Washington Meddles in Mexico´s Granting of Travel Visas
Fox, Bush, and Discrimination in Cancún
By Luis Gómez
Narco News Andean Bureau Chief
September 19, 2003
“Mexican president Vicente Fox’s submission to the imposed policies of the United States is an embarrassment” says Bolivian congressman and coca growers’ leader Evo Morales. Here in the “nation of agreements” (as the president called it during the recent Independence Day celebrations), the immigration policy stinks, and it smells like Bush. The latest example, of course, was the recent meeting of the World Trade Organization (WTO) in Cancún, at which the authorities prohibited the presence of dozens of popular leaders from around the world. Many people, both inside and outside Mexico, believed that this had been at the imposition of the US government. Were they right?
But before solving this curious enigma, kind readers, it’s worth remembering that the current Mexican president had a cowboy (a kind of hired PR gun) on the payroll for several years. This US citizen – Rob Allyn of Dallas, Texas – comes and goes doing his work as an advisor to Vicente Fox… with a tourist visa. In other words, he doesn’t follow the rules for lending his professional services inside Mexico, and is in clear violation of Article 33 of the Mexican Constitution, which prohibits foreigners from meddling in electoral politics.
Not to mention that for years, Allyn, as reported in Narco News at the time, worked for Fox and his political allies in secret, openly violating Mexican electoral law during the 2000 election which brought Fox to power.
So take note, kind readers: Rob Allyn works for Viciente Fox on a tourist visa. For now, we’re going to review a curious bilateral relationship in immigration policy.
The “Intelligence” Border
In August of 1997, this reporter accompanied a couple of Bolivian friends to apply for tourist visas at the Mexican embassy in La Paz, Bolivia. Out of curiosity more than anything else, he asked the head of the Foreign Office – Marco Antonio Rodríguez, a man said to have been a member of military intelligence – why the requirements for a Mexican tourist visa were so complicated (i.e., a plane ticket with a return flight, three months of bank statements showing a consistent balance of over $2,000 US dollars… among other requirements).
Rodríguez’s explanation, as my Bolivian friend can attest to, was that “many Bolivians” had taken advantage of the ease of entry into Mexico with a tourist visa to then cross the US border. “The gringos protested,” and the requirements for entering Mexico had become considerably tougher; not just for Bolivians, but also, for example, for Colombians (nothing is coincidence, right, kind readers?). It is also worth remembering all the setbacks that befell Laura Del Castillo Matamoros, Colombian student at the Narco News School of Authentic Journalism when, invited by the Autonomous University of Yucatán in Mérida las February, she sought her travel visa.
Del Castillo, in her article “The Rooster’s Crow, or, The Struggle for a Visa” (Spanish only), recounted: “One must demonstrate economic solvency. Aside from the passport, photograph, and application, I have to attach my last three bank statements, plus a proof of employment that says I make more than US$1,000.” After wondering about the difference between those Colombian immigrants who cross the US border illegally and those who, with total luxury, go to that country to commit “illegal acts obscured by silk and good manners,” Del Castillo labeled this discrimination as a “strange xenophobia.”
Xenophobia or repression, submission to the gringos or security policy – whatever it is, we must look a little farther back in time. How about we take a look at George Bush’s visit to Monterrey in March of last year?
On March 21, 2002, the US embassy published a pamphlet detailing the 22 points in the “U.S.-Mexico Border Partnership Action Plan.” The document, signed by Bush and Vicente Fox, noted the creation of a “intelligent” border to reduce the flow of illegal immigration, of both people and goods, into the United States.
The plan, in point 12 (“Visa Policy Consultations”) in its chapter on “Secure flow of people,” says:
Continue frequent consultations on visa policies and visa-screening procedures. Share information from respective consular databases.
Pardon? What was that? Sharing consular information? So if, for example, Rafael Alegría, Honduran leader of the Vía Campesina
(“Farmers’ Path”) organization, goes to the Mexican embassy in Tegucigalpa, fills out his application and presents the documents to obtain a Mexican visa, handing over his private address, telephone number, and other personal information, the gentlemen at the US
State Department can access that data.
But the matter doesn’t end there. In Bush and Fox’s action plan it says in that same chapter on the secure flow of people (this reporter would ask, secure for whom?), in point 15 (“Screening of Third-Country Nationals”):
Enhance cooperative efforts to detect, screen, and take appropriate measures to deal with potentially dangerous third-country nationals, taking into consideration the threats they may represent to security.
Yes, you read that correctly: every “potentially dangerous” citizen of a third country will be detected and investigated, and “appropriate measures” will be taken. In other words, if, for example, Blanca Chancoso, leader of the Ecuadorian Confederation of Indigenous Nationalities (CONAIE, in its Spanish initials), were “detected,” she would be “investigated,” and, once she had landed in Mexico City – thanks to this plan and the current extradition treaty – could be deported to the Guantánamo Bay military base, the prison of choice for prisoners of the Bush administration.
What a great treaty, President Fox. Now, a country with a century-long tradition of offering asylum, of fraternity and respect for the ideas of its political refugees, can quietly ask for information from its visitors (which used to be completely confidential and restricted to use by the Mexican immigration authorities) to pass on to Colin Powell’s troops. Free political intelligence – is that your government’s idea of an “intelligent border”?
In a report published in the Topeka Capital-Journal, Adalberto Hernández Ponce, director of the Puerto Vallarta immigration office on the Pacific coast, confirmed that the Mexican authorities receive US cooperation to “prevent criminals entering Mexico.” Well, the plan is in effect – it’s just that the definition of who exactly is a criminal comes from Washington. (Are we all Bin Laden, Mr. Bush?)
Of course, no immigration document or official Mexican visa application explains to the oblivious traveler that the requested data could fall into the hands of some gringo bureaucrat, and that instead of a tourist or human rights observer, he or she could wind up labeled a terrorist or narco-trafficker by the US empire.
The Mexican Government’s “Black List”
Political exiles and social fighters from Latin American and around the world have spent their exile in Mexico since the 19th century. But thanks to Fox and Bush’s immigration plan, José Martí – who coined the phrase “Our América” in his brilliant 1891 essay – today would be unable to continue his struggle for Cuban independence. Nor could Ernesto Che Guevara, Fidel Castro, and others, have organized their invasion that eventually toppled the dictatorship, which had made Havana into a casino and brothel for US gangsters. And that’s not to mention the exiles from the Argentine, Chilean, Brazilian, Uruguayan, Bolivian, Salvadoran, Palestinian, Spanish and other dictatorships who received UN refugee status in Mexico.
What’s more, not one of these exiles could even set foot on Mexican territory. Now, according to an article published in the Mexican daily newspaper Reforma on August 18, they would be part of the “black list” of global activists and political leaders who, because of the “danger” they represent, would be denied entry into Mexico.
A “national security document” to which Reforma had access listed a series of WTO critics whose presence was expected in Cancún during the organization’s ministerial meeting. Making references to their political and social activities, the government’s “black list” labeled popular political leaders as “passives,” “moderates,” and “ultras.” Noam Chomsky and Naomi Klein as well as Ralph Nader, Rafael Alegría, Jose Bové, and Ignacio Ramonet, editor of the French newspaper Le Monde Diplomátique, are all labeled “ultras” – even a representative from the Cuban National Assembly is on the “ultra” list.
In fact, several people mentioned on the list, such as Evo Morales and Blanca Chacoso, did not attend the Cancún protests, and denounced the list as part of a campaign of repression on the part of the US and Mexico.
Chancoso, one of central figures of CONAIE in Ecuador, wrote to Narco News:
“The list is a creation of the terrorist Mr. Bush, who is trying to instill a sense of fear in human rights defenders, to silence us so that he might have a free path for his intentions to make us a colony and/or seize our wealth, denying us the right to hope and to life.”
For his part, Evo, the cocalero and Bolivian congressman, told us:
“We are not afraid of the yankees’ veto, or that they might deny us a visa to their country. What is really unacceptable is that this happens in one’s own continent, between peoples who have historically been united not only by language, culture and religion, but by revolutionary processes.”
What are the Fox and Bush administrations afraid of? That, armed with bandanas, flashlights, and banners, demonstrators from Cancún will cross the border and take Los Angeles, Dallas, New York, or Bush’s house on Texas? Do they imagine Ignacio Ramonet taking over the New York Times
, or the Vía Campesina
leaders burning the subsidized agricultural fields of the US? What are they afraid of?
Derbez and the Law
On September 2, Mexican Foreign Affairs Secretary Luis Ernesto Derbez made an official visit to the United States. According to another article in Reforma, Derbez went for essentially two reasons: to get an immigration treaty favoring Mexicans based in the US signed, and to “hammer out the details” for the WTO meeting.
What details? Just after that trip, according to the Environmental News Network, the Mexican government began “charging representatives of WTO-accredited nongovernmental organizations US$99 for a visalike document, a sum that will make it difficult for some organizations to be represented.”
And it was then, with the WTO meeting imminent, that the hostilities began towards demonstrators, alternative journalists, and even members of the European Parliament invited to the protests against the badly named “free trade” meeting, as reported in Reforma on Sepember 6.
At a press conference on September 8, Santiago Creel, the Mexican Seceretary of the Interior, swore that “freedom of expression and freedom of demonstration” would be respected, and that the Fox administration would make “the law meaningful.” However, at the same time, he confessed that a dynamic “exchange of information with US, Canadian and European intellegence agencies” was going on. However, despite these injustices, Creel claimed that visa applications “have been open for practically everyone who has requested them” and that “there are no restrictions in that sense.”
On the one hand, kind readers, we have facts (denial of visas to the “ultras,” charging excessively for the paperwork, and sharing information with the US), and on the other hand we have words from Vicente Fox’s top functionaries – and the two don’t agree.
This reporter, a Mexican by birth and a Latin American by birthright, hopes that in the future he won’t be prevented from entering his country, considered a “criminal,” “terrorist,” or “dangerous person” according to the aggressive “US-Mexico Border Partnership Action Plan.” (President Fox, why not, in the name of “free trade” and your well-known submission to US-imposed policy, put us all under the control of the Patriot Act? Or have you been thinking about how to unite us with the gringos since you were the chief of Coca-Cola in Mexico?)
Is this, as Evo Morales said, simply “an embarrassment”? Or something worse? As Blanca Chancoso said, speaking for the majority of the citizens of the world, threatened by the impositions of the US and other powerful economies:
“They have always persecuted us, jailed or killed us using many made-up justifications, and today they accuse us of being terrorists or narco-traffickers. Just like always, they think of themselves as above us.”
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