Subcommander Marcos crosses into USA!

Continuing on his tour of Mexico's north, Zapatista Subcommander Marcos stopped in Sonoyta (the Sonora border town across from Lukeville, AZ), where his caravan drove into the desert and stopped at the fence demarcating the international border, where signs warned "Prohibited to cross the line." There, he got out of his minivan and purposefully hopped the fence, spending some two minutes on the northern side of the frontier.

The caravan then proceeded to the desert village of Magdalena de Kino, where Marcos met with the traditional authorities of the Tohono O'odham (Papago) indigenous people, whose territory is intersected by the international line. Tohono O'odham governor Jose Garcia Lewis presided at the event.

Eugenio Elorduy Walther, the conservative PAN governor of neighboring Baja California, publicly expressed releif that Marcos had left his state. But Marcos pledged that in 2007 the Zapatistas will establish a camp in Baja California near the US border to support the right of the local Cucapa indigenous people to fish in the delta of the Colorado River, which Baja state authorities now prohibit. (La Jornada, Oct. 22 via Chiapas95)

See our last posts on Mexico, the Zapatista tour and the struggle for the border. See also our last post on the Tohono O'odham .

Against the wall

Talli Nauman writes for El Universal, Oct. 23:

The Green Line: Border fence deserves conservationists’ cold shoulder

The concept of a fence on the line that joins the United States and Mexico is a chicken-hearted response by weak-kneed U.S. elected representatives who do not care about resolving migration conflicts. Ever since I started writing analysis about migration 20 years ago, it’s been the same old story. Actually, it’s been the same old story for more than a century — since before I was born, FYI. It’s implications for the environment haven’t changed either. So here we go again, sigh.

On Sept. 30, the U.S. Congress authorized a payout for two parallel fences to close 700 miles, or nearly one-third, of the entire U.S.-Mexico border. In the first week of October, U.S. President George W. Bush went down in history for signing the appropriations bill for US$1.2 billion worth of otherwise perfectly good taxpayers’ money for the potentially fatal measure.

The 15-foot tall fantasy with flood lights, farcically ordained to stop undocumented migrants, would choke the life — wild and otherwise — out of a 200-mile corridor of one of North America’s most important boundary waters, the Rio Grande, aka Rio Bravo.

That is from its east end at Brownsville, Texas (across the line from Matamoros, Tamaulipas), to Laredo, Texas (across the border from Nuevo Laredo, Tamaulipas). The barricade also would rip through part of New Mexico north of Chihuahua state and 300 miles of deserts and mountains between Douglas, Arizona and Calexico, California, across the boundary from Sonora and Baja California states.

Maybe the legislators think that is a small price to pay in order to reach a vote on the thorny migration bill in time to go home and campaign for November elections. Maybe the president thought he could really make his mark on his home state of Texas with a barrier built in memory of his second term in the highest office of his land.

Whatever the case, the wise cracks about this folly flew thick and fast, long before the ratification. After all, who did you think would take the jobs building that fence? Certainly not the very people it was supposed to keep out of the United States. The same generation of officials that advocated opening the Iron Curtain now have voted for a new Berlin Wall on their domestic soil.

How any lawmaker can get himself or his party pick elected to the next term after that activity is beyond me. Earlier fencing — amounting to something less than 100 miles starting at the West Coast border-crossing of Tijuana-San Diego — never staunched illegal migration. It only changed the migration routes.

On the other hand, the Tortilla Curtain, as it was dubbed, did wreak havoc with shared ecosystems along the border, which the North American Commission for Environmental Cooperation was set up to protect from the ravages of free trade and commercial integration promoted by Washington and Mexico City over the past several decades.

Just for example: Endangered jaguar and black bear populations will recede, after private ranchers and public parks spent years helping them recover with cross border conservation areas. Tourism, bird watching, boating, and other sports that depend on wet and wild lands refuges will go down the drain.

How is it possible to dedicate megabucks to making the border’s biological situation worse instead of to cleaning up shared binational water sheds, air sheds, and landscapes to improve the habitat for humans and other living things?

The Mexican border states of Sonora and Coahuila have the country’s worst air pollution from power plants, while the border state of Nuevo Leon has its worst atmospheric contamination due to refineries. Will the border fence stop the smog and its health effects from entering adjacent U.S. states?

With border security being the issue of the day and the name on the funding bill that mandates the fence, aren’t safe air, water, and toxics-free land more of a priority for public spending than a Great Wall?

The answers are already in the writing on the proverbial wall.

The good news is that the legislation allows the administration to redirect the funding from the wall to the Homeland Security Department’s pet project of a virtual fence, or to other infrastructure, roads and technology at the border. Little do most people know that the Senate and the House agreed i