vegetables onto trucks in a clean environment, but we didn’t see the tarpaper-and-tin shacks with no running water in which these women live.

Women in Guatemala fare no better. They, too, are exploited by trade agreements that contain no safeguards for worker’s rights. Guatemala has experienced an alarming increase in violence against women, including rape and torture. More than 2,200 women have been murdered since 2001, and the murder rate continues to rise. Most are young women migrants from rural areas where the poverty rate hits 75 percent, who flock to the shantytowns of Guatemala City in search of better wages.

The problems of women are also dire in Belize, a small country the president skipped on his tour. But Belize has not been skipped when it comes to the punitive outcomes of cutting international family planning funds. After all, somebody might utter the word “abortion” to an impoverished woman who already has 10 children she has trouble feeding due to lack of access to birth control. You read it right—I said 10.

Personnel at the Belize Family Life Association clinic tell it like it is. Women living far from their facilities, the only private not-for-profit in the country dedicated to reproductive health, have to travel as long as eight hours to reach a clinic. “Let me tell you how she is going to do this” said director Joan Burke. “She isn’t. First, she would have to get a bus ticket for herself and the children, which she can’t afford. Then there’s lunch on the way, someone to stay with overnight and the return trip.”

What about her husband? Couldn’t he watch the kids? Well—no. He is either away working at one of the few jobs available, dead or missing from the frequent cross-border violence—or perhaps he’s given up and abandoned his family altogether.

All Burke wants is money for a mobile health van. Not the $100,000-plus rigs we’re used to seeing at every hospital in the U.S. “Nothing fancy. All I need is a simple van with a portable examination table, two folding chairs and a small cabinet for medicine. Then we could go to the women,” she explained. But with the $34 million in Bush cuts to the United Nations Population Fund, this is an impossible dream.

Despite a near-total ban on abortion, it is still the most frequent method of birth control in Belize, and teenage pregnancy is very high. And there were two dozen babies born to girls 12 and under in Belize City last year. This may be explained by what we saw as we left the clinic. Outside, we were confronted with an 8-foot high cement block wall, topped with barbed wire—the kind you see around prisons. The wall was put up by the high school next door when the clinic was built. It’s a public school, but public schools in Belize are administered by the Catholic church. It’s a superb example of the partnership between government and faith-based organizations in action.

Welcome to the other Latin America, Mr. President.


Past Member (0)
Tuesday March 20, 2007, 4:22 pm
thankyou for having your ear to the ground

Past Member (0)
Wednesday March 21, 2007, 6:54 am
Thank you for this valuable information, which is not easly found.

patricia lasek (317)
Wednesday March 21, 2007, 7:42 am
Wonderfully written and eye-opening. Do bad W and Laura didn't have their eyes open during their little tour. But, then again, it would not have mattered to them. They are of the priveledged class.

Debbie Sequichie-Kerchee (53)
Friday March 23, 2007, 4:52 pm
The Bu$es are totally clueless, on purpose, under the guise of caring about this country and the world. But they only care about themselves, their extended families by blood or marriage, and their fellow brothers and sisters in their respective organizations. They speak with 'forked tongue' as we have always said. their actions continuously belie their words. Empty, meaningless words! This so-called tours to other countries, strutting in front of poor, economically suffering, and under-educated people, is such a criminal act and such a sham!

Blue Bunting (855)
Friday March 23, 2007, 5:08 pm
No info on how many "illegals" are employed at the Crawford, TX "ranch" [sic] of Pre$idunce Bu$h!t ...
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