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MASSOUD SHADJAREH: We have received around 700 cases, which were everything from attempted murder down to spatting [sic] and abuse in the streets and everything in between.
KRISTIN MCHUGH: This week on Common Ground, Muslims victimized by the war on terror.
KEITH PORTER: Plus, Northern Ireland marks an important anniversary.
JOHN ADAMS: At the moment there’s still problems here, there’s still things that need to be worked on. But overall, I think we’ve made—people here have made great strides trying to build a peaceful society.
PORTER: And tourism struggles to balance conservation and commerce.
QUEEN NOOR OF JORDAN: To get people to care is difficult, but in the end I think the tourist industry could help governments, can help local communities and the tourists that they serve. These treasures will only be around for future generations if today we take responsibility for protecting them.
MCHUGH: These stories—coming up next.
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PORTER: Common Ground is radio’s weekly program on world affairs. I’m Keith Porter.
MCHUGH: And I’m Kristin McHugh. In the wake of the September 11th attacks in New York and Washington, President Bush was keen to stress the battle to bring those responsible to justice was a “war on terror” and not a “war on Islam.” Osama bin Laden urged Muslims around the world to rise up and fight against the capitalist West, but the vast majority of the followers of Islam were outraged at the terrorism.
PORTER: And yet, the conflict in Afghanistan and the build-up to military action in Iraq has seen a dramatic increase in the violent treatment of Muslims around the world. In Britain, the impact has perhaps been felt the most as a series of high profile police raids have targeted Muslim extremists. Suzanne Chislett reports.
[The sound of Muslims praying.]
SUZANNE CHISLETT: Britain’s Muslims make up just two percent of the country’s population, but they’ve never occupied a more central position than they do now. In the wake of 9/11, tensions have mounted and in many towns and cities Muslims have retreated even further into their tight-knit communities. But that hasn’t stopped an alarming rise in the number of racially motivated attacks.
MASSOUD SHADJAREH: We saw ourselves a 13-fold increase in the reporting of incidents of attack to ourselves.
CHISLETT: That’s Massoud Shadjareh, Chairman of the Islamic Human Rights Commission in Britain.
SHADJAREH: In our research, after one year, we have received around just under 700 cases which were everything from attempted murder down to spatting [sic] and abuse in the streets and everything in between. It is a tremendous increase considering that every Muslim organization condemned the atrocities.
CHISLETT: Racial tensions have always existed, but many Muslim leaders believed things were getting better. Bridges were being built between all of Britain’s communities and tolerance became a buzzword. But now, some fear the improvements have been all but wiped out. Anas Altikriti is spokesman for the Muslim Association of Britain.
ANAS ALTIKRITI: We thought that we were reaching a point where we were really progressing on those lines. And that British society and British public and racial lines were basically mapping out or being erased somehow in order to bring about that kind of multiethnic, multireligious, multicultural society. Basically those lines will be redrawn again and the gaps will be there for all to see. That is largely because of the inadequate, irresponsible, and unwise policies that the government has been embarking on over the past few months.
CHISLETT: In January alone, there were a number of high profile police raids around the country which resulted in the arrests of suspected Muslim extremists. A quantity of the deadly toxin Ricin was discovered in north London. In Manchester a police officer was stabbed to death as he and colleagues tried to arrest a group in connection with the poison find; and after months of monitoring by intelligence services one of Britain’s largest mosques was raided. At the time police officers were concerned the operation in Finsbury Park in London would further damage relations with Muslims. Deputy Assistant Commissioner of London’s Metropolitan Police Andy Trotter stressed no religious areas had been entered and said that the raid had been absolutely necessary.
ANDY TROTTER: It was an intelligence-led operation to look for particular people and also to look for particular documents. And so far the justification for the raid has proved to be correct.
CHISLETT: Despite the many hundreds of innocent believers, the Mosque was known to be hotbed of extremism. The so-called shoe-bomber Richard Reid worshipped there; 9/11 suspect Zacharious Massoui also attended services. But Inayat Bunglawala from the Muslim Council of Britain says it is unfair to damn the many with the sins of the few.
INAYAT BUNGLAWALA: We have over 1.8 million Muslims in the UK and it is, you know, incredible if amongst that huge community there weren’t some people who were criminally minded. In the wider UK community we have also a racist party called the British National Party and it has even won seats in the local council elections. So, every community will have people who are, of perhaps, an extremist bent of mind. What is important is that a distinction is made between the fringe groups and the wider British Muslim community which has no truck with extremism, no truck with terrorism, and we have given every support to the police in tracking these people down.
CHISLETT: In recent weeks one man in particular has come to represent Muslim extremist views in Britain—radical cleric Sheikh Abu Hamza. He has spoken publicly in support for Al-Qaeda, defiantly justified the attacks in New York and Washington, and claimed that the crew of the Space Shuttle Columbia was punished with death by Allah because they were American and Israeli. But senior Islamic leaders say it is not his position in Islam that is allowing his extreme views to be made public, but the media. Massoud Shadjareh from the Islamic Human Rights Commission, again.
SHADJAREH: What hurts good relations by Abu Hamza’s extreme is not being said from the pulpit of the mosque, but from the pulpit of the media and really if you want to stop that sort of promotion of hatred by him, then you should stop him going to the media.
CHISLETT: The British government readily acknowledges more needs to be done to prevent the racial abuse of Muslims here and to improve race relations. Ministers like Mike O’Brien are holding continuous talks with Islamic leaders and addressing Muslim students.
MIKE O’BRIEN: It’s important, given that Islam is a mainstream British religion with three million adherents in this country, that we engage in a serious way with the Islamic community in Britain. We need to make sure that we listen to the Muslim community, hear their voice, engage with them seriously about their fears and concerns.
CHISLETT: How long it will take for those fears to be overcome is a question no one here can yet answer. For Common Ground, I’m Suzanne Chislett in London.
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PORTER: Thousands of people died in the sectarian violence known as “The Troubles” in the 30 years leading up to the 1998 Good Friday Agreement in Northern Ireland. The five years since the power sharing agreement was signed have been largely peaceful.
MCHUGH: Common Ground‘s Chris Lehman recently spoke with John Adams, a volunteer of The Mediation Network for Northern Ireland. The Belfast-based organization works towards reconciliation between the two groups by encouraging constructive solutions in conflict situations. Adams told Lehman that despite the peace agreement, tension still exists between the Catholics, who favor a united Ireland, and the Protestants, who prefer to remain part of the United Kingdom.
JOHN ADAMS: Probably to a visitor, they might not notice any difference. But if you live here for an extended period, or if you grew up here, you can tell that there are still a lot of things that has to be worked on. It’s below the surface. There are issues people don’t want to talk about and it’s one of our jobs, trying to help people have difficult conversations to begin to understand each other rather than just keeping it below the surface.
CHRIS LEHMAN: What are some of the things that people need to talk about, but don’t want to?
ADAMS: One of the things is understanding cultural traditions, each other’s cultural traditions, backgrounds. So it’s really trying to have a dialogue between both groups which is very important. And I think that’s going to be the greatest challenge, really. There’s still problems, but we’re trying to get out of The Troubles and we’re moving into a post-Troubles society. There are still problems on the interfaces, which is unfortunate. I live near the interface, I’ve had stones thrown at me on a few occasions. But that’s, that’s just an unfortunate reality of the situation at the moment. There’s still problems here, there’s still things that need to be worked on. But overall, I think we’ve made—people here have made great strides trying to build a peaceful society. And again, it’s not an overnight process, it’s still going to be worked upon, but we’ve come a long way I think.
LEHMAN: And the interfaces are the—would it be correct to characterize them as barriers, physical barriers between communities?
ADAMS: That would probably be the best description. It’s, it’s more about—it’s a kind of security for both sides to have the barrier up. But the problem with that is, it’s also a reminder of that insecurity that both sides feel towards each other. In some ways, people say “Well, it’s a good idea to have the barrier, these interfaces, these walls and the barriers up because it keeps people from, you know, attacking each other and stuff like that.” But at the same time, you’re keeping them segregated and that’s not helping. One of the most interesting things that I’ve noticed is the people who—Catholic and Protestants—who get public housing tend to live within their own enclaves. So there would be like a Catholic housing estate, and there would be a predominantly Protestant housing estate. So again, there is a segregation there, and it’s not just actual physical barriers. But then you know that there’s segregation in these kind of organizations as well, which is unfortunate. And that’s why it’s very important again, we have to try to keep building relationships, getting people to understand each other. So a barrier, an interface, while it may keep both sides apart, is not helping them to come together.
LEHMAN: You mentioned the “post-Troubles society.” Is that something that’s more or less accepted across the board, or is that a positive spin on current events?
ADAMS: Well, I think if you look at the history of the Troubles, the Good Friday Agreement in 1998 really signified—well I wouldn’t say it signified the complete end of the Troubles, but it’s the start of normalizing relations. I think it’s very important that we have to get out of the mindset of the Troubles. Because if we continue to have that mindset, we’re going to keep living the past, and we have to move forward. It’s unfortunate that people here, there are some people here, who can’t let the past go. There’s a lot of unresolved anger, especially people who’ve lost families and friends in the Troubles, you know. I think there’s unsolved cases, murders or something like that, on both sides, that’s yet to be dealt with. So there is still a lot of unresolved issues. But it’s very important now that we start a process, which began with the IRA cease-fire in 1994, the Good Friday Agreement of 1998. We have to make this commitment now, you know, we realize that we can’t keep living like this. So it is very important that people get out of this mindset. It’s never going to go away completely. It’s going to take generations before we come to some kind of reconciliation, or some kind of understanding between both communities.
LEHMAN: What do Americans most misunderstand about The Troubles in Northern Ireland?
ADAMS: I think there is almost like what I would call a cartoon mentality to the Troubles. It’s a “good guys versus bad guys” kind of thing. I know in America, and especially in Irish-American circles, that there is a very strong Republican feeling, I guess. And the attitude to the Protestants in Northern Ireland is not favorable. A lot of people would say, “There should be a united Ireland,” for example. “Get the Protestants out, and that would solve the issue.” But it’s unfortunate, people are seeing that from thousands of miles away, and they don’t take the time to understand that there are two communities living in Northern Ireland, and both communities have a right, you know, to be here. They have a history here, they have an identity here. So it’s very frustrating for me, being an American listening to other Americans. You know, they say, “Well, you know, this is what they should do over there.” But they don’t take the time, you know they don’t really take the time to get to know the people here, even come over here to understand the situation.
MCHUGH: John Adams is with the Mediation Network for Northern Ireland. He spoke with our Chris Lehman in Belfast.
PORTER: Sri Lanka’s peace, next, on Common Ground.
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PORTER: With so much of the world in conflict, stories of peace are often forgotten. But over the past several months, a number of war-torn countries have embarked on the path of peace. In Sri Lanka, nearly 20 years of civil war came to an end last February with a cease fire that’s now held for over a year. The government is negotiating with the ethnic Tamils, who had been fighting for a separate homeland, and hopes are high that a final peace settlement can be reached. Judith Smelser has the story.
JUDITH SMELSER: In a leafy suburb of Washington, DC, Kanesa Thasan lives in a two-story house with his family. It’s a stark contrast to the village he left behind 40 years ago in northern Sri Lanka.
KANESA THASAN: My village no longer exists. It’s part of the military base in Jaffna.
SMELSER: Kanesa Thasan is an ethnic Tamil. For decades, Tamils have charged the government, which is controlled by the majority ethnic Sinhalese, of discriminating against them. In the mid-’80s, a Tamil separatist group called the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam—LTTE or Tamil Tigers for short—launched an armed struggle for a separate homeland. Roughly 64,000 people have been killed in the conflict. Kanesa Thasan says the war has had a personal impact on him, even from thousands of miles away.
THASAN: Every Tamil family had paid a price, including mine, where a number of people have been killed, even my very close relatives have been killed by the Army—a couple of them.
SMELSER: The sense of loss was growing on the government side, too. Nihal Goonewardene is the President of the Sri Lanka Association of Washington, DC. He says popular support for the war was waning.
NIHAL GOONEWARDENE: The people from the villages whose sons were joining the army because the army was a great employer. You know, they could earn a pretty handsome salary by local standards. But when they started coming home in body bags and many of them started deserting, and then some of them were maimed by the mines and other injuries, you know it wasn’t any longer that glamorous.
SMELSER: This sense of war-weariness on both sides, along with the feeling that the war was simply not winnable, was part of what pushed the two sides to the table. There was also an economic motive. The economy was shrinking, and some estimates suggest that the government has spent as much as five percent of GDP on the war over the past few years. But international factors played a role as well. The backlash against terrorist groups after September 11th put extra pressure on the LTTE. Nihal Goonewardene explains.
GOONEWARDENE: In the post 9/11 world, groups like the Tigers are an endangered species. So, I believe their proscription both in the United States, Canada, and, you know, in Australia, and Britain has hurt their ability to raise funds. And it has frankly scared some of their silent supporters into not risking their fortunes and their reputations in getting embroiled in something connected to terrorism.
SMELSER: And so a formal cease-fire was agreed last February, and in September negotiations began on a final settlement. The Tamil Tigers surprised many by dropping their demand for a separate state in the first round of talks. And a few months later, both sides made the crucial decision to set up a federal structure, with Tamil autonomy in the areas they control. Ernest Corea is a former Sri Lankan ambassador to the United States. He says while the theory is good, it will not be easy to implement.
ERNEST COREA: For the Tigers, it is a tremendous jump that they have to make from being perceived as a terrorist organization outside and inside, though not by themselves. From waging, you know, conventional war, from undertaking suicide bombings, and from trying to achieve their goals purely by different kinds of military means to getting into politics. Somebody has called it taking the tiger out of the terrorist jungle and putting him into the parliamentary box.
SMELSER: There are some positive signs. The Tamil Tigers have established some civil institutions in the areas they control, from traffic enforcement to tax collection. And life is already improving for Sri Lankans who’ve lived through nearly two decades of war. Kanesa Thasan recently made a trip to the capital, Colombo.
THASAN: The people are so much more relaxed, you don’t see the military presence everywhere and you don’t have the sentry points all over Colombo and for Tamils, the kind of continuous harassment that was involved in this process.
SMELSER: He says that in the former war zones in the north and east of the country, people are relieved just to live in peace. Nihal Goonewardene with the Sri Lanka Association of Washington agrees.
GOONEWARDENE: I think the course this is taking is somewhat irreversible. The people have come to see what peace is like. You know, there are no explosions, there are no strange killings going on. People have really come to appreciate normalcy.
SMELSER: Goonewardene says that normalcy has already led to a surge in business confidence within the country. And he hopes that if a final peace accord is reached, foreign investors and tourists can be drawn back into the country.
GOONEWARDENE: As the east and the north get back into the game, you know, you will see a lot of these things flowering. That means a lot of employment and a lot of choice. And the beaches in the east are very fabled beaches, and very few people ventured out there until now. But, you know, those things will be revived.
SMELSER: But peace is not a done deal yet. Former Sri Lankan Ambassador to the US, Ernest Corea says there’s a good chance a final settlement will be reached, but only if both sides have patience.
COREA: A lot of things have happened very fast since the negotiations began. Like nobody expected the LTTE to get up and say they’ll accept a federal solution so soon. And the moment the LTTE said federal solution, then everybody wanted this federal constitution to be on the table next week.
SMELSER: And of course the government will have to sell any deal it negotiates to the parliament. Kanesa Thasan says given the political climate between the two major Sinhalese parties, that won’t be easy.
THASAN: Unless the two groups, the two Sinhala parties, can get together, there’s no way that any negotiated agreement can clear the parliamentary hurdle, the 2/3 majority in parliament that will be needed.
SMELSER: But generally, Sri Lankans are cautiously optimistic, feeling that their country is closer to peace than it’s ever been before. For Common Ground, I’m Judith Smelser.
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MCHUGH: Close to seven hundred million people travel internationally each year and that figure is set to double over the next two decades. While tourism can be a crucial lifeline for countries and communities, conservationists worry about the wear and tear on the planet. With that in mind, National Geographic Traveler Magazine has teamed up with an international conservation group to recognize companies in the tourism industry that have achieved an ideal balance between conservation and commerce. The first World Legacy Awards were presided over by Jordan’s Queen Noor and winners traveled from around the world to receive their prizes. From Washington, Catherine Drew reports.
[The sound of chatting at a large cocktail party.]
CATHERINE DREW: Around 300 people gathered at National Geographic’s headquarters in Washington for the first of what organizers hope will be an annual gathering to celebrate the tourist industry’s best environmental practices through the World Legacy Awards. The environmental group, Conservation International, sent out teams of specialists to judge those practices for the competition, which attracted hundreds of applicants from around 40 countries. Conservation International’s Costas Christ says the group hopes such awards can encourage tourism businesses to take the lead in conservation efforts for the habitats in which they operate.
COSTAS CHRIST: Tourism is like fire—out of control, it can burn your house down. But if you can harness that energy, you can cook your food on it. And what we’re trying to do with the World Legacy awards and what Conservation International is trying to do is engage this massive, colossal of an industry on our planet and try and channel that energy into a positive impact both on the earth and for those local people who live closest to the areas we want to protect.
DREW: The organizers say they hope tourism companies will realize that only through adopting eco-friendly policies will businesses have any meaningful future. One disciple of this theory is Collin Bell who traveled from South Africa to pick up the award in the Nature Travel category. His company, Wilderness Safaris, runs 36 lodges, employs or partners with 16,000 people, and manages two and a half million acres of natural habitat across six southern African countries.
COLLIN BELL: We have a very specific recipe. And the recipe which we’ve been doing over the years is involved—it’s almost like the three-legged pot. You know these old cooking pots which you find in the villages, it’s got three little legs. And the one leg has always been conservation, and with that goes community. The second thing has been our guest. If the guest doesn’t have a good time, you’ve don’t have a business. And the third thing is good business. And if all three are together and they’re solid you can have a cooking pot which stands and that creates value.
[The sounds of African wildlife at night.]
DREW: Mr. Bell is hoping to establish a permanent safari camp in South Africa for underprivileged children. Presently the company provides a week-long safari for 1,000 such children each year. Mr. Bell says it’s important for the continent’s youth to learn how valuable their natural resources are.
BELL: Now they see animals often in a negative light. We get a chance to try to take them out of their environment, put them in a positive environment, for a, you know, really positive learning experience.
DREW: The involvement of local communities was a key theme for the winners in the other two other categories. A British company, ATG Oxford won the Heritage Tourism category for it’s walking tours through Italy. Travelers are encouraged to become involved in art and environmental restoration projects while on holiday, and help raise money for the projects when they’re not. ATG Managing Director Christopher Winnie(?). gives an example of just one of their projects.
CHRISTOPHER WINNIE(?): There was these frescoes in little church. They were falling off the wall and everyone said, “Oh what a pity about falling off the wall.” And we thought, “Well, let’s put them back again.” And they’re by very important Renaissance painter, and by this time next year certainly the whole chapel, this whole little church will have been restored with these really brilliant frescoes.
DREW: Jaranya Daengnoy traveled from Thailand to receive the Destination Stewardship award. She is a project manager for a group called REST—Responsible Ecological Social Tours Project, which helps small communities in Thailand manage and control tourism in their local areas.
[The sound of people talking while on board fishing boats.]
DREW: An example of this can be seen in the small island community of Koh Yao Noi. Now Miss Daengnoy says many families are earning income by hosting tourists in their homes and showing them their way of life.
JARANYA DAENGNOY: This is a fishing community so the guests or the tourists go with them, and then they know how, how difficult and how important of the sea, of the natural resource, so it’s not just only the nice beautiful sun; it’s not that, but this is their life and this is why they need to preserve it.
DREW: The REST project in Thailand is a good example of tourists being able to learn firsthand the importance of looking after the local environment. And at the end of the day individual tourists must care enough about the habitats they visit to seek out companies with good environmental practices. Jordan’s Queen Noor, who is chair of the awards, says the tourism industry must take a role in promoting this kind of education.
QUEEN NOOR OF JORDAN: To get people to care is difficult, but in the end I think the tourist industry can help governments, can help local communities and the tourists that they serve to appreciate that these wonders, these treasures will only be around for future generations if today we take responsibility for protecting them. And that that can be of economic benefit for both sides as well as part of our responsibility as citizens of the world.
DREW: Tourism is one of the largest industries worldwide, accounting for 11 percent of global gross domestic product. Organizers of the World Legacy Awards hope to influence that industry at all levels, encouraging companies to become leaders in conservation efforts and tourists to reward those companies with their business. For Common Ground, I’m Catherine Drew, in Washington.
PORTER: This is Common Ground, radio’s weekly program on world affairs.
KEITH PORTER: I’m Keith Porter.
KRISTIN MCHUGH: And I’m Kristin McHugh. Coming up this half hour on Common Ground, the global fight against AIDS.
SALIH BOOKER: The war on AIDS is simply more urgent, more important than the war on terrorism.
MCHUGH: Plus Mexico’s rural crisis, and a cinematic swipe at Mexico’s president.
PROFESSOR ENRIQUE DE LA GARZA: [via a translator] The central point of the movie is that there are two Mexicos. There’s the Mexico of the rich, the powerful, those with political power. Then there’s the other Mexico, which we see on the road and at the beach. It’s one of great poverty.
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PORTER: In the past two decades, AIDS has gone from a baffling immune system disorder affecting gay men in San Francisco to a global epidemic, with 42 million people worldwide living with HIV and AIDS, according to the World Health Organization, with 100 million expected to be infected by 2010. In the past two years, conservative Americans, Republicans, and President George Bush have also changed their position on how best to tackle the global AIDS epidemic. As Priscilla Huff reports, the Bush administration is now backing up its claims of compassion with cash.
[A cut from U-2’s song Beautiful Day.]
HUFF: The Bush administration’s new approach to the global AIDS approach may have started with an unlikely character—a rock star. On March 14, 2002 after meeting with U-2’s Bono, Bush walked into the Inter-American Development bank.
PRESIDENT GEORGE W. BUSH: Bono, I appreciate your heart. And to tell you what an influence you’ve had—Dick Cheney walked in the Oval Office, he said, “Jesse Helms wants us to listen to Bono’s ideas.” [Laughter and applause.]
HUFF: The audience was laughing at the image of the very conservative Republican Senator Jesse Helms having a heart to heart with one of the world’s most popular rock stars and then convincing the very straight-laced vice president Dick Cheney, Bono was right. It’s a light moment that points to how and when US AIDS policy changed. The lead singer of U-2 had convinced the Christian Senator from North Carolina that AIDS was not God’s punishment of homosexuals, but rather, God’s call to reach out and help other people. Bono lobbied to win over other members of the Bush administration, including Health and Human Services Secretary Tommy Thompson and joining then Treasury Secretary Paul O’Neill on a two-week trip to Africa.
PAUL O’NEILL: In South Africa, I saw mothers with AIDS caring for babies with AIDS, even when proven, inexpensive drugs are available to stop transmission between mother and child. I saw the dedication of nurses and doctors treating people with AIDS and their patients’ struggle to survive.
HUFF: O’Neill is just one of the Bush administration officials who’ve made personal witness to the AIDS pandemic—the 14,000 people every day who are infected with HIV, according to the World Health Organization. In announcing $15 billion dollars in AIDS initiatives, President Bush spoke from his faith of God’s gifts to Americans.
PRESIDENT GEORGE W. BUSH: Blessings are a two-way street. We’ve got to understand in this country that if you value life and say every life is equal—that includes a suffering child on the continent of Africa. If you’re worried about freedom, that’s not just freedom for your neighbor in America, that’s freedom for people around the globe. It’s a universal principle.
HUFF: Starting with the 2003 State of the Union address, the Bush administration promised $15 billion for the Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief, while maintaining a $1 billion commitment to the Global Fund to Fight HIV and AIDS. But, Salih Booker with Africa Action says, the Bush administration needs to do more.
SALIH BOOKER: The devastation caused by the pandemic in Africa is tolerated because of the perceived absence of US interests in Africa, as well as the denigration of the value of African lives. If this were not the case, politicians would loudly acknowledge the obvious fact that the war on AIDS is simply more urgent, more important than the war on terrorism.
HUFF: And yet, AIDS has become a national security issue, bolstered by CIA reports and by stunning facts—38 percent of adults in Botswana are infected—a confirmation that in parts of southern Africa, one-third of all adults will be dead in a few years. Secretary of State Colin Powell made AIDS part of his global survey in a speech to the World Affairs Council.
US SECRETARY OF STATE COLIN POWELL: In parts of Africa, parts of the Caribbean, elsewhere—and its spreading to other parts of the world rapidly—what you’re seeing is not just a disease, you’re seeing a destroyer of nations, you’re seeing a destroyer of families, you are seeing entire generations being wiped out.
HUFF: The UN World Food Programme is convinced, AIDS is the cause behind the famines in Zimbabwe, Malawi, and other regions of southern Africa. So many have died, there aren’t enough workers to grow the food, and the ones left behind are either too old or too young to do the work. Zione Banda is a 16-year-old Malawi girl. Her father died of AIDS when she was a toddler, and her mother is now ill.
ZIONE BANDA: [via a translator] I stopped going to school because of my mother. She is sick and I have to look after her and my family. Now I have lost hope in my future and I know I will not be what I wanted to be because I am no longer going to school. I have to stay here, I have to go and look for food. Sometimes I have to go and get piecework in the field in exchange for maize or cash. That way I can look after my mother but I fear for my future. I am no longer going to be a doctor or a teacher. That’s how I see it.
HUFF: President Bush says, these horrifying stories are precisely why America must act.
PRESIDENT GEORGE W. BUSH: Because the AIDS diagnosis is considered a death sentence, many folks don’t seek treatment, and that’s a reality. It’s as if the AIDS pandemic just continues to feed upon itself over and over and over again, because of hopelessness. This country needs to provide some hope.
HUFF: But it’s exactly how to provide that hope that’s up for debate. The Bush administration wants accountability and they want results from their massive investment. But the Castro district in San Francisco is just about the opposite from a South African township. Dr. Joseph O’Neill from the White House Office of National AIDS Policy thinks they’ve come up with the answer.
DR. JOSEPH O’NEILL: We very much understand as well that programs, no matter where they’re conceived, need to be implemented locally. So in our vision, we will be working very closely with communities in the affected countries, with providers in the country, with people living with HIV/AIDS in these countries, to develop the kind of programs that achieve the goals of the program, which is to get people into care and make anti-retrovirals available to them, but to do that in a way that fits with local mores and standards.
HUFF: For the future, AIDS advocates worry, the Bush administration will pull back from its commitments…especially as costs mount and as the underlying Christian ethos of compassion collides with the complexity of the cultures devastated by AIDS. For Common Ground, I’m Priscilla Huff.
MCHUGH: Coming up next, the free trade controversy south of the border. And later, a Mexican film takes aim at that country’s leader.
PORTER: You’re listening to Common Ground, radio’s weekly program on world affairs.
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MCHUGH: When tariffs were lifted on January 1st for a variety of agricultural products covered under the North American Free Trade Agreement, Mexican farmers responded with protests. Their growing movement is once again highlighting Mexico’s unresolved rural crisis, and adding a new element to Mexican politics in a crucial election year for the administration of President Vicente Fox. From Mexico, Kent Paterson has more on how rural communities are coping with a changing global economy.
KENT PATERSON: Near the church of San Juan Nuevo in the state of Michoacan, Feilipa prepares hand-made tacos of meat and cactus for visitors. The indigenous Purepecha woman earns her income from eco-tourism, one of the many projects the community has going to sustain itself in tough times. Felipa says the visitors are important.
[The sound of Felipa speaking, followed by the sound of a sawmill.]
PATERSON: Down the dirt, pine-crested road from Felipa’s taco stand, and past the hillside fruit orchards, another community enterprise is in full gear. Here the large blades of a sawmill cut wood for the domestic and foreign market. Facing increasing competition at home from Chilean, Canadian, and US wood, San Juan Nuevo’s residents have found that they must manufacture value-added products to survive in the global economy. Much of their wood goes into making fine furniture for Home Depot and other customers abroad. Ambrosio Rodriguez is San Juan Nuevo’s general manager.
AMBROSIO RODRIGUEZ: [via a translator] We see the free trade agreement as a challenge to be more efficient and upgrade the production process within our community. We’re starting to do this by having total quality workshops. We know the competition is fierce. It has always been that way, and we have to get used to that.
[The sound of a rushing stream.]
PATERSON: While the people of San Juan Nuevo have found a niche in the global economy, other Mexican producers say they are being cornered by a flood of foreign imports.
[The sound of Romulo Balanzar speaking.]
PATERSON: Romulo Balanzar is the president of a community owned farm known as an ejido in the southern state of Guerrero. On the coastal roads near Balanzar’s home, towering coconut orchards dominate the landscape. Balanzar says the traditional economy of the region is being wiped out by cheap coconut oil imports from the Philippines and other countries. He says the imports are harvesting serious social consequences.
ROMULO BALANZAR: [via a translator] A lot of families are in ruin right now. This leads to the migration of our young people to big cities like Mexico City and Cuernavaca, or to the United States so they can look for work. Many of them don’t return. And why is that? There is a Mafia of immigrant smugglers who trick them and abandon them in the desert, or they kill them to take all their things. People have come back in coffins. Many of our youth haven’t come back.
PATERSON: Whether it’s coconut oil, corn, chicken, or pork, many farmers say foreign imports are threatening their way of life. After a decade of the North American Free Trade Agreement—NAFTA—and other trade pacts, figures recently published in the Mexican press reported that about three-fourths of the 25 million or so people residing in the countryside are living in poverty. Tens, perhaps hundreds of thousands of jobs, have been lost in this time span.
[The sound of Mexico City traffic.]
PATERSON: Here in the heart of Mexico City, at the historic Angel of Independence monument, farmers conduct a hunger strike. They are part of the new “the countryside can’t take it anymore” movement. Representing a dozen national organizations, they want the government of President Vicente Fox to postpone or cancel the agricultural and forestry sections of NAFTA, and provide greater financial resources for the farm sector. The hunger strike is part of a growing national movement that’s blocked international bridges on the US-Mexico border, shut down Mexican highways, and chased officials off the stage at international conferences. Marcelo Carrion is a spokesman for the hunger strikers.
MARCELO CARRION: [via a translator] We want the general public, which still might not have felt the effects of free trade, to know that when the free trade agreement opens up in full force, that it’s going to hurt us farmers. And not only the farmers, but the national economy as a whole. This is going to be a step backwards for Mexico. Unfortunately, it hasn’t been viewed this way in this country, but I think we’re going to start feeling the effects now.
PATERSON: President Fox says he is willing to put more money into agricultural support programs, but so far his administration rejects protester’s demands that NAFTA be renegotiated. While both sides say they are open to dialogue, more and more farmers are increasingly viewing free trade agreements like NAFTA as a burden that must be lifted from their shoulders. Besides having ramifications for the future negotiation of the Free Trade Area of the Americas, the growing movement could spell trouble for the Fox administration in this year’s upcoming congressional and state elections. For Common Ground, I’m Kent Paterson.
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PORTER: The Mexican film Y Tu Mama Tambien, which has been a surprise art house hit across the US, is nominated for best original screenplay in this month’s Academy Awards. On one level the movie tells the story of two high school boys on a road adventure with a 20-something woman. But as Reese Erlich first told us last fall, the film also makes a biting commentary about the contradictions facing Mexico since the election of President Fox.
[Music from the movie, Y Tu Mama Tambien, on a CD entitled La Serenita.]
REESE ERLICH: Y Tu Mama Tambien, which means “And Your Mother, Too,” is a raucous and sultry film that doesn’t, at first, reveal its true intentions. At the beginning of the film, we meet two very immature high school students who could be straight out of any American teen movie. In this scene, the two students, Julio and Tenoch, fantasize about making love with a beautiful young woman, who also happens to be married to Tenoch’s cousin. The two boys try to convince her to drive from Mexico City to a nonexistent beach on the coast.
[Dialogue from the movie, all translated from Spanish.]
LUISA: You’re going to Puerto Escondido?
TENOCH: No, it sucks. It’s a bunch of yuppie backpackers and wannabe surfers.
JULIO: We know a beach no one knows about.
LUISA: What’s it called?
TENOCH: Something “Mouth.” Oh yeah. “Heaven’s Mouth.”
JULIO: Heaven’s Mouth, totally. It’s like paradise.
TENOCH: Better than paradise. It’s a slice of heaven right here on earth.
TENOCH: A tropical heaven. Putting roots down on earth.
JULIO: She should come with us.
TENOCH: Yeah, why don’t you come along?
LUISA: You’d take me along? Is there a place to sleep?
TENOCH: Sure, there’s plenty of place to sleep on the warm sand under a roof of stars.
JULIO: We can drink coconuts and bring plenty of forties.
LUISA: What’s that?
TENOCH: Big bottles of beer.
[More music from the movie’s soundtrack.]
ERLICH: The trio get into a beat-up old car and drive towards the coast. The three, who come from well-to-do families, see appalling scenes of traffic accidents, poverty, and police brutality. Enrique de la Garza, a sociology professor at the Metropolitan University in Mexico City, says that’s when we begin to understand the film’s deeper meaning.
PROFESSOR ENRIQUE DE LA GARZA: [via a translator] The central point of the movie is that there are two Mexicos. There’s the Mexico of the rich, the powerful, those with political power. Then there’s the other Mexico, which we see on the road and at the beach. It’s one of great poverty. People don’t have enough to eat. It’s a corrupt Mexico. There’s a beautiful Mexico, but also a dirty and ugly one.
[More music from the movie’s soundtrack.]
ERLICH: Tenoch is the son of a corrupt politician of the old ruling party. Julio’s family supports the opposition, led by newly elected President Vincente Fox. The two boys squabble and fight constantly, just like the two political parties. They also abuse Luisa—the married woman they’re traveling with—at one point shoving her. In a hilarious scene, Luisa refuses to go on until the two squabbling parties agree to her rules. She finally gets back into the car and lays down the law.
[Dialogue from the movie, all translated from Spanish.]
LUISA: I’m going to sunbathe naked and I don’t want you sniffing around like dogs. I pick the music. The minute I ask, you shut your mouths. You cook. No stories about your poor girlfriends. If I ask, you stay 10 yards from me, better yet, 100. You don’t speak of things you don’t agree on. Even better, you keep your mouths shut. You’re not allowed to contradict me, much less push me.
GARZA: [via a translator] I think the demands signify a questioning of traditional relations. She represents a third way because she’s a foreigner. She has a very open attitude toward relationships. She demands to have relations with them. She understands the problems between rich and poor, and tries to provide a third way, representing the influence of a wider, global culture. The film shows that not everything can be resolved within the internal boundaries of Mexico. There are new elements that she represents that must be incorporated into Mexico.
ERLICH: The film continues to mix politics, sexually explicit scenes, and a wild pop music sound track. Luisa ends up sleeping with both boys individually, and all three have a romp as well. Such open relationships, including a homosexual one, are too much for many Mexicans, says Professor Garza. Y Tu Mama Tambien is not a mainstream success in Mexico, unlike earlier hits such as Amores Perros and Like Water for Chocolate.
GARZA: [via a translator] Mexican society, especially in terms of sexual relations, is still very traditional. Academics and professionals in Mexico City like the film very much. But, in general, Mexican audiences don’t like the straightforward, sexual language. The relations between the woman and the teens, and then between the two boys, has caused a certain opposition in those sectors.
[More music from the movie’s soundtrack.]
ERLICH: Garza notes that the film doesn’t pretend to offer solutions to Mexico’s many contradictions. But it’s an vivid and entertaining expose of the problems facing modern Mexico. For Common Ground, I’m Reese Erlich.
[More music from the movie’s soundtrack.]
Our theme music was created by B.J. Leiderman. Common Ground was produced and funded by the Stanley Foundation.
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