Leonida Zurita Vargas, a Bolivian coca farmer organizer and alternate Senator, was planning to be in the US right now as part of a three week speaking tour on Bolivian social movements and human rights.This tour would take her to Vermont, Harvard, Stanford and Washington DC. However, upon checking in at the airport in Santa Cruz, Bolivia on February 20th to fly to the US, she was informed her ten year visa had been revoked because of alleged links to terrorist activity.
WINDS OF CHANGE IN THE AMERICAS CONFERENCE
-Our keynote speaker, Leonida Zurita Vargas, is an indigenous woman from Bolivia, a coca farmer and powerful grassroots leader who will shed light on Bolivia’s strong and growing social movements and recent election of a new government under Aymara indigenous President Evo Morales. (See below update on Leonida who was, last week, denied entry to the US by the US embassy that has outrageously suggested that Leonida has ties to terrorist organziations! IF WE CAN’T GET LEONIDA HERE IN PERSON SHE’LL BE ON THE PHONE!) George Ann Potter, Zurita’s political advisor, will be talking at the conference as well as translating and introducing Leonida.
I woke up this morning in my grandmother’s house in the middle of the farmlands of rural west Texas. I drove alone through miles of cotton fields and watched the men on John Deere tractors harvesting this year’s crop. They carve intricate patterns in the red earth as they strip the white puffs of cotton. Miles of these fields surround the prison where my father is being held. He can see little else beyond the fences and concertina wire, so the planting and harvesting of the fields provide some of the only non-prison activity in view.
Commenting on films nominated for this year's Academy Awards on his February 5, 2006 show, Chris Matthews noted that films are important for what they say about the times in which they are made. For example, Good Night and Good Luck, he said, is about the current Bush Administration's attempts to suppress the truth of governmental malfeasance, even though the film is set in the McCarthyite climate of the 1950s. Munich, he observed, speaks to our on-going anxiety about national security even though its story is about the Olympic Games of 1972 and the events that followed.
In America there are disturbing trends emerging, which highlight the expanding inequality and shrinking class mobility of the country's people. Poverty has been steadily increasing since the turn of the century. Household income has decreased. Inflation consistently outpaces compensation gains; simultaneously, productivity expectations are increasing. Manufacturing and high tech jobs continue to go overseas and the prison population has reached its highest level in U.S. history.
I thought that I would die without living and knowing a revolution. I came late to the Cuban Revolution, since I was born a few years after it. I witnessed the ephemeral triumph and then the drowning in blood and fire, by the government of Ronald Reagan and his "contras," of the Sandinista Revolution. I had wanted, like John Reed, to be in the middle of the explosion of the great revolutions.