The portrayal of international stories in U.S. Media: A serious lack of information

By Christopher Pike

          The United States has always placed its interests first when it comes to matters of foreign policy. Citizens have been conditioned to relate any transnational issue back to American ideals. Thus, the majority of American based television newscasts have a heavy domestic bias when reporting stories. All stories reported, even if their main concern is an international issue, will be related to the United States in some way. When the media is closely examined, it becomes clear that international issues are clearly underrepresented in the current United States television media.

            No matter what level newscast, international stories always have some relation to United States. An analysis was conducted in November 2011 on the depth of reporting of the Greek Financial Crisis by three news programs: the national newscasts NBC Nightly News and PBS Newshour, and the local newscast of 13 WHAM. In short, a crisis developed in Greece starting in 2009 in regards to the country’s ability to meet its debt obligations. If Greece were to default on its loans, the European Union would be thrown into shambles and the world economy would become volatile. This crisis would not only impact the United States, it would have massive consequences for the world. Yet in both the PBS Newshour and NBC Nightly News, the main focus was on the crisis’s effect on United States stock markets. The potential effects on the European Union, where a default would hit much harder, were discussed only briefly. This is a clear example of how the United States newscasts have an incredible bias towards domestic affairs. An examination of the representation of international stories in the United States media shows how little attention they receive. Below is a chart stating the percentage of stories about regional topic by newscast:

Newscast

International

National

State

Local

NBC Nightly News

13.51%

78.38%

2.70%

5.41%

13 WHAM News

3.85%

19.23%

21.15%

55.77%

PBS Newshour

42.86%

47.62%

9.52%

0.00%

 

According to the table, only PBS Newshour devotes more than 25% of its newscast to international affairs.  NBC Nightly News devotes about 15% of its broadcasts to international news; in a thirty-minute broadcast that amounts to about five minutes. Two to three minutes of that time is devoted to the impact of the situation on the United States alone. It is incredibly difficult to summarize the Greek economic crisis and its implications for the European Union in two to three minutes. PBS Newshour, on the other hand, spends almost half of its program on international issues. While the discussion did turn toward the impact on the United States for a while, the viewer was given a full summary and a chance to understand the implications of the crisis. For the local 13 WHAM news, a low emphasis on international stories is expected because the newscast is targeting a local audience and delivers relevant local and state news. The Greek economic crisis got a brief mention twice on the program. Yet while a low emphasis on international news is acceptable for a local newscast, a national newscast should have a much higher representation of non-U.S. interests.

            United States newscasts vary the levels at which they choose to represent certain organizations. Most programs have no problem mentioning larger organizations such as the United Nations or the World Bank. These institutions have international credibility and cannot be ignored in the scope of the increasingly globalized world. When it comes to smaller organizations or movements, the conglomerated media can be more scrupulous on what stories they cover and the extent to which they are covered. For example, Fox News is owned by the News Corporation, which has a heavy conservative bias. A Fox News report is much more likely to draw on information from a conservative institution, like Rasmussen Reports, than from a liberal one. They may also be more selective on what stories they choose to report and the tone in which they are reported. NBC news spent little time covering President Obama at the G-20 summit, but devoted almost ten minutes to the sexual harassment allegations against Republican Presidential candidate Herman Cain. The media knows that the general American public is more interested in a juicy scandal involving a high profile figure than the details regarding a world summit or foreign economic problems. In essence, the media chooses which stories to feed to the American public.

             Yet how much are domestic news programs selectively avoiding international issues? The answer can be found by examining a non-United States based international news source. Al Jazeera is a Qatari-owned international news organization that is highly respected for its coverage of Arab-related issues. After deposing Moammar Gadhafi, Libya entered a transitional phase where they continue to try to choose a new form of government. After the death of Gadhafi and end of NATO combat operations, the United States based media largely pulled away from the issue. Al Jazeera, on the other hand, continues to update their viewership on the transition of the Libyan government. The United States still has a vested interest in ensuring that Libya transitions peacefully to a democratic government, yet U.S. based media feels that Americans have lost their passion on the issue. Viewership was high when the rebels stormed into Tripoli, and when Gadhafi was killed everyone got to see the body on the nightly news. Action, revolution and violence attract attention; political roundtables and bureaucratic motions do not. Of course, Al Jazeera is in a much better geographic location to report on these issues as compared to NBC or PBS, but with furthering increases in communication thanks to improved technology, news conglomerates can place people anywhere in the world and get a story faster than they ever could before. The media has a responsibility to cover major world issues, and their failure to do so only hurts the American public.

            If the domestic media continues to fail to report major transnational issues, then the American public will not know about world problems until it is too late. More and more Americans are turning to foreign sources to get their international news and perspective. The United States media needs to adapt to the changes of globalization, otherwise the nightly news hour may soon be a thing of the past.

Sources

NBC Nightly News. NBC: Nov 2011. Television.

 

PBS Newshour. PBS: WXXI, Rochester, Nov 2011. Television.

 

13 WHAM News at 6:00. ABC: WHAM, Rochester, Nov 2011. Television.

 

Al-Jazeera News. Al-Jazeera: Nov 2011. Web. 7 Apr 2012. .

 

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GOP 2012: The Search for Reagan

By Chris Miller        

         In the speech he made on April 3rd, 2012 after three disappointing primary losses, Republican Primary Candidate Rick Santorum did what any GOP candidate would do in a moment of defeat: He invoked the ghost of Ronald Reagan.  It’s no secret that the Republican Party holds Reagan to a near deified status, but it has never been as clear as it has been this past year. It can be argued that this is primarily because the current field of potential GOP nominees is so far from Reagan that they appear to boarder on self-parody when they mention how close they all are to the 40th President, despite being relatively fractured on every key issue besides beating Obama in the 2012 General election.  In terms of candidates, you have the corporate juggernaut, the anti-establishment libertarian, the hellfire and brimstone social conservative, and the epitome of establishment republicans.  However, unlike these candidates, the one thing that Reagan was able to do was take the challenge of a fractured party and use it to his advantage.  While he took the traditional small government conservatives, the pro-business conservatives, the anti-communist conservatives and the religious conservatives and fused them together, these candidates are driving them apart with negative ads and petty squabbles in debates.  It is because of this, that the Republican Candidates cannot adequately link the party thus making their self-proclaimed comparisons to the Reagan disingenuous.

            It has been the general trend for the GOP candidates to invoke the name of Reagan as political leverage, but none of them have been as odd as Rick Santorum’s on April 3rd after losing three important primaries.  In a speech in Pennsylvania, he claimed that in 1976, Reagan took a beating in early primaries, but came back to win in Texas and took the fight all the way to the convention. However, Reagan lost in 1976 to the current sitting President Gerald Ford.  While it is true that Santorum may have been referring to Reagan’s stick-to-itiveness that won him an election four years later, it was a claim that was haphazard and ham-fisted at best.  It would be more likely to assume that Santorum was trying to fit Reagan in to his speech, because the electorate responds to Reagan as proven by multiple polls.

            While this is something that is certainly worth criticism as it can be used to point to a general trend of oversimplifying important issues that are plaguing society and is disingenuous at best, it is also understandable and good campaigning.  Reagan was many things when he was in office, but one thing that he remains, now that he’s been out of office for over two decades and dead for eight years, is popular.  A recent Gallup poll in February of this year asked a sample of Americans how a number of recent Presidents will be viewed by history (outstanding, average, or poor).  Reagan had by far the most number of outstanding votes with 69% and the fewest number of average and poor votes.  Perhaps the most useful part of the data is when they broke it down by party.  That break down showed that among conservatives, 90% view Reagan in a positive light, by far the greatest number for any of the Presidents across any partisan line.  Viewing these data sets, it’s clear why the GOP Primary Candidates are so adamant to prove how close to Reagan they are.

            Now, while it makes sense that invoking Reagan is what these candidates must do for political capital, it is not without contradiction and in some cases not without major gaffes.  In an add attacking Governor Rick Perry, Ron Paul’s PAC said, “America must decide who to trust: Al Gore’s Texas cheerleader, or the one who stood with Reagan.”  That’s a good line and one that gets the electorate to pay attention, but there are some clear problems there.  In 1987, Ron Paul split from the Republican Party to run as a libertarian and told the Christian Science Monitor, “It didn’t take me more than a month after 1981 to realize there would be no changes” and accused the Reagan administration of skyrocketing national debt.  These are not the claims by someone who has any ability to now align himself with the former President.

            Congressman Paul is not the only candidate who has directly contradicted himself when it comes to the 40th President.  In fact, Newt Gingrich was one of Reagan’s greatest opponents in the 1980s.  When Reagan decided to meet with Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev, he claimed that it was similar to Neville Chamberlain meeting with Hitler in 1938 in Munich.  But, now that he’s on the campaign trail, he claims that he’s one of the people who helped defeat communism with the President.  Even Romney, who appears to be the GOP’s inevitable candidate wasn’t a major disciple of Reagan originally.  When he was running for Governor of Massachusetts in the early 1990s, he said, “I was an Independent during the time of Reagan/Bush. I’m not trying to return to Reagan/Bush.”  However, like all of the candidates, he has participated in the deification of Reagan including in a tweet on his birthday that stated, “Ronald Reagan would have been 101 today. As we celebrate his legacy, we remember the hope and optimism he had for America.”  From these instances, it would seem like the idea that the Republican Party as the Party of Reagan is something that is relatively manufactured.

            So as it appears, while these candidates are quick to jump on the Reagan bandwagon, none of them are genuine in calling themselves the torch-barer of Reagan’s Party.  None of them have the ability to link the party over anything other than beating Obama and all of them are holding steadfast to their faction of the party.  If the goal of this extended, drawn-out process is to find a candidate who can hold up to the legacy of the 40th President, then this primary process has failed.  If that’s not the case, than it’s time for the candidates to drop the rhetoric and start running on their own qualifications and ideas rather than the memory of “the good old days.”

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Confusion and Criticism: The Kony 2012 Phenomenon

By Jessica Kroenert

It is pretty clear that Joseph Kony is one of the most talked about people of 2012 thus far, and it seems that nearly everyone I know has something to say about him. This Kony 2012 phenomenon began with a video created by Invisible Children Inc., an organization dedicated to ending Kony’s reign of terror, that went viral, seemingly overnight, and sparked much debate and controversy over the proceeding weeks. I must admit, I knew very little myself about Invisible Children and next to nothing about Joseph Kony before I saw this video, so I was inspired to do some research.

The video presents a short history of the warlord, Joseph Kony, and his guerrilla rebel group, the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA), and provides facts and statistics regarding the army’s military tactics. In the video, Jason Russell, founder of Invisible Children, describes how Kony’s army has kidnapped over 30,000 children over the 26 years it has been in existence. It also explains exactly what these children face if they are kidnapped; boys are forced to become child soldiers and girls to become sex slaves for the LRA’s generals. These children also face everything from being forced to kill their own parents to having their bodies and faces mutilated.

In the video, Russell also spotlights the children that wish to avoid this fate by leaving their homes and families. These children risk their lives to relocate to refugee camps, where hundreds of children live in horrible conditions. In particular, the video follows the story of one boy, Jacob, who Russell became close with during his time in Uganda. Jacob’s personal story really hits home with the viewers for whom, otherwise, this conflict would be just another sad story happening somewhere far away. His account of the loss of his brother when they fled their home brings the conflict to life for viewers, allowing them to see a true story about effects of the LRA’s terrorism.

To create the full image of Kony and the LRA’s actions, Russell also brings up other facts about their reign of terror. The video mentions the fact that Joseph Kony is not actually fighting for any cause, but simply to keep power, saying that he is fighting in the lord’s name. Then, to show the full extent of the international importance of this issue, is, the video talks about how Kony was the first person indicted by the International Criminal Court for his crimes, and still remains at the top of their most wanted list.

While it may seem that this video is simply providing information about the conflict to those who would have remained ignorant otherwise, it has provoked much criticism from various groups of people. Many have said that the video drastically oversimplifies the facts and overdramatizes the conflict. Such critics point to the fact that in the past few years Kony has actually moved out of Uganda and into other countries such as South Sudan and the Democratic Republic of Congo. Likewise, many feel that the figure that Russell cites of 30,000 children having been kidnapped over the years is misleading because, since Kony moved out of Uganda, his child-army has drastically shrunk in size. Additionally, some have noted that western concern and involvement in this African conflict has hints of the white man’s burden.

Critics have also condemned exactly how the Invisible Children campaign is going about bringing an end to the conflict. For example, the group’s main outlet of direct action is the Ugandan armed forces, which have been accused of rape and looting within their ranks. Furthermore, many feel that the Invisible children’s tactic of creating a huge publicity stunt won’t actually yield results and just creates a sort of “slacktivism” among youths, so that they can feel like they’re making a difference without actually doing anything. Because of this, many have criticized the organization’s spending habits, feeling that the organization spends too much money on publicity and film production; there have even been false allegations about the majority of the organization’s money going to employee salaries. Not to mention the controversy over Russell’s recent arrest for public indecency.

In my personal opinion, the majority of this criticism, while some may be true, is uncalled for and simply not right. Invisible Children has done more than just about any other group or organization to help put an end to this conflict, and so far, they have made a difference. The way I see it, many people have been criticizing the organization and its campaign just for the sake of playing the devil’s advocate and appearing more informed than the people who did nothing more than share the video. And while I do believe that it is highly important to do more research into much of what the media presents, I do not believe it is right to criticize an organization that is trying to do good just for the sake of going against the grain.

The information provided in their Kony 2012 video, while it may have been dramatic, was entirely truthful. Despite what critics may think the video says, Russell did, in fact, point out that the 30,000 children Kony kidnaped has been over all the years the LRA has been active, and that the child-army and Kony himself are no longer actually in Uganda. In some ways, I feel that the highly dramatic nature of the video was necessary in order to get people’s attention, and the drama does not change the fact that all the information was true and that Kony is still out there, going untried and unpunished for his crimes.

As far as the criticism regarding the Ugandan army and its alleged dishonorable practices, I agree that it is absolutely, without a doubt, morally wrong for military officers to partake in such behavior. However, it is important to recognize the fact that the Ugandan army is the only standing army in this region of political struggle that would actually stand a chance at finding Kony and stopping his operation. If such efforts did not go though the Ugandan military forces, the only other options would be to one: not do anything at all, or two: use third party military action such as the UN peacekeeping forces, because several attempts at peace talks with Kony have already failed. The way I see it, ignoring the existing military forces and simply using the UN’s mostly western forces would reek far more of the white man’s burden than anything that is happening now.

Finally, to address the criticism regarding Invisible Children’s tactic of addressing the issue through publicity and awareness campaigns, I feel that is a completely viable option given the organization’s history attempting other methods. The first efforts of Invisible Children’s founders to make a difference involved talking to US politicians, who in turn told them that the US would never get involved in the conflict because it does not pertain to our own self defense and was therefore not very significant on the US radar.

As a reaction to these failed first attempts to get involved, the founders of Invisible Children decided that the best way to make a difference would be to raise awareness about the issue among the general public. This way, people would become more concerned about the conflict and pressure their politicians to help make a difference in a region that is struggling to do so on its own. Frankly, in our ever-changing world, this is becoming a more and more viable method to make real change. Simply look at the Arab Spring or America’s Occupy movement, both of which began as grassroots movements that were able to spread with the help of social media outlets such as Facebook and YouTube.

In fact, this “awareness approach” worked incredibly well for Invisible Children. The more people that became aware and angry about Joseph Kony’s reign of terror, the more the people with the power to actually stop him felt pressured to do something. It was at least partially, if not almost entirely the efforts of Invisible Children that prompted President Obama to approve of the deployment of one hundred US military advisors to assist the Ugandan troops in their efforts. With the more advanced technology of the US military, the Ugandans stand a better chance than ever at finding Kony and bringing him to the justice he deserves. And even though they have already accomplished so much, Invisible Children is not stopping; they have plans to release more videos and continue to spread awareness through celebrities, policy makers, and everyday people like you and me in the months to come.

I believe the actions of not only Invisible Children, but also all other grassroots movements like it, say something truly great about the direction this world is heading in. One of the most central aspects of the Kony campaign is to unite policy makers and citizens alike, regardless of political affiliation, to stop a criminal warlord. And, as Russell states in the video, Obama’s approval of sending US aid marked the first time the American people moved their government to get involved in something “not for self defense but because it was right.” People all over the world are beginning to realize that individuals do have a voice and can make a real difference, and that no matter what your country’s foreign policy is, every human deserves justice.

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Development for Whom?

By Katrina Steinley


           In 1999 the government of Bolivia signed a contract with the company Aguas del Tunari to take over operations of the public water supply, under the guise that privatization would lead to increased efficiency of water distribution and higher quality water supply.  Rather than solve Bolivia’s problem of poverty and development, the privatization of water, a necessary but limited resource, only led to profits for the companies and actually led to a deterioration of the livelihood of the people of Bolivia.  The substantial tariff increases only made it so that more people could not afford water, thereby depriving them of their right to water.  Due to a focus on profits, liberalization, and structural reforms, and to a lack of input from the people themselves, the privatization of water in Bolivia failed to decrease poverty.  Development should not be measured in terms of economic profits or liberalization, but should be measured by the quality of life for all peoples, their access to basic necessities, their ability to invest for the future, and the possibility for lasting and sustainable development.

Safe water is a necessity for sustainable development in countries.  Sanitation is as important as distribution because untreated water can contain many diseases and harm the population, defeating any distribution efforts.  There needs to be distribution of water for agricultural purposes as well, because farmers in rural areas do not necessarily have access to urban water sources or sanitation facilities.  Therefore, the country must determine how to best sanitize and allocate the scarce resource of water to people both in urban and rural areas.  The World Health Organization reported in 2001 that 93% of the people in urban areas had access to drinking water and 82% had access to sanitation services; in rural areas only 55% of the people had access to water and only 38% had access to sanitation services.  Water—more specifically, safe and treated water—is not a luxury.

In 1985 the Bolivian Government implemented the New Economic Policy which aimed to liberalize and privatize sectors of Bolivia, but these policies simply led to even more poverty, higher unemployment, expensive prices, and a deterioration of working conditions.  Yet, despite these failed attempts to reduce trade barriers and infiltrate big businesses, the World Bank and IMF continued to try structural adjustment and liberalization policies.  They claimed that the exacerbated social problems were not a result of the policies they had implemented, but because the policies needed more funds and better efficiency, and that their progress was being inhibited by delays.  The World Bank viewed Bolivia’s poverty as a result of their privatization efforts not being properly implemented, and still asserted that structural adjustment was the key to solving Bolivia’s inability to fund programs and inefficiency of distributing services to the people.

Thus, in 1998 the IMF made privatization a requirement for Bolivia to receive loans to control inflation and help the economy, making privatization not just a suggestion but an actual stipulation if Bolivia wished to receive any aid.  The Western powers were effectively forcing Bolivia to oblige by the wishes of international corporations.  These corporations had a great deal of money, influence, and power, so they theoretically had the funds to invest; for instance, in 2000 the company Betchel made an annual revenue of over $14 billion, where Bolivia’s national budget at the time was only $2.7 billion. While these companies had the monetary power and ability to assist countries like Bolivia, they did not always work with the wishes of the indigenous peoples, as was soon to be found in Cochabamba, Bolivia.  In 1999 the Bolivian government signed a forty-year contract to transfer the operation and distribution of Bolivia’s water supply from SEMAPA (the municipal drinking water and sewer services) to the company Aguas del Tunari, a multinational group owned by International Water, of which the San Francisco-based company Betchel was the main shareholder.  By signing this contract, the government conceded to the World Bank and IMF’s pressure to privatize.

The Bolivian government additionally passed Law 2029, which was a legislative act to control water distribution and sanitation.  This law prohibited traditional water practices by making water systems such as community water systems and wells illegal, but at the same time did not guarantee that all people, especially in rural areas, would have access to water.  So the people were required by law to only use the main water supply, but they were still not guaranteed access to that main water system.  Not to mention, at the time Law 2029 was created, only half of the people in Cochabamba were connected to the larger water system.  Law 2029 effectively prohibited these necessary practices to access water that were an integrated aspect of many people’s lives.

Aguas del Tunari was the only company in control of the Bolivian water supply.  Because the company had no competitors water prices skyrocketed, but the people had no option but to pay for the privatized water thanks to Law 2029.  The contract that the government had signed with Aguas del Tunari prohibited subsidies to offset the increase in water prices, of which the average tariff increase was 35% but at times increased as high as 200%.  This price on water made the people either turn to other water sources that might be unsafe, or simply made the people pay large portions of their incomes, driving them further into poverty.  These tariff increases may seem insignificant to the wealthy, but to the poor they are extensive.  Bolivia is South America’s poorest country with two thirds of the population below the poverty line, and the average annual per capita income at the time at $950, such that these huge increases in cost severely affected families’ incomes.  And so poverty increased even more—the exact opposite of what the government and World Bank had claimed would happen.


There are several reasons why this water privatization project failed.  First, the government, World Bank, and IMF, despite failed attempts at structural adjustment in Bolivia in the past, as well as failed attempts at structural adjustment in other countries, decided to implement these policies anyways.  They required privatization as a condition for loans and claimed that privatization would lead to success.  Bolivia is a poor country so the Bolivian government felt pressured to side with the powerful transnational corporations who had money to spend on projects.  However, these transnational corporations never sought the input of the indigenous peoples or considered the impact of their policies on them.

There was also a basic clash of goals and development models.  The World Bank and IMF, along with the government of Bolivia, obviously promoted a liberalization model for development, with regulated services and distribution, but the people themselves supported a more social model, where water is a right to all peoples.  The people of Cochabamba saw the privatization of water as violating a sacred right, while big businesses saw water as a service.  In Cochabamba, the people did not think in terms of “regulations” and “rights,” but rather looked to their own community’s history to develop rules based on their own culture.

However, the people of Cochabamba did not passively accept the price raises Aguas del Tunari implemented.  The organization La Coordinadora, headed by Oscar Olivera, began peaceful protests against the privatization of the water system in January of 2000, but the corrupt police and government turned violent against the protestors.  In March 2000 La Coordinadora held an unofficial referendum to measure the people’s approval of the water privatization; 96% out of 50,000 voters showed their disapproval, but despite these high numbers the government did not break the contract with Aguas del Tunari.  The people of Cochabamba wanted some form of representation—voting was not enough.  They wanted to discuss problems and solutions alongside government officials and help implement the projects to reach common goals.


In April of 2000 the Bolivian government acceded to the people of Cochabamba’s wishes and canceled their contract with Aguas del Tunari, giving the control of the water supply back to SEMAPA.  However, SEMAPA was in need of reform; it was clear that successful development would only happen if they worked with the many different people affected by the water system.  Many changes were implemented to involve the community, including the creation of networks among unions, neighborhoods, and agencies, and the organization of a seminar to bring together leaders, organizations, and even international representatives to figure out the best way to operate the water system.  This allowed for SEMAPA to meet the people’s needs.  They were also able to improve the company by increasing the education of the workers, improving the flow of information, bettering governmental relations, and working to improve managerial skills.

Development is not something that can be measured in dollars or profits; it is difficult to determine where that money is distributed or what it is being used for.  Rather, development should focus on creating sustainable strategies for living.  This includes access to necessities, such as water, and the ability to think towards long-term success.  The project of water privatization in Bolivia was a failure because it did not address the needs of all the people affected.  If external organizations wish to help developing countries, they must work with the people to achieve sustainable living and lasting results.

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Not For Sale

By Leydi Basilio

After patiently waiting in line, it was now my turn.  I quickly proceeded to the open window, as indicated by the airport staff. However, I could not even begin to imagine what lied ahead. I handed the lady sitting behind the glass window my passport and she glanced at it. Then before I knew it, I was escorted into an isolated room opposite to where the line kept forming to cross immigration…

 Human trafficking has become an epidemic that is growing at an unthinkable rate across the world. More and more women are increasingly submitted to cruel treatment in what has come to be known as modern day slavery.Trafficking According to the article, Sex trafficking spikes in Argentina, the second-largest country in South America, “ has become a major centre of human trafficking, with about 700 women from various countries forced into sexual servitude over the past year-and-a-half.” The majority of the sexual slaves are brought from nearby countries like Bolivia, Paraguay and the Dominican Republic just to name a few.

“Why did you come to Buenos Aires?” asked the immigration officer. However before I could even begin to answer, she bombarded me with more questions. “How long are you staying in the city? Where will you be residing? Her serious tone of voice and facial expressions indicated to me that something was definitely wrong…

Although it is difficult to keep a count of the number of people that become victims of human trafficking, the U.S. State Department estimates that around 12.3 million adults and children are coerced into prostitution and forced labor (Bosch, 2011). However for the purpose of this report I will only be focusing on the trafficking of young females, as it pertains to my personal experience abroad and the current region of study in class.

Women are constantly imported to and exported from Argentina, as sexual objects of trade, to feed the growing business of trafficking that now ranks third among the most profitable industries in the world with 32.000 million dollars (Rocha, 2007). They are targeted across borders, through classified print media ads that promote job openings with all expenses paid in Argentina. One of those such ads read, “Querés ganar en dólares. Convocamos señoritas de 18 a 25 años para fotos y videos; 300 dólares diarios. Acepto SMS y llamadas públicas. La producción se realizará en Buenos Aries. Viáticos y estadía paga.” (Da un teléfono de Posadas.)” (Rocha, 2007). With promises of a better life and promises to obtain a good job that would allow them to send money back home to support their families, these women travel to Argentina with big dreams to be successful. As the authors, Lydia Michelic Pulsipher and Alex Pulsipher, note in their textbook, World Regional Geography: Global patterns, local lives, “Migration for the purpose of supporting family members back home with remittances is an extremely important economic activity throughout this region” (p.140). However upon arriving to Argentina, the story of these victims take a completely different shift and billions of dollars begin being made at their expense. Today it is perhaps, hard to picture such trade of human beings happening in the 21st century. Thus it is essential to address this notion of modern day slavery through the economic and political issues pertinent to South America, as many would arguable say that it contribute in large part, to the emergence of this large business.

I stared into her eyes and replied, “I am here on a study tour with a group of 15 other students.” But, she didn’t buy it. She asked for the specific address of the hotel and my itinerary information, which I did not have. She also then asked for my college ID, state ID and any written document with information about the two- week course abroad. I had no idea of what was going on and wish they would have taken the time to explain it but it seemed that she was not about to take the time and do so. Thus I sat in the room pondering on the situation, when I noticed that another Geneseo student being escorted into the same room. She, too, was of Dominican descent. Soon, I was in to discover that it was not at all coincidental

Historically speaking, power and wealth have long been concentrated in the hands of the few and thus the poor have been politically disempowered as income and wealth disparities widen. In chapter three Pulsipher confirms that within this region, “the gap between the rich and poor is one of the largest on earth” (p.133). Moreover the human trafficking business doesn’t help this statistic very much, as it is an illegal industry and thus taxes are not paid. This so called “job,” and I use the term job arguably within this context because I don’t think of human trafficking as an actual job but rather a violation of rights—exploitation of humans for someone else’s benefit, will fall under the informal economy of Argentina. The author’s definition of informal economy suggests that people falling under this sector work to support their families “through inventive entrepreneurship but are not officially recognized in the statistics and do not pay business, sales or income taxes,” (p.139). Thus according to their definition, human trafficking would be considered part of the informal sector of the Argentinian economy because the victims don’t have any access to health care, safety precautions, disability benefits or even retirement. Retirement from the business is not an option; as for many women it equals death.

Susana Trimarco, mother of a 23-year-old that disappeared in 2002 from Argentinian grounds, serves as a great example of the dangers both the victims and their families face at hands of those individuals. Although not a direct victim of the trade market herself, Susana’s life has been threatened several times as she continues to investigate, without success, into the illegal sex trade industry that took her daughter away. She said, “We used to have a very normal, middle-class life. When the kids were growing up we did our best to give them the best education possible. Then on 3 April 2002 all that was destroyed” (The Guardian Weekly). Her daughter Marita left that day to request an appointment with gynecologist but never returned. Susana then went looking for the woman who had advised Marita to go to the gynecologist but she refused to answer the door just as the police had refused to take her statement. “ …The more I asked, the more people confirmed that she’d been kidnapped and trafficked,” Susana comments.

Moreover, as Susana began educating herself more and more on the issue, she found that “The first thing they do is remove all the girls’ documentation. They then repeatedly assault them and threaten them so they are terrified into submission” (The Guardian Weekly). She continues conveying that those human traffickers maintain girls subordinate to their orders by for example, driving them past their homes and telling them something like, “We know where you live. If you ever try to escape we’ll kill your father.”  The fear for losing a love one often stops many of the victims from protesting and attempting to escape as they slowly and painfully learn that there is no retirement age for their involuntary job. As a result, Susana has set up María de los Ángeles, which is a foundation that cares for the victims of trafficking. Since it’s opening, she has assisted 367 young women in escaping prostitution and in rebuilding their lives. Susana asserts that, “ Argentina isn’t set up to help the victims of trafficking” and thus the foundation is a way to make a difference in these women’s lives. Human trafficking not only affects Susana but it also affects all Argentinians on a local level because it puts to question their right to safety in the nation.

The right to safety is closely intertwined with the political realm in Argentina. Thus, it has been widely accepted that the government’s duty is to ensure the well-being of its people. However, well-being not only refers to the disparities in wealth that characterize a particular area but also, addresses notions such as, human trafficking as a tragic reality affecting the Argentinian communities and looks for possible solutions to the issue. Many would perhaps argue that human trafficking is a result of the government not enforcing the laws, as she should or these laws not being in place at all.  Furthermore, I would argue that it requires a lot more than just laws to stop human trafficking. It requires education. Educating the public and creating awareness on the matter for example, like Susana has and other organizations such as the coalition of anti-human-trafficking would help us structure a stronger fight against modern-day slavery. However unless changes are implemented and human trafficking is given the attention it requires, Argentina’s future, in this particular respect, looks bleak.

The interrogation continued except, that now there were two of us. I began getting frustrated and scared at the same time. Then, we began to see a light at the end of the tunnel when Professor Aagesen rapidly approached us. Aagesen had not noticed that was going on but once the second person was brought into the room he stepped up to our rescue. He spoke with the immigration officer and handed her all the material she had previously been asking from us. He also asked for an explanation as to why we had been taken into the room and the day responded saying that there had been a lot of human trafficking of females, particularly from the Dominican Republic and within our age group. “We are just trying to protect you” I recall her saying. Apparently being of Dominican descent, I had sexual servitude written all over my fore head but fortunately for me, I was not for sale.

As far as its impact on my own life, I think that having gone through that particular experience was very eye opening. Prior to being stop at the airport I didn’t know this was going on in Argentina and otherwise, I could not have imagine the magnitude of the problem. This issue directly affects me and many other travelers of Dominican descent as it prevents us from exploring other areas like Uruguay for instance, which I really wanted to visit but after the incident, decided not to for fear of not being let back into the country. It limits our options as travelers’ and to some extent, even builds on negative stereotypes, which reflect upon my identity as a Dominican citizen. I say this during my stay in Argentina I met an aunt from my mother side, which that I didn’t know resided there prior to applying for the program. As I spent time with her, I experienced first hand the discrimination and negative identity (e.g. prostitutes) generally associate with Dominican women living in Constitucion, el barrio or the neighborhood in which she resided and where most Dominican folks were found. Discrimination not only based on physical appearance but also in the form of monetary expenses, was evident en el barrio and it become more clear when attempting to stop a cab out on the streets and realizing they would not stop if you looked like you didn’t have anything to pay them with. Human trafficking affects me in multiple aspects: as a student, a citizen, a traveler, a taxpayer and an immigrant from the Dominican Republic.

….but fortunately for me, I was not for sale.

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Volume 3 Issue 1

2011 The Welles Report Publication

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SUNY Geneseo: MiNTernational Relations publication

MiNTernational Meets The Welles Report

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