Subj: WHO'S BLOCKING THE FREE FLOW OF IDEAS?
Source: The People's Daily World (212) 924-2523
239 West 23rd Street, New York, NY 10011
(Available at the low subscription price of $20 per year; $10 per year for
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By Chuck Idelson
Despite recent changes in the McCarthy-era McCarran-Walter Act, the Bush
administration continues to block visas of foreign visitors to the United
States on what appears to be solely political grounds. In the past few weeks,
visas have been held up for three prominent Nicaraguans, including Father
Fernando Cardenal, former minister of education and primary organizer of the
former government's famed literacy campaign, and Alejandro Bendana, secretary
general of Nicaragua's Foreign Ministry -- a post he also held under the FSLN
An official in the State Department's Consular Affairs Bureau, Frances
Jones, told the PDW late last week that Bendana's visa was "still being
processed." Convieniently, if it comes, it will be too late for meeting that
had been planned with administrators and staff at the University of California,
Berkeley, and San Francisco State University for setting up a new institute for
Cardenal was also effectively prevented from receiving an award at a
ceremony at the famed Highlander Institute in New Market, Tenn. According to
Mayee Crispen of the Nicaragua Network in Washington, U.S. Embassy officials in
Managua claimed they'd "never received his application when in fact it was
hand-delivered to their office. They were giving him the runaround."
Another Nicaraguan, Marta Lucia Cuadra, former president of the
Nicaraguan Council for Friendship, Solidarity and Peace, which has reorganized
since the Feb. 25 elections, was simply denied a visa. She was scheduled to
meet with West Coast solidarity activists.
Entry was also held up this month for Ed de la Torre, a prominent
Filipino ex-priest, author and founder of the Institute for Popular Democracy,
now living in exile in Europe. Dolores Flamiano of the Philippine Resource
Center in San Francisco said the visa was stalled long enough to miss openings
de la Torre was to attend of a new Canadian documentary on the Philippines in
which he appears. "They say it's not a denial, but in effect it's a denial
because he is not able to travel freely."
Flamiano said de la Torre was told that he "advocates the overthrow of
the U.S. government" and was called a member of the Communist Party of the
Philippines. "The evidence of that was that he was imprisoned by [former
President Ferdinand] Marcos."
The major tactic appears to be imposing what Beth Stevens of the Center
for Constutional Rights calls "bureaucratic hurdles" -- long waits, signing of
waviers, and other steps that serve the same purpose of an outright political
"Each is handled on a case-by-case basis," Sandra McCarty of the State
Department press office told the PDW. "We are concerned about public
perception, but you must also obey the laws of the land." She said, "No law
says because you are a Nicaraguan you are automatically excluded for a visa."
But President Reagan, on Oct. 22, 1988, signed a proclamation
specifically restricting members of the then-government or FSLN parties. Jones
says it is still in effect, requiring extra processing for "people who were
part of the Sandinista government." Crispen notes that other Nicaraguans come
and go with regularity, and views the latest denials as "part of an information
blockade from Nicaragua" and an effort to stymie solidarity for popular
programs started during the FSLN years.
These are just the latest wrinkles in a broad anti-Communist law --
denial of visas is just one component that civil libertarians have challenged
for years. During the Reagan years, such notables as authors Gabriel Garcia
Marquez, Farley Mowatt, Graham Greene and Alberto Moravia, and Hortensia
Allende, widow of Chilean president Salvador Allende, were barred entry.
That produced an outcry which led to modifications, Section 901 of the
1987 State Dept. Authorization Act and an amendement early this year by Sen.
Patrick Moynihan (D-N.Y.), intended to end exclusions based solely on political
belief or allocation. But the administration still retains the right to deny
entry based on what it deems national security or foreign policy grounds. Kit
Gage, of the National Committee against Repressive Legislation, says the
executive branch will probably never want to give that up.
A bill by Rep. Barney Frank (D-Mass.), HR-1280, now before the House
Judiciary Committee, would further reduce grounds for exclusion, eliminating,
for example, the ban on representatives of "communist-dominated labor
organizations" left in the Moynihan amendment at the request of the AFL-CIO.
At present, however, the "most successful efforts are through individual
litigation," says Gage. The ACLU, and its affiliated Free Trade and Ideas
Coalition, is hoping to break ground with a case now in the federal district
court involving the exclusion last year of Khieu Kanharith, a member of the
National Assembly of Cambodia. Jeanne Woods of the Coalition offers to
intervene in similar cases and invites calls at (202) 544-1681.
Woods notes the irony of the Bush administration trying to force TV Marti
transmissions to Cuba, and State Department spokesperson Margaret Tutweiler
chastizing Cuba for supposedly having "chosen to inhibit a free flow of ideas."
Woods says, "we know it's a one-way [flow] they're interested in."
Stevens also condemns the "whole U.S. policy of visa denials. It's very
hypocritical at a time when they're celebrating bringing down the Berlin Wall
that they're building a wall around the U.S."
From: The Socialism OnLine! BBS at 203-274-4639. 300-9600 HST/MNP/V42bis.