WASHINGTON – A dozen Mexican-born women who now live in El Paso, Texas, are staging a hunger strike in front of the White House to demand that development funds be allocated to the border zone.
The demonstrators, who belong to the grassroots organization La Mujer Obrera, nine days ago began a fast to call attention to the precarious situation in which many women live along the border, spokesperson Rubi Orozco told Efe.
“The border is the poorest area in the country, and along it only security policies are implemented. We need development based on communities and not more factories that seek cheap labor,” Orozco emphasized.
By means of sending letters to President Barack Obama and first lady Michelle Obama and meeting with congressmen and officials at federal agencies, the demonstrators are hoping to push a plan for the immediate investment of $1.5 million for the Southwest Regional Development Authority.
Though the SRDA was formally created by 2008 legislation, “they have never allocated funds to it, and it’s in danger of disappearing if it doesn’t have a budget before 2012,” Orozco said.
The group’s proposal is for the authorities to coordinate the economic aid directly to the organizations through public and private initiatives.
The women from El Paso, all of whom are affected directly or indirectly by the violence in neighboring Ciudad Juarez – Mexico’s murder capital – are part of a group of 35,000 workers who lost their jobs with the closing of companies after the enactment of the North American Free Trade Agreement in 1994.
Many of them found refuge in La Mujer Obrera, where they could learn a trade and help their community through small businesses, hunger striker Ana Gomez told Efe.
But the organization’s work has been frustrated by the “needs of school, work, health programs,” Rosalia Hernandez, another demonstrator, told Efe.
“We’re making this hunger strike so that the government will turn its eyes to our community,” Hernandez emphasized. “We need them to allocate funds to women’s organizations all along the frontier and not just to security, to making walls and weapons.”
That tendency of the government to focus on security strengthens the impression of the demonstrators that few resources are being dedicated to helping women in the region, whose living conditions are adversely affected in many cases by the activities associated with the war on drugs.
The women have not received any response from the White House, but they are not yet thinking about when they might end the hunger strike, which could lead to other forms of pressure on the government.
“This is just the beginning of a long struggle,” said Hernandez. EFE