Speech at Westchester Hispanic Coalition Press Conference

A long, long time ago when I was young and beginning to explore the world, I lived in Guatemala for a while. Belize, the neighboring land then known as British Honduras, was still a colony of Britain and the border with that country was in dispute. A previous president’s vital land reforms had been halted, the United Fruit company had withdrawn along with many jobs, and much of Guatemala’s population was suffering disease and malnutrition. At first I was puzzled by Guatemalan President Ydigoras Fuentes’ actions in the face of the people’s dire need. He traveled to the border with Belize, clad in his dark blue business suit, white shirt and tie… in the sweltering mid-jungle. He brought many reporters to photograph the action he took then; he dramatically placed one foot over the invisible border and, raising a fist in the air declared, "Belize es nuestro!" (Belize is ours!)
None of the hijackers on the flights that eviscerated the World Trade Center, that crashed in Pennsylvania or that chewed away a piece of the Pentagon were illegal immigrants.

That image plastered the front pages of newspapers in the capital the next day. Ydigoras had pulled off an age-old political sleight-of-hand. He had distracted a large number of the people from the most important and pressing issues facing them and their nation. And he had used an emotional issue to do it.

Fast forward to the present. The US economy is in tatters. Over the last 7 years, median incomes of Caucasians and Hispanics have fallen by over $1,000 a year, and a whopping $3,000 for African-Americans, while inflation is rising as we watch. Five million more Americans have fallen in to poverty since 2001; according to the US Department of Agriculture, 7 million more Americans are going hungry, — that’s 38 million in this country without enough to feed themselves. The World Health Organization lists the US as 37th in health care behind countries including Colombia, Costa Rica, France and the UK.

Meanwhile, gasoline and home heating oil has tripled in price, and Exxon Mobil’s profits rose from $8 billion dollars to $36 billion per year. The BushCheney war is costing a minimum of $400 million dollars a day

Filed in: Voices of Peaceful Tomorrows

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