MEXICO CITY—A spokesman for Mexican President Vicente Fox said Fox accepts President Bush's promise that he will not militarize the border by deploying the National Guard there, but others in Mexico warned that the plan could cause harm and increase hostility.
The governor of border state Chihuahua, which includes Ciudad Juarez, called it an abrupt measure that would increase the physical and emotional risk to people who are merely seeking opportunity.
While the military may be effective in stopping the flow of drugs and other illegal goods, "who will guarantee that the military on the other side of the border will treat the immigrants with dignity?" Gov. Jose Reyes Baeza said in a radio interview Monday morning. "This does not only put them at risk, it puts the good bi-national relationship between Mexico and the United States at risk."
The plan will increase hostility between the two countries and provoke human rights violations by the United States on the Mexican border, said Jorge Bustamante, sociology professor at El Colegio de la Frontera Norte, a Mexican academic institution devoted to the study of the Mexican-U.S. border, and at the University of Notre Dame in the United States.
"This is on top of deaths at the border provoked by Operation Gatekeeper," said Bustamante, referring to a 1995 federal government strategy to crack down on popular crossing points in San Diego that drove immigrants to more remote and dangerous passages. "If Operation Gatekeeper produced deaths, this is no remedy ... and it's something that I, as United Nations special rapporteur on the rights of migrants, have to denounce."
Fox spokesman Ruben Aguilar told reporters Monday that Fox and Bush agree that the immigration situation isn't a police problem but one that requires a comprehensive solution worked out by both countries that will be "legal, orderly and respectful of human rights."
The two spoke for 30 minutes on Sunday when Fox called Bush with concerns about the proposal, which he read about in the press. According to the Fox administration's description of the phone call, Bush said he's only considering the use of the National Guard as administrative and logistical backup to the Border Patrol, not as a military force.
Aguilar described the conversation as "very smooth, one filled with agreement and consensus between the two presidents, and President Bush told President Fox that he considers Mexico an associate and a friend."
When pressed on whether Fox was satisfied with Bush's explanation, Aguilar said, "We can't intervene in the decisions of the United States."
Other border state governors were unavailable or declined comment Monday. But Reyes said the government of Mexico should provide a united front on its position with the United States.
"We must be firm, together, united in our position against anything that would hurt, harm or put at risk the physical safety, lives or integrity of our countrymen crossing the border," he said.
(Corcoran reports for the San Jose Mercury News.)
(c) 2006, Knight Ridder/Tribune Information Services.
GRAPHIC (from KRT Graphics, 202-383-6064): 20050515 BUSH border
Need to map