Kelly Sans Culotte

US Politics

¡Viva Gonzales!
He's one of us.
By Ana Simo

Alberto Gonzales

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FEB. 3, 2005. Alberto Gonzales is lucky he was born in the U.S.

Had he been born in Mexico, his ancestral land, it's unlikely he would have become a wealthy lawyer and then a loyal retainer to a governor turned President and, along the way, appointed him state supreme court justice, presidential legal counsel and, finally, attorney general of the nation, the highest law-enforcement officer in the land and seventh in the line of presidential succession.

But even if he had somehow managed to climb that high, the Mexican Gonzales would stand little chance today of being confirmed Procurador de la República, Mexico's attorney general.

Why? Gonzales has dabbled in torture. Given that, it's unlikely a Mexican President would have dared nominate him. If he did, the United States would have chided Mexico on its human rights record and threatened it with some de-certification or other. More to the point, Mexicans themselves would have swiftly punished the President, on the streets and at the polls. In fact, no Mexican President would have risked his political neck asking Gonzales to dabble in torture in the first place, as history might show that Bush did.

Gonzales would not have fared any better in most other Latin American countries. A Chilean, or even Argentinean, Gonzales that enabled torture might be in handcuffs by now. Elsewhere, he would be damaged goods. At best shipped to some provincial sinecure away from the public eye, after recanting. Because, unlike his American döppelganger, the Latin American Gonzales would have to publicly recant torture. Clearly. Definitely. Without a shadow of a doubt. Torture is no joke in Latin America. Tens of thousands of ordinary people there have suffered it in their own flesh. Unlike Americans.

In no Latin American country, including the darker corners of Central America, would a civil rights organization conceivably support a Gonzales as minister of justice.

Yet, in the U.S., the largest Latino civil rights organizations have blithely endorsed him, including the National Council of La Raza (NCLR), the National Association of Latino Elected Officials (NALEO), the League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC), and at least six others. Not a peep from any of them about the torture furor. It just doesn't exist.

He's one of us, he's climbed up the ladder to the top, he'll pull us up with him, they say. Never mind that Gonzales got to the top, among other things, as the architect of the new U.S. policy permitting torture. Never mind that, unless Saint Clara miraculously heals his moral eyesight, he will use his perch at Justice to continue helping his boss circumvent the rule of law. He's one of us!

The ever loquacious, overwhelmingly Democratic, Latino politicians have been largely silent, as have most other Latino organizations, including those representing queer Latinos. Two rare major Latino groups that do not support Gonzales, the mostly Democratic Congressional Hispanic Caucus, and the Mexican-American Legal Defense and Education Fund (MALDEF), incredibly can't even bring themselves to mention the "t" word in their reluctant, regretful statements of non-support, instead choosing to disagree with Gonzales on the finer points of immigration states' rights and unnamed "issues of importance to Latinos."

If you imagine that the Gonzales-torture debate must have been raging in the U.S. Spanish-language media, as it would have been if the issue had arisen south of the border, you're in for a surprise. While the torture controversy has been heating up in the mainstream English-language print and electronic media, their Spanish-language counterparts have chosen not to dwell on it.

An exception, relatively speaking, is the Los Angeles daily La Opinión, which opposed the Gonzales nomination from the start, and has run a few balanced news items and opinion pieces on the subject. New York's El Diario/La Prensa, which endorsed Gonzales in a contorted February 1 editorial, has soft-pedalled the torture issue, as have the two Spanish networks, Telemundo and Univisión, whose Gonzales coverage has ranged from the respectful to the exquisitely deferential.

While skirting torture, the Spanish-language media has reveled in Gonzales' rags to riches story. As columnist Pilar Marrero wrote in La Opinión: Gonzales is "practically straight off the farm, and all of those things that Latino journalists love to report on and that make "community" organizations salivate, as if to be poor, or Mexican, or green, or from Mars, guarantees that you are a good person, or that you are going to do something for others."

As a result of all of this, U.S. Latinos are not passionately engaged in the debate about the Gonzales nomination. They do not know what Gonzales has done, and why it is bad for the country, and ultimately bad for Latinos themselves, that he becomes the head of Justice.

The silence of the Latino gatekeepers, as much as their cheers, is proof of the advanced moral decay of American-style multiculturalism, a double-edged invention of the Left that has now become a weapon of the Right. Ethnic solidarity trumps human rights. ¡Viva Gonzales!

From the Web

New York Times: We Are All Torturers Now
NY Review of Books: Abu Ghraib: The Hidden Story
Human Rights Watch Opposes Gonzales Nomination
National Council of La Raza Welcomes Nomination of Gonzales to Serve as Attorney General
NALEO Commends Alberto Gonzales for his Nomination (PDF)

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