Memo From Mexico | British Spelunkers, Mexican Hypocrisy
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For sheer, unadulterated chutzpah, it's hard to top Vicente Fox and the government of Mexico.

Fox defends the inalienable right of all Mexicans to enter the U.S. illegally and be rewarded for it.

But on March 29th, 2004, the Mexican government expelled legal British visitors for - drawing maps of a cave?

Truth, as they say, is stranger than fiction.

The British cave explorers were in Mexico legally, with tourist visas. They were expelled for carrying out "research" on a tourist visa, for "having given imprecisions and falsehoods" when applying for a visa. Imagine that!

So where does Mexico draw the line between "tourism" and "research?" In this case, what pushed them over the line from "tourism" to "research" was the fact that they were exploring AND mapping the caves.

Exploring, you see, is tourism. Mapping is research, and you need a different visa for that.

It didn't matter that British cave explorers have been mapping Mexican caves for decades. They do it in collaboration with Mexican cavers, and they publish the results for all to see.

It doesn't matter, the Fox administration decided to put its foot down on this one.

The 13 spelunkers (9 of whom were British military, members of the Combined Services Caving Association) had high hopes when they came to Mexico for "Operation Cuetzalan Tiger." Their plan was to explore and map the Caves of Alpazat, near Cuetzalan in the state of Puebla .

The cavern at Cuetzalan is not some kind of secret grotto. The Mexican tourism department advertised it on its website. Well, it did until this incident, after which Cuetzalan was expunged, presumably from embarrassment . I retrieved it from cyber-space though. See here:

"Speleology: The natural beauties of the Northern Sierra of Puebla are not limited to superficial earth. Underneath you can admire the fantastic subterranean kingdom in the caves of Chivostoc and Atepolihui, both open to all. In Cuetzalan there are 32,000 m. of caves, most of them only open for experimented (sic) speleologists."

The British spelunkers had entered Mexico under a tourist visa, which is how cavers had previously entered, with no such problems. Their goal was a 3-day expedition into the Alpazat caverns. But heavy rains changed their plans, and 6 of the cave explorers were prevented by rising water from exiting the cave. They were safe, they had communication with teammates outside the cave, and they had food for two weeks.

When the trapped cavers refused to be rescued by Mexican divers and instead requested British divers­ – understandably wanting someone they trusted - the speculation began. What were these foreigners hiding? After all, most of them were British military.

Wild reports were published in the Mexican media. Were they spies? Or were they searching for uranium with which to construct atomic bombs? Even the Mexican Energy Department put the kibosh on that charge, declaring that radioactivity levels in the caves were no higher than in most Mexican territory.

Finally the cavers were rescued, by British divers under the surveillance of the Mexican army.

At that point, the Brits probably wished they had stayed underground. All 13 of them were whisked to an illegal immigration detention facility at Iztapalapa (a suburb of Mexico City) where they were interrogated by Mexican immigration and military officials, and subjected to sleep deprivation.

Jonathan Sims reported from detention, "The best bit was when we were in the cave. At the moment we are in a place called Ixtapalapa, which is where they keep illegal immigrants." ['We are Being Used as Political Pawns' - Detained Caver, March 28, 2004 PA News]

The Alpazat 13 had their Mexican defenders, including a spokesman for the Mexican Society of Subterranean Exploration, mountain climber Ricardo Torres Nava, and even Lilia Rueda of the government tourism department, who practically apologized for the whole imbroglio – "We're astonished because we don't know how so much was made over this." She assured foreign cavers that they were still welcome in Mexico, but it's hard to see how they'll feel that way now. In the future, how can they advertise it – "Visit A Mexican Cave and Wind up in the Hoosegow"?

But the Fox administration would not back down. It became a matter of national pride. As reported in El Universal,

"...Luis Ernesto Derbez, secretary of Foreign Relations, promised that Mexico would not permit itself not to be taken seriously ...." That's a little difficult when you're kicking out legal visitors for drawing a map of a cave.

"....Santiago Creel, secretary of the Interior, said that our country would continue being open, but that foreigners must observe the law."

Ah, but in the United States, millions of Mexicans are breaking the law, and the Mexican government encourages them!(Los británicos serán expulsados : Derbez, By Fabiola Cancino, El Universal , March 28th, 2004)

Vicente Fox, visiting Managua , Nicaragua, made a public show of defying John Bull. I get the impression he was showing off for the the Central Americans. The Mexican government had sent a diplomatic note to the UK government, but wasn't satisfied with the reply. Fox announced in Nicaragua that the British reply "francamente no nos satisface" ["Frankly, it does not satisfy us"] and promised a full investigation.

Fox's sidekick Derbez, also in Managua, laid down the law:

"We are not going to tolerate... anybody who does not tell us exactly why his citizens are in Mexico." "No vamos a tolerar en esta ocasión a nadie que no nos digan exactamente cuál era la razón por la que estaban en México sus ciudadanos"

This, remember, is from the same government that promotes the matricula consular for illegal Mexicans in the United States!

Wouldn't you just love to hear Colin Powell say "We are not going to tolerate...anybody who does not tell us exactly why his citizens are in the U.S."

(Envía SER otra nota diplomática a Gran Bretaña , José Luis Ruiz, El Universal, March 27th, 2004)

Getting back to the detained British speleologists, they were interrogated and subjected to sleep deprivation at Iztapalapa, and were even threatened with being sentenced to up to 18 months in jail. At the end, they were deported from Mexico , barred from re-entry for two years, and escorted by armed guard to Mexico City's airport, where they were packed onto an airplane and sent to Heathrow.

Think about it. The Mexican government imprisoned and deported 13 British cavers, on a dubious technicality, even though the whole incident is likely to damage the Mexican tourism industry. Yet this same government demands preferential treatment for millions of Mexicans who are illegally in our own country.

You know what's even more amazing though? What's even more amazing is the fact that such outrageous Mexican demands are even taken seriously by the United States.

And that, my friends, is the real problem.

American citizen Allan Wall lives and works legally in Mexico, where he holds an FM-2 residency and work permit, but serves six weeks a year with the Texas Army National Guard, in a unit composed almost entirely of Americans of Mexican ancestry. His VDARE.COM articles are archived here; his FRONTPAGEMAG.COM articles are archived here; his website is here. Readers can contact Allan Wall at [email protected].

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