By Manuel Roig-Franzia
Washington Post Foreign Service
Friday, November 16, 2007; Page A24
MEXICO CITY, Nov. 15 -- Plans to extend the U.S. fence along the Mexican border are "medieval" and would severely damage the environment, threatening hundreds of plant species and animals, such as Mexican gray wolves, black bears and jaguars, according to a Mexican government report released Thursday.
The 208-page report, which urges the U.S. Congressto seek alternative border protection measures, is the sternest reproach by the Mexican government over an issue that has increasingly divided two nations seeking cooperation in other areas, such as the drug war and commerce.
The environmental report compares the proposed border fence to the Berlin Wall and the Great Wall of China and alleges that it violates a 1983 conservation agreement signed by Presidents Ronald Reagan and Miguel de la Madrid. It also accuses the U.S. Congress of "legalizing the abuses against the environment" by exempting the Department of Homeland Security from environmental regulations.
"The irony of the situation is that DHS could have cooperated with environmental regulations and built a structure cheaper and quicker," according to the report, which was unveiled by Environment Minister Rafael Elvira Quesada.
A DHS spokeswoman did not return telephone calls seeking comment.
Last month, DHS Secretary Michael Chertoffsaid Congress had granted him authority to waive environmental laws in the interest of national security and build seven miles of border fence in Arizona. A federal judge had previously halted construction, saying the agency had not studied environmental impacts.
The tragedy of the wall is not only the result of chauvinism and the fear of foreigners in the U.S.," Exequiel Ezcurra of the San Diego Natural History Museum wrote in one of the chapters. "As long as there is so much poverty in Mexico's Deep South, the dream of cultural integration in North America will continue to be crushed by the reality of misery and inequity."