Cain's Electrified-Fence Comment Raises Concern in Mexico
While Mexico is deeply divided over a tumultuous drug war and tough economic times, the nation can always find unity in one sacred-cow issue: defending its migrants in El Norte. Almost every family in the country has members in the U.S., many sweating on fields, construction sites or in restaurants, and sending home dollars to keep ramshackle villages and city barrios alive. So when Republican presidential hopeful Herman Cain joked about a killer electric fence to keep migrants out, political electric shocks surged rapidly south of the Rio Grande. From pulpits by the border to editorial offices in the capital, priests and editors vented their anger at comments they called "stupid," "barbaric" and "shameful."
However, few in Mexico could see the funny side of the comments. Ciudad Juárez's Bishop Renato Ascencio León said following his Sunday mass that the Republican candidate was "ridiculous." "In many places, like Germany, they are taking down barriers. Here they are putting them up," he said. "Many come from the United States into Mexico without any papers at all." On a national radio show, popular journalist Carmen Aristegui said Cain's comments were gravely concerning. "We are seeing a rise in extremism in the United States," Aristegui said. "These ideas are absurd, stupid."(See pictures of Mexico's ongoing drug violence.)
On the streets of Mexico City, many locals said they were concerned about the tone in the American electoral debate. "How can you joke about killing poor people who are searching for a better life?" asks Jaime Carrillo, 42, an accountant. "And what if this guy became President? These kinds of comments would cause tension between our countries." Presidential hopeful Rick Perry also provoked ire earlier this month when he suggested that U.S. troops may have to cross into Mexico to fight drug cartels. Mexico's ambassador to the U.S. swiftly replied that "U.S. troops on Mexican soil is not on the table." Candidate Mitt Romney has also waded into the issue, criticizing Perry for being too soft on the border, while saying that "illegal immigration burdens us and is a threat."