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Parent Issue
Month
July
Year
1986
Copyright
Creative Commons (Attribution, Non-Commercial, Share-alike)
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Agenda Publications
OCR Text

The following excerpts are from a May 12, 1986 speech by Renny Golden at the closing session of the Sanctuary Gathering in Tucson, Arizona. Renny Golden is an Assistant Professor of Criminal Justice at Northwestern Illinois University and co-author of Sanctuary: The New Underground Railroad. Her remarks were recorded and edited by Agenda staff. T Te all know that Sanctuary was not on trial in Tucson, but that trulh itself was. We were not able to raise the issues of the policies that created the exodus or explain that we began a movement in order to guarantee the safety of the refugees who came into our midsL It is the refugees themselves who have made Sanctuary particularly dangerous, because they are the ones who have borne witness to the truth of the conditions and the suffering of the Central American poor; and have told of the complicity of our government in that suffering and persecution. The government has underestimated the individual defendants involved. Moreover, it underestimated the unindicted co-conspirators, who I think offered us a (CONT. ON PAGE 13) THE REFUGEES (cont.fr om page 1) tremendous historica] gift when they refused cooperation in this govemment effort. The government has also failed to understand the potential of faith put to fire, finding its own heart and voice in a situation, not of complex intrigue as the government has suggested, but startling in its simplicity and depth. The govemment has failed to intimidate the church, to intimidate the synagogue, to intimidate people of conscience. Instead, Sanctuary is beginning more and more to discover its own epiphonal depths. And that is its danger. That is its power. Refugees: The Voice of the Voiceless The plight of Central American refugees in the eighties has been compared to the plight of Jews fleeing Nazi Europe in the 1940's. As late as 1944, 10,000 visas of fleeing Jews were received in the United States per month- 10,000- and only 853 were granted each month. 97% of those visas were refused. It sounds familiar. Michael Arndt wrote that the United States had the capacity to save a hundred thousand Jews if the interpretations of the immigration law had been challenged more deeply by a popular movement. And so. this effort to prevent the truth from being silenced is the task that stands before us, and it seems to me that the jury is no more and no less culpable than a people, than our people if they remain without an alternative visión. We have this historie moment to bring that forward. I think that the defendants have not only confronted the myth [of governmental authority] but have shown us that we have a legal and moral and political responsibility - that it's up to us. Thus, this struggle for truth that we are engaged in is a struggle for life and death for Central Americans. As I suggested, one of the tactics of the U.S. government is to divert our attention away from U.S. complicity in suffering in Central America. Yet, the refugees in our midst point us back to talking about the source of the exodus. I think that they in particular become a voice of the voiceless to remind us to look again and understand the new phase of the war low intensity warfare. Low Intensity Warfare: The Source of the Exodus When I was in El Salvador, barely 6 weeks ago, I saw the Church there having to make decisions that we've never had to encounter. In 1980 there were 200,000 displaced Salvadorans. In 1984 there were 400,000. Currently, there are 650,000. This is in San Salvador alone, where people are driven daily by the bombardments from the campo [countryside] into the city. Within a year and a half to two years they expect one million. The decisión that the religous groups, the humanitarian groups, the Archdiocese are facing is repopulation of the countryside. Literally, they have to send people back out into a situation of bombardment, of bullets flying, because they can't continue this dependency. Besides, it is spiritual death for a campesino [farmer] to be in a Basilica not even this size with 300 people, women, children, for 4 and 5 years without putting a foot outside of iL This was the Basilica - actually the basement next to the Basilica - that Archbishop Romero told the people they could have, and because most of them were quemadas, which means bumed (SEE "REFUGEES," NEXT PAGE) THE REFUGEES (cont. front previous page) or marked, they never left it. Yet now, the Archdiocese is planning to end the Basilica encampment as it has done with other refugee camps, to send them back into the countryside. One might say that this is a terrible choice, with what people have suffered, and yet collectively, people have said: We have no other choices, we cannot continue to absorb refugees in the city and besides, it's cooperating with the government's efforts to créate a counter-insurgency program. I'm going to say a bit about this, and how these are linked. When we met with the Social Secretariat of the Archdiocese we asked about the refugee displacement problem, and they were very direct. I don't usually have this kind of conversation with Archdiocesan officials. They said: "If you wish to understand about the displacement of these refugees, I will now teil you about counterinsurgency warfare and I will teil you of your government's complicity in laying that in place for the Salvadoran military." And he began to explain that this low intensity warfare is a real war. It isn't a kind of war and it isn't a precursor. He said that low intensity warfare involves bombing and strafing areas constantly, and when the refugees are driven out of the area they have to seek food and clothing and they have to seek a modicum of protection for their children. The military then brings them into government "hacienda" camps where they are in a situation of virtual imprisonment. Counterinsurgency: A War Against the People The point here is that these camps are not for the people's protection. The "rescue missions" whereby the Salvadoran army goes up to Guazapa Volcano and brings people down are not to rescue them, but to put them in these camps, to contain them, to depri ve the guerillas of what the army considers their social base - el pueblo [the people]. If the people grow crops in the countryside, that is considered a subversive act because it could feed not only the people but the guerrillas, so they strafe and bomb. You can't grow crops in the countryside. I wanted to make this relationship between the counterinsurgency and refugees clear, because refugees have become the linchpin in a military war. As Charlie [Clemente] has said, the war is no longer directed against guerrillas but against the people themselves. When I was in El Salvador, I couldn't sleep for the first three nights because we had been going from camp to camp to camp, interviewing mothers and children - mothers who had come down from the Guazapa Volcano, barely able to whisper the atrocities they'd seen, and traumatized children who had been in tatus [underground tunnels] for a week or two. At night, when I slept safely in my hotel room in San Salvador, you could hear the bombardment from Guazapa Volcano for two solid hours every single night in the distance, and every morning you'd wake up to it. The people under those bombs, the civilians under those bombs... "The worst devastation of the Americas in this century" Think of the choices that have been made now under Operation Phoenix which has just ceased on Guazapa Volcano, but has moved to Chalatenango. The bombardments continue tonight and tomorrow morning , 500, 250, 700 pound bombs. This air offensive war in El Salvador, according to Alexander Cockbum, writing in The Nation , and I quote him directly, "is the worst devastation of the Americas in this century and no one cries out."

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