Where is Mexico in war on terror? By RUBEN NAVARRETTE

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Where is Mexico in war on terror? 09/28/2001

By RUBEN NAVARRETTE / The Dallas Morning News

Where is Mexico? The question is less about a country's place on a map than its place in the world.

Before Sept. 11, Mexican President Vicente Fox challenged the United States to sign an immigration accord by the end of this year. I wrote that President Bush who had made much of his friendship with Mr. Fox ought to put up or shut up.

Since then, horrifying events in the United States have the nations of the world choosing sides. And now, it is Mexico's turn to put up or shut up.

The sidelines are no place for friends or neighbors. Now is the time for Mexicans our friends and neighbors to stand up and be counted in this global assault on terrorism.

The international coalition being assembled for "Operation Enduring Freedom" includes Russia, China and Saudi Arabia. Japan, whose post-World War II constitution prohibits military intervention in foreign conflicts, has promised aircraft mechanics. And Canada has been by our side since hour one when diverted U.S. planes were rerouted to Canadian airports.

But where, oh where, is Mexico?

I will tell you. It is paralyzed by the internal debate that Americans didn't have didn't need to have between entering the fray and staying out.

Count Mr. Fox in sort of. The Mexican president waited until the Saturday after the attacks during his weekly radio address to make the case to a skeptical public that the Americans' fight was Mexico's fight. The attacks, Mr. Fox noted, were against all humanity, and all humanity needed to respond. Just this week, he offered Mexico's "unconditional" support on the condition that civilian lives be spared and that the military action be "legal."

Mr. Fox hasn't committed military aid. And no wonder. A recent poll by a Mexico City newspaper found that 62 percent of Mexicans believe Mexico should stay neutral. When Mexican Foreign Minister Jorge Castaneda acknowledged the United States' right to retaliate, leftists in the Mexican Congress accused him of advocating intervention and demanded his resignation.

Some Mexicans even dared to suggest that the United States brought the attack on itself by sticking its nose into the affairs of other countries, including presumably Mexico. What was that? When it comes to Mexican immigrants residing in the United States, Mexico most certainly doesn't mind its own business.

Buried and presumed dead in the rubble of the World Trade Center are at least 500 Mexicans who were working there on Sept. 11. Will Mexico help avenge their deaths? Will it aid their survivors?

Mexico can do more. It can reaffirm its commitment to the Rio Pact. Signed in 1947 with the United States and 18 other Latin American countries, the treaty describes an attack on one as an attack on all and requires participating nations to use their armed forces in defense of one another.

And now that it seems possible that the porous Mexican border could be an escape route for terrorists fleeing the United States, Mr. Fox should mobilize the 157 agents of Grupo Beta Mexico's border brigade to report suspicious activity on the Mexican side.

America will remember who stood by her and who just stood by. If Mexico yields to its isolationist leanings and hides under its bed, Americans will conclude that Mr. Fox's talk of reform is empty rhetoric and that the new Mexico is no different from the old.

In pleading his case to the Mexican people, Mr. Fox should point to the bravery of their children in the United States. Flush with patriotism for their adopted country, many Mexican immigrants are indeed acting like "heroes." A military recruiter in Dallas tells me that Mexican nationals some with military experience back home are trying to enlist.

Others are joining other immigrants across the country in raising thousands of dollars for relief efforts. Whether here legally or not, they grasp the obvious: An attack on the country you inhabit is an attack on you. And they are ready to fight.

And so it is that those who fled Mexico with little or nothing apparently have a firmer understanding of concepts like bravery and responsibility than many of those who stayed behind.

Ruben Navarrette Jr. is an editorial writer and columnist for The Dallas Morning News.

-- K (infosurf@yahoo.com), September 28, 2001


". . . it seems possible that the porous Mexican border could be an escape route for terrorists fleeing the United States. . . ."

It seems even more probable - and far more serious - that the porous Mexican border will be an entry route for new terrorists entering the United States.

Bush may have arguably gone too far in declaring to all nations, "Either you support this war or you're our enemy, there's no being neutral." But the case that this may be applied to Mexico is far stronger than for non-neigboring countries; since terrorists can enter only by air or boat. For this reason, Mexico has reason to fear a direct U. S. invasion. It could happen if a major terrorist disaster hits, that is traceable to terrorists entering by land through Mexico.

-- Robert Riggs (rxr.999@worldnet.att.net), September 29, 2001.

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