Thursday, September 16, 2010

Mexico's wall

Mexico is building a wall along part of its border with Guatemala.  From IPS:

According to the head of customs for Mexico's tax administration, Raúl Díaz, in order to stop boats carrying contraband, the southern Mexican state of Chiapas is building a wall along the border river Suchiate, similar to the one the United States is building along its southern border with Mexico. 

"It could also prevent the free passage of illegal immigrants," admitted the Mexican official. 

The irony here should be obvious.  It is unfortunate that Mexico is copying the United States even while it also criticizes what it copies.  Here is President Felipe Calderón in 2006:

Mr Calderon said he deplored the move because "the fence doesn't resolve anything".
"Humanity committed a grave mistake in building the Berlin Wall," he said.
"I'm sure that the United States is committing a grave mistake in building this fence." Outgoing Mexican President Vicente Fox called the plans "shameful".
 That assessment remains accurate for both the United States and Mexico.


Mike Allison 10:39 AM  

Well, Mexico doesn't have the best reputation for its treatment of Central American migrants. Recently, several migrants have complained about police shakedowns in Mexico.

While most Central American leaders called on Mexico to protect their citizens following the recent massacre, they blamed the US (or the cartel) for the deaths. I can't see how building a wall that will in all likelihood be ineffective is in Mexico's interest.

leftside 6:41 PM  

It should be made clear that this is the State of Chipas supposedly building a wall, not the Federal Government of Mexico. And without any more information about the wall (how high, how long, what type, etc.) it is hard to draw comparisions to the US-Mexico wall.

Anonymous,  7:45 PM  

NO... the comparisons are quite apt. Leftside, you are telling us that in a federal system such as Mexico where the national government has much greater authority (and the executive in particular), Calderon can have it both ways. Chiapas, of course, may have the right to build the fence just as the US does. However, what is Calderon's government demanding of the US Congress and President Obama with regard to the Arizona law? Leftside, the only thing that is clear is that you are reflexively tied to whatever position reflects negatively on the US. If a border fence is an ineffective and inhumane solution (bad policy), then it is bad policy in both countries. Same problems. Same bad solutions.

leftside 8:51 PM  

Anon, I made no judgement on the wall. I only made a clarification. How this somehow was said to make the US look bad is beyond me...

But unless you can show me that the central Mexican Government has the lawful right to take down a wall that the State of Chiapas is building, all you've done is speculate. In the US, Federal Law mandates that immigration is the Feds business. Does Mexico have the same law? If so, please let us know. If not, your speculation about Mexico's Federal-State power structure is just that.

The implication of your and Greg's comments is that Calderon is a hypocrite, which he very well may be on many levels. But I happen to doubt whether he would be this much of a hypocrite on this issue. But until someone can actually prove that Calderon could do something about the wall but he refuses do, I will keep my doubts about this "Mexico does the same thing" theory (often used by the right, to justify our own abusive practices).

Greg Weeks 9:13 PM  

The idea that federalism trumps human rights is not something I would have expected from Leftside because the argument is very Jesse Helms.

leftside 12:29 AM  

Greg, AGAIN, I made no judgment on the wall or the merits of Federalism vis a vis human rights. I asked someone to show me that Calderon could legally order a State Government to tear down a wall. Otherwise, the point about Calderon's hypocrisy is moot. You scolded "Mexico" when you should be blaming a State. Would you like it if Mexican bloggers chastised America for Arizona's racist policy?

I will make the point I've made before and that is that unfettered labor movement (like unfettered capital movement) poses significant problems and that politicians ignore this at their peril. I don't think walls are the answer, by the way, in all but the most extreme circumstances. But it sounds like Chiapas - the poorest state in Mexico - is being asked to shoulder the concentrated burden of being the only entry point into Mexico. Poor countries can't always post thousands of troops along the border, or introduce some hi-tech solution - "solutions" that are somehow seem as fine by most human rights groups but have the same result as walls.

Anonymous,  8:34 AM  

OK Lefty--

The National Congress has the power to legislate over all issues of migration, citizenship etc...(Art. 73, XVI)

The President of the Federal Republic is vested with the diplomatic powers, foreign policy powers, national defense and upholding laws (Art. III, 89, VI-XIII)

States are prohibited from levying duties on goods or persons on international boundaries (117, III, V)

Of course I would just recommend you read Enrique Krauze's history of the Mexican presidency and I think you will get the picture. The President of Mexico by tradition will have a decisive role on Mexico's decision with regard to policy on the border. Last week his minister for this issue resigned due to the massacre of 75 immigrants. Calderon may very well act as you have suggested, I hope so, but you are being disingenuous and it is tiresome. When you demand more context about the wall (height, length and type) you are offering specious arguments. You characterize those who disagree as speculating. In a later post you say you are only demanding clarification. No, you are taking a position (federalism may be very important in Mexico) that reflects a viewpoint substantively defending a bad practice (who has the authority?) and is implicitly critical of the US decision to build a wall (height, length and type?). At the end you posit that it may be OK for poor countries to do this sort of thing (e.g. as you have defended Cuba's emigration policy supported by its natural wall). Rich or poor does not matter. Either the Universal Declaration of Human Rights is the signpost on this issue or not.

Jose Angel 3:20 PM  

President Calderon has got to speak against the border the US is building along the wall, if he had failed to do so he would have risked looking like a puppet of the US here in Mexico. But it is a fact that he is not doing anything to stop the wall, he didn´t lobby or anything like that to try to prevent it. He just spoke publicly against it. All politicians do that here and in the US too all the time. Speak against something because it is politically correct to do so even if you don´t agree with it.
President Calderon comes from a conservative party but he has to deal with a Mexican congress dominated by a centre-left party, the PRI and with strong presence of left radical parties like the PRD, PT and Convergencia. So he has got to walk a fine line.

Because of the US wall and the reinforcement of the border, hundreds of thousands of central and south americans are getting stranded in north Mexico, the cartels are killing some of them, blackmailing others, recruiting others. Mexico has got to stop the flow of central and south american inmigrants at our southern borders, more than 400 thousand central and south americans cross our territories in route to the US. Last year Mexico deported some 200 thousand central and south americans. This is indeed a regional problem. If the US is going to control the border then we need to do the same otherwise we will never finish bringing back order to the border towns of Mexico.

Justin Delacour 12:09 PM  

Below is a fascinating 17-minute program about the dangers facing Central American migrants as they travel through Mexico to get to the United States.

Jose Angel 6:23 PM  


The video is quite a piece, Laurance and Mathieu came to Mexico and reported a black and white picture of the goods victimized by the bad ones, they were able to travel along with the central Americans and nothing happened to them. Many journalists have done the same, nobody molested them, no authority molested them, although they claim that all the Mexican authorities are corrupted, which is not true and they painted a sad picture of poor, honest central and south Americans passing through our territories and falling victims of the zetas while nobody helps them. That is not true.

They didn´t interview anyone in those towns they passed by, not a single Mexican living in those places to see what they think, they claim they live in fear, that is not true, we have authorities and Mexico´s police is cracking down on zetas. They didn´t report also the many towns where Mexicans offer food to those poor central Americans when they pass by in the train, Mexican people actually wrap the food and throws the food and water at them as the train passes, this is very common in many towns and they don´t mention that. How do they survive all the way to the north without food and ¨water? the journalists claim that none wanted to talk to them or to help them, which is not true, there are many Mexicans helping those poor central Americans too, in the video you can see how the reporters, Laurance and Mathieu talked to Mexicans who are organized to provide shelter and food to those immigrants passing through Mexico. The shelter they visited is one in many, hundreds of shelters where Mexican volunteers working for Mexican Charitable organizations help the migrants with food, roof and medical services too.

And there are also shelters sponsored by the Mexican red cross and many Mexican organizations including state and municipal governments through Veracruz, Tamaulipas, Tabasco, Saltillo and many other Mexican towns. I wish the Americans had shelters at least for our Mexican illegal immigrants, our Mexicans die in the arizona deserts and sleep in the cold under bridges in american cities. Laurence and Matheiu failed to report that there are also central american criminals traveling along with them, mostly mara salvatruchas, or MS13. One of the central americans interviewed actually stated that fact. Our police forces in Mexico have cought thousands of maras crossing Mexico with drugs and smuggling weapons and illegal aliens to the US too.

They also failed to mention that while it is true that hundreds, or thousands of central Americans have been victims of some kind of crime like kidnapping or violence, it is also true that more than 400 hundred thousands central and south Americans travel through our territories each year and most of the make it to the border safely and many others detained by our immigration officers and sent back to their countries safely. Last year Mexico deported 200 thousand central and south american inmigrants, they got home safe.

I know Central Americans go through hardships as they travel across Mexico, Mexicans go through hardships too as they travel across the US. But I would like to see some more objective reporting.

leftside 5:26 PM  

I appreciate your effort Anon. It appears the Mexican Government is saying the wall is for contraband and not for migrants. I'd still argue without details on the wall - how its construted, its height, how long, ect. - we can not say whether the Mexican authorities are operating in good faith or being hypocritical.

Finally, I would again argue that the rich countries of the world must be held to a higher standard on human rights than poor. This just stands to reason as poverty is the #1 denier or human rights and dignity in the world. Also, because many expensive modalities are available to rich countries that are not available to poor.

Anonymous,  8:28 AM  

Your link indicates that the wall is to protect 200 neighboring families from floods. The use of a wall to impede trade in contraband would clearly be a federal responsibility.

leftside 1:29 PM  

Shame on me for not reading my own link thoroughly. I thought I saw the word for contraband in their somewhere, but my Spanish is still not so good.

But yes, this article clarifies that the wall is actually only 1200 meters. This is why I was asking for details. This small of a wall is clearly not for migrants - it is a flood wall. Unless there is another wall being talked about...

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