When educated people (in particular, ethnographers, writers, and political scientists) ask what is common to American and Russian mentalities, they often answer: the tendency towards the large scale. When in crisis, we without fail obtain the same “caliber” of huge, even in our overseas dreams and depression. The skilled hands of our journalists have applied this hypothesis to the contemporary realities of the USA.
A RESTLESS BORDER
Recently, Mexico voiced an official protest against the United States in connection to the American border patrol’s use of tear gas on illegal immigrants. As the head of the Mexican Ministry of Foreign Affairs stated, this does “not contribute to the climate of mutual constructivism and collaboration that must be prevalent in the actions of two countries wrestling against violence on the border regions.”
Mexico City wasn’t the first to appeal to Washington with indignant messages. A Mexican human rights organization counted six cases of the US border patrol using the gas in the last three months. One such incident victimized fifteen-year-old Christian Saldana. He received respiratory burns from the gas, after he threw stones at the border patrol attempting to detain a group of illegal immigrants in Mexico. The adolescent was sent to a local hospital.
The Mexican government voiced their dissatisfaction with such actions of the United States’ border patrol. At that, United States’ representatives declared that the dispersion of tear gas was a forced measure of self-defense, since stones, bottles and other objects are constantly thrown at the patrol from the Mexican side. Nevertheless Mexico called the dispersion of gas “unnecessary, unacceptable, and inappropriate.”
A video prevalent on the internet recorded a U.S. police truck bringing down an assumed illegal immigrant in a high speed chase. At this point a statement came out in which the Mexican authorities announced the arrest of the suspected murderer of American border patrol employee, Louise Agilar. The incident occurred on the U.S.-Mexican border when Agilar attempted to stop a 22-year-old Mexican citizen, Montesa, who was trying to illegally cross the border.
Elvira Arelyano, a Mexican living in the U.S. as an attorney representing the rights of immigrants, opposed Washington’s practice of setting up border outposts to imprison illegal immigrant workers and its active use of deportation. As a former illegal immigrant and activist for the movement Rights for Brothers and Sisters of Misfortune, she declared a hunger strike so that “the government would hear and protect the rights of the families of immigrants.” But few in the U.S. stood with her in her protest and supported her views on deportation. Thus, the voice of Señora Arelyano was not heard. It was precisely at this time that the Mexican border-state, Juarez, developed an ominous reputation due to mass murders of women in that area. Local human rights activists were no longer Arelyano’s colleagues as of the first day they called the government to put more effort into this investigation in order to establish who was guilty.
TERRORISM OR THE ECONOMY?
The United States’ attention to their southern border increased after the well-known and tragic event on September 11, 2001, when for the first time America became the victim of a major terrorist attack. According to the United States Federal Bureau of Investigation, Adnan Shukrijumah, Osama Bin Laden’s emissary, was near the Mexican-American border in October of 2004. They assume that this apprentice to America’s public enemy number one was preparing groups of saboteurs to go to America. At this time, the United States strengthened their border control. As a result they were able to detain four Arabs who were trying to cross over from Mexico into Arizona. The inspectors worked very actively with these men, but didn’t publicize the results of their investigation. The American media also tells us that twenty-five Chechen fighters equipped with backpacks full of supplies penetrated into the Arizonan border from Mexico in June 2005.
However, some columnists attribute the recent increase in America’s activity in the “border war” to a different factor, the economy. In January of 2007, the Mexican petroleum corporation, Pemex, announced a cutback of crude oil to be delivered to the U.S. In the next four years, the company intends on shipping 150,000 fewer barrels daily than it previously did. But, in the last two years the export will be reduced to 500,000 barrels per day. Mexico City’s decision was caused by the exhaustion of Mexico’s oil, especially in the Cantarel region, where 60% of the county’s oil is found.
It seems that America, on the one hand, calls Mexico its important economic partner, while on the other hand, makes a fence to keep Mexico away. They do this not only figuratively, but literally. Washington accepted the construction proposal to erect a large wall on the Mexican-American border to contain the constant influx of illegal immigrants.
Not only that, but to assuage their northern neighbors, Mexican leader denied Lopez Obrador, a Mexican politician, the chance to become President of Mexico due to pressure from the White House. Furthermore, Mexico argued with Venezuela over its strong support of Guatemala as the U.S. candidate for the Latin American nonpermanent UN Security Council seat.
CONSEQUENCES OF THE REINFORCEMENT
Mexico’s support did not help. In October 25, 2006, George Bush signed a bill that will extend a new barrier on the Mexican border that will expand over one thousand kilometers. The U.S. administration invested 1.2 billion dollars in this project.
Vicente Fox, the head of the Mexican State at the time, very harshly criticized the decision of the American President. According to Fox, the barrier will not stop the millions of Mexicans migrating north in search of work. Fox’s successor, Felipe Calderon, replaced Fox in the Mexican presidential office on December 1, 2006. Calderon agreed with his predecessor saying “mankind made a great mistake by erecting the Berlin Wall, and I am convinced that today, America makes a great mistake by erecting a wall along our northern border.”
However, the expansion of border precautions by the Americans has led to unexpected consequences for U.S. authorities. A number of the “uncorruptible” border servicemen, were, in fact corrupt. A border serviceman of ten years was sentenced to three years in prison for aiding smugglers. This serviceman bartered with smugglers and illegal immigrants for his “protection” services on the Mexican-American border. Moreover, he helped more than 100 immigrants illegally enter the U.S. for money. Although, he did not have enough time to get rich off of this illegal enterprise, he did earn fifteen thousand dollars and the 3 year sentence. 15 years behind bars is standard for a crime of this size.
But let us return to the more than one thousand kilometer Great Wall of America. President George Bush proposed building radar towers to help protect parts of the Mexican border. However, it seems the construction of such buildings would all but send America to the poorhouse by costing an additional hundred million dollars. Therefore “Bush’s Border Program” has been set back. The representatives of the U.S. Ministry of Defense who are responsible for the project say that it is being postponed to technical reasons.
No matter how it is built, the wall is causing harsh protests from America’s southern neighbor. Particularly from the Mexican Environment Ministry who think this “obstacle course” will cause irreparable damage to the ecosystem surrounding the border. Since this artificial obstacle is equipped with high-tech tracking system and powerful searchlights, it is quite capable of hurting the animal population that inhabits the land around the border (particularly the jaguars and the pronghorn antelope). Furthermore the searchlights will be harmful to much of the local, nocturnal wildlife. For this reason Mexico City proposes that Washington use a more environmentally friendly alternative, like making a wall out of cacti and place it in a “wilderness corridor.” Animals would be able to able to migrate and it would be sufficiently difficult for people to go across the “corridor.”
Meanwhile, the situation on the border remains unsettled. Mexico is frequently and increasingly agitated at the brutal treatment of its citizens who try to cross the border. Furthermore, the Mexican law enforcement agency has introduced a new prosecution position. Its specialty is investigating and preventing border crimes, such as murder, illegal transportation and exploitation of immigrants, including children–crimes which occur consistently on the border and the near-border area.