Thu | Oct 29, 2020

Glenn Tucker | Kids in cages, Mr President?

Published:Friday | June 22, 2018 | 12:00 AM
President Donald Trump listens as Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen addresses the media before Trump signs an executive order to end family separations at the border on June 20.
Nicole Hernandez, of the Mexican state of Guerrero, holds on to her mother on June 13 as they wait with other families to request political asylum in the United States, across the border in Tijuana, Mexico. The family has waited for more than a week in this Mexican border city hoping for a chance to escape widespread violence in their home state.
Glenn Tucker

"Give me your tired, your poor,

Your huddled masses yearning to be free,

The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.

Send these, the homeless, tempest-tossed to me."

Part of Emma Lazarus' 1883 sonnet placed by the US Statue of Liberty.


American media are weighing in heavily on President Trump's decision to separate asylum seekers from their children and housing them in cages.

What I will focus on here is why conditions have deteriorated to such an extent in countries south of the United States border that poverty and violence are forcing people to flee for their lives.

Rulers and Ruled in the US Empire, by James Petras, is a must-read for anyone who wants to understand the socio-economic history of our part of the world.

The US has raped this region. It has enriched itself and secured a questionable sort of security, primarily by removing democratically elected leaders and replacing them with a series of brutal, corrupt puppets willing to sell their countries birthright for a mess of pottage. So natural resources are given away, and heavily subsidised products are imported at prices low enough to kill local industries.

The term 9/11 is associated with the terrorist attack in the US on September 11, 2001. But there was another, less-publicised 9/11, exactly 28 years earlier. That morning, Chileans awoke to a brutal, unprovoked attack by the US. President Nixon used US$10 million of public funds to help the CIA depose the president, Salvadore Allende, and install their puppet - Augusto Pinochet - ushering in 17 years of brutal repression and state torture. This left 3,000 dead, 35,000 tortured, and a country that is still not yet fully back on its feet.




In Colombia, coca is the active ingredient in such products as teas, flour, and ointments. Industries were built around these products. But coca also produces cocaine. So the US supervised the indiscriminate spraying of harmful pesticides over entire villages, killing all crops and livestock, poisoning wells and leaving residents with serious chemical burns. Heavily subsidised US imports quickly replaced local products. The chances of ever reviving those industries is zero.

In Honduras, the US has been propping up a brutal, corrupt, murderous dictatorship with generous AID packages. When the OAS proposed the imposition of sanctions in an attempt to restore democracy, the US said 'no' and continues to give its support despite credible reports of government "kill squads".

In his book Rulers and Ruled in the US Empire, James Petras asserts, "Never in the 20th Century (1990-2001) were so many lucrative public monopolies transferred to private national and foreign investors, in so many countries covering such a vast ... array of sectors in less than a decade ... ." I agree. US-backed puppets like Fernando Cardoso in Brazil, Carlos Salinas of Mexico, and Carlos Menem in Argentina come to mind. Menem privatised more than 1,000 public enterprises by executive decree; Cardoso privatised the most lucrative state enterprises; and Salinas privatised over 110 public enterprises. Worse, Salinas opened Mexico's borders to subsidised US agricultural exports that ruined more than 1.5 million Mexican farmers. His policies facilitated the US takeover of Mexico's retail trade, real estate, agriculture, industry, banking and communications sector, according to Petras.

In Brazil, the Vale del Doce iron mine was a treasure. It had a 2007 valuation of US$10 billion and enjoyed annual returns exceeding 25 per cent. But Cardoso just gift-wrapped it and gave that country's treasure away for US$400 million. Why?

Mexico and Brazil are the two Latin nations that now have the most billionaires. The wealth of just 38 families exceeds that of 250 million Latin Americans. In Mexico, the income of 0.000001 per cent of the population exceeds the combined income of 40 million Mexicans.

Privatisation of the telecommunications sector at rock-bottom prices resulted in the quadrupling of wealth for Carlos Slim Helu, immediately making him one of the richest men in the world. Two fellow Mexican billionaires, Alfredo Harp Helu and Roberto Ramirez, benefited from the privatisation of banks and their subsequent denationalisation with the sale of Banamex to Citicorp. And where do you think the proceeds of all this wealth are invested?


Causes of Poverty


What seems to be emerging is that the principal causes of poverty in Latin America are the very conditions that have facilitated the growth of billionaires. The result is a watering down of social solidarity, protective social legislation, pensions, public-health programmes, and education.

Between 1980 and 2004, Brazil, Argentina, and Mexico stagnated to a zero to one per cent per capita growth. Petras puts it this way: "... The making of billionaires means the unmaking of civil society ... . The period of greatest decline in living standards in Latin America ... coincides with the dismantling of the nationalist, populist and communist economies."

Children are separated with no organisational component. Mystery surrounds the whereabouts of girls. A visitor to one facility claims that all but one baby seemed to be uncharacteristically withdrawn and subdued. If this is not the effect of drugs, it is the beginning of a disturbing reconfiguring of the brain's architecture.

A former director of Immigration and Customs Enforcement has stated that many mothers may never see their children again. What I do know is that all of these children will exhibit varying degrees of mental-health issues from now on.

I have managed to pick out two different Guatemalan dialects in the children's wailing. But the pleadings are the same - a gut-wrenching appeal to Mam· and Pap· to come NOW. That tape is played repeatedly. Someone suggested that it is designed to move Trump. I said it won't. And I will say why.

For sport, the Ku Klux Klan (KKK), sometimes with their children watching, would set black families' homes afire while they were inside sleeping. They listened with excited delight at the blood-curdling screams as these folks watched flesh melting from their bodies. Trump's father was a KKK member. He is unlikely to be moved by more coloured babies crying for their mothers.

Mr Trump has described these coloured refugees as animals and their presence as "infestation". I thought that word was reserved for vermin. Earlier reports of abuse in such facilities were confirmed when tests on one girl revealed sexually transmitted infections and vaginal scarring.

In fairness to Trump, during his campaign for president, he boastfully disported himself as an evil, racist, 'cartoonishly' cruel lout, bereft of any spiritual moorings. Americans had a clear and different choice. But they, including evangelicals, embraced him warmly and chose him to be their president. The big question is, what will this man think of next?

The painful irony is that, unwittingly, these wretched refugees are just following the trail of their country's God-given resources - their birthright - to where it was transplanted.

- Glenn Tucker is an educator and sociologist. Email feedback to and