Thursday, August 10, 2006

Carnal Relations

I'm not sure if any readers of this blog are concerned about the absence of sex in the topics I've covered during my month-long visit to Argentina. Since the title I've given this space is "Religion, Sex & Politics," you might accuse me of false advertising. In the hopes of rectifying this omission, I present the following:
K response to US: no
more carnal relations

That was the intriguing main headline in the English language paper, the Buenos Aires Herald, yesterday morning. Hmmm, I thought: Does this mean that Argentina wants a divorce? Is she tired of getting screwed by Bush? Has she taken vows of celibacy? K, by the way, is El Presdente NĂ©stor Kirchner, so perhaps it means that he has decided to split up with the U.S. because he's fallen in love with another, perhaps Chavez of Venezuela.

It reminds me of that classic explanation from El Presidente Clinton a few years back: "I did not have sex with that women" (because a blowjob is not sex).

Kirchner was in fact responding to a report that the U.S. is reviewing Argentina's privileged nation status as a trading partner, one that has been in effect for 32 years. While the country's international trade minister played down the significance of the announcement, saying it was a routine review, it was apparent that the threat of losing favored nation status was a signal from Washington that Bush, et al, is unhappy with the leftward tilt of Latin American countries. After all, Fidel Castro was an honored guest of Kirchner's (right before he went into the hospital for what has been reported as cancer) along with Chavez at the Mercosur conference in Cordoba last month.

The President's full response to the possibility of trade sanctions by the United States was given at a meeting in Buenos Aires:

"It is good for everyone to bear in mind, the world and Argentines, that this country no longer has carnal relations with anyone, and that it is an independent country." He compared the possible sanctions because of disagreements over trade policies to "old theories of the Roman empire."

Of course Kirchner spoke in Spanish and the reporter for the Herald, who presumably knows both languages, produced the above translations. Just what K actually meant is open to interpretation. Perhaps it was a more earthy expression in Spanish, something a mafiosa might say: "No one fucks with me, and I'm not fucking with anyone." Perhaps. But what about the "old Roman empire" jab. "Are you speaking to me?" Bush might respond.

I must now go and study for my two-hour final exam this afternoon. Which means I can't say much about my very interesting encounter yesterday with Beverly Keene, co-coordinator of Jubilee Sur and the translator and general assistant for the last twenty years to Nobel peace prize winner Adolfo Perez Esquivel. She met Phil McManus long ago while working on peace and social justice issues in Central America, and she's lived in Buenos Aires with her family since 1986. Phil put us in touch and we met at a cafe overlooking the Plaza Dorrego in San Telmo yesterday morning.

Beverly told me about her work to end the crushing burden of foreign debt that most developing nations in the South now face, a debt which forces them to curtail services necessary to prevent poverty. In all of these countries, the rich are getting richer and the poor, poorer. The middle class in Argentina, she said, is disappearing. Foreign debt is a means of control used by wealthy nations of the North to keep southern countries in line and enable them to profit from their resources. The debt in most cases was contracted by corrupt politicians and military dictators, many of whom pilfered their treasuries when they left the country. The poor never benefited from the loans of banks and world trade organizations. But they pay, and pay, and pay.

It's an issue close to my heart and I hope that I can get involved with Jubilee USA when I return home next week. Perhaps Pax Christi might be open to educating its members about the debt and its consequences. Or maybe the Resouce Center for Nonviolence might invite a speaker to Santa Cruz. The position of Jubilee Sur is that the debt is illegitimate because it was used to control people and rob countries of their resources.

"The accumulation and concentration of wealth in the North has been largely at the expense of the South -- our land, our minerals, our forests and waters, our labor, our communities, our economies, our cultures, our governments, our freedom, our truth, the North owes the South."

Rather than admit to being debtors, Jubilee Sur claims in fact that "we are the creditors," and the North is in debt to the south for all the wrongs it has committed.

And since I am a resident of the north, I should look at this claim closely and respond to it with justice.

Now to the homework...

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