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October 6, 2006 | Page 12

HIV testing not enough
Helena's anti-choice stance

A step forward for our fight?

FROM JULY 8-11, the National Council of La Raza (NCLR) hosted its annual conference in Los Angeles, titled "Achieving the American Dream in a New Century."

The NCLR, a Washington lobby group made up of non-profit and corporate organizations, focused primarily on the topic of immigration as a result of the recent demonstrations by workers all around the nation and abroad. Thus, they invited Bill Clinton, Karl Rove, Antonio Villaraigosa and others who have had a huge influence on the immigration debate, albeit a really negative one.

The attendees to this conference were divided into different classes based on a hierarchy. NCLR members and their affiliates were able to attend the special events such as the "Café con Clinton (Coffee with Clinton)" and the various meet-and-greets. They were also sometimes the only ones allowed to ask questions or provide comments during the workshops.

The second level of participation was that of activists and concerned citizens who went there specifically to participate in the workshops because of their previous knowledge of the event or because of an NCLR invitation.

The third level was that of the general public, who was herded into the 2006 Latino Expo USA, billed as "the largest Hispanic consumer show in the country." At the Expo, possible consumers and recruits were attracted to booths with free giveaways, games and prizes. These booths contained the likes of Wal-Mart, PepsiCo, the U.S. Marines, the CIA and Homeland Security. People leaving the conference dragging bags of free giveaways were a common sight throughout the day.

During the immigration workshop, representatives from the Catholic League of Action, the Farm Workers Justice Fund, the Mac Project and Chirla took five minutes each to talk about the need for unity behind comprehensive immigration reform, and said that the job of organizations was to get the community to be "speaking and loud."

The NCLR required of the organizations present to do full-scale mobilizations and to prepare and successfully implement the provisions of the comprehensive immigration reform. This, they argued, could first be achieved by getting people to vote.

However, no mention was made on who to vote for and what politics the NCLR was buying into. In fact, Elvina Diaz of the Mac Projects stated that she was not here to "talk about policy, but the politics of power."

The representative of the Catholic Action League asked all present to work with federal agencies to "prepare for this program." He also stated that the "harsh enforcement provisions" were "the price to pay for positive immigration reform," and that he "hoped they don't pass."

These "harsh enforcement provision" will aggravate the already draconian Operation Gatekeeper that has killed more that one border crosses a day for the past 10 years on the U.S.-Mexico border.

As for positive immigration reform, the question-and-answer session saw comments by some activists of the March 25 Coalition, who question why such an importance was placed on voting if both Democrats and Republicans are against immigration; the validity of the Senate compromises as "positive immigration reform" if they do not guarantee legalization or any rights to immigrants; and the lack of debate on amnesty based on a political vagueness inherent in every part of the conference.

The Coalition also hosted a educational protest outside the conference. They were able to get a flier into every person passing by on the importance of killing the bills in Congress. Events like the NCLR's are not conferences for education, empowerment or consciousness-raising of the mass population. They are consumer shows, corporate fundraisers and recruitment rallies that are trying to take advantage of the grassroots immigrant rights marches in order to fill the ranks of the Democratic Party and the U.S. military.

They cannot be allowed to happen without open protest in order to debate their ambiguous political aims. Conferences like these are efforts to slow down and co-opt the movement, and should be opposed.
Victor Manuel, Los Angeles

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HIV testing not enough

THE U.S. Center for Disease Control (CDC) recently issued a recommendation that HIV testing become part of routine medical checkups for people from ages 13 to 64. This plan seems likely to reduce the number of AIDS cases, but falls far short of what is needed to stop this devastating public health emergency.

According to the CDC, over 250,000 Americans have HIV and are unaware of it. This new plan may put a dent in those numbers, but as long as 45 million Americans have no access to health coverage, this disease is not going to disappear. In fact, it is very likely because health care is unaffordable that so many don't know about their HIV status.

A real program to combat AIDS would include free universal health care for everyone in the United States (immigrants included). HIV is a virus that doesn't respect race, gender, class, political persuasion or national origin.

Any program that restricts detection, prevention and treatment to the subset of the public that can afford the "luxury" of health care is nothing more than a bandage for a global public health crisis.
Nicholas Hart, Seattle

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Helena's anti-choice stance

IN A recent issue, Socialist Worker defended the right of Heloisa Helena, the PSOL candidate of Brazil, to run in the upcoming elections ("Socialists support Heloisa Helena," August 25).

As a socialist, I agree that we should support all efforts for a full debate, meaning a full array of candidates in elections. However, I'm concerned about encouraging leftists to actually vote and support Heloisa. Despite her legitimate criticisms of Lula's government, Heloisa has a strong stand against abortion.

Abortion is a weak spot of much of the world's left, but gets to the very core of a woman's right to control her own body and thus her own life. If we don't support the right for women to decide such a fundamental issue, we're actually perpetuating sexist ideas about who does get to make those decisions.

Sexism holds back working-class struggle by posing the working-class men and women as being hopelessly divided, and we also miss out on potential women leaders of movements. It also prevents democracy if every member of our movement's ideas are not taken seriously and their rights respected. So why are we putting our support behind a candidate who rejects such a basic human right?
Hannah Fleury, New York City

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