18 July 2007

The Case of Victor Toro:
Uncle Sam picks up where Pinochet left Off

While hardly surprising, the news that on 6 July child pornographers working in Uncle Sam's Department of Homeland Security had torn long-time community organizer Victor Toro from his seat on a passenger train and arrested him on trumped-up 'immigration' charges serves as a depressing reminder of the direction in which the struggle for immigrant rights has moved.

In his piece on Toro in the New York Times, Anthony Ramirez summarizes his political 'odyssey' of nearly 40 years.
It began in the 1970s when he was a political prisoner in the jails of Gen. Augusto Pinochet in Chile, veered for a time into Europe and Mexico, then into New York City, where he became known for more than two decades of community and political activism...

When he was a left-wing political activist, General Pinochet’s regime tortured him after the coup that toppled Salvador Allende on Sept. 11, 1973, he said.

Both he and Nieves Ayress, now 56, who later became his wife, have said they had electrodes attached to their genitals in Chilean jails.
As a dutiful New York Times propagandist, Ramirez avoids any mention of Uncle Sam's complicity in the rampant torture carried out during the Pinochet dictatorship. He continues:
In 1976, he fled Chile... For years, Mr. Toro went from country to country, finding himself at last in Mexico.

In 1984, he... crossed the border into the United States at El Paso, settling later in the Bronx....

Mr. Toro and Ms. Ayress... started Vamos a la Peña del Bronx in 1987, a storefront group that provided clothing and food for poor people, help with immigrants’ problems, shelter for battered women and health education for those who were H.I.V. positive.

In 1998, the group won an award and a $50,000 grant from Union Square Awards in Manhattan for community service. “We were looking for groups that were operating on pure passion but who had no economic resources,” said Iris Morales, director of the philanthropy.
Once DHS saw the grave and gathering threat posed by the longtime homeless advocate and AIDS activist, they took action. Bang-up work, fellas!

Last week, Toro posted bail but the charges remain and deportation still looms.

Declared dead by the government of Chile and under attack by Uncle Sam here on the Plantation, the next step for Toro is unclear. Thanks to his work in The Struggle, he has many comrades on whom he can rely. But one mustn't harbor illusions that this support will make a request to Uncle Sam for asylum more likely to be granted. If anything, the opposite may be true. His popularity in the community has grown out of his anti-imperialist politics, and just as the decision to torture Toro in the 1970s ultimately rested with Uncle Sam, so too does the decision to torture him by other means today.

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