Mexican Defense Minister to Discuss Possible
Joint North American Military Force
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MEXICO CITY (AP) - Mexico's defense secretary, Gen. Gerardo Vega, was
flying to Washington on Thursday to discuss military cooperation that
might link U.S., Mexican and Canadian forces against terrorism in a
way that NAFTA has linked North America's economies.
The plan apparently is based on a U.S. Army War College report in 1999
that suggested a North American peacekeeping force that would be headquartered
in the United States but include command posts that would rotate between
Mexico and Canada.
"One of the programs the general will discuss in the United States
is a continental command that would use the North American Free Trade
Agreement as a basis,'' a Defense Department spokesman said. Department
policy required him to speak on condition of anonymity.
The newspaper El Sol de Mexico reported on Tuesday that such talks were
part of Vega's agenda and quoted U.S. officials as saying discussion
of the idea was "a positive step.''
Mexico has not committed to such a plan, which would imply a historic
shift in the country's military policy. It would also face enormous
domestic political opposition.
While Mexican pilots participated on the Allied side in World War II,
the country since then has shied away from most multilateral military
programs, refusing to let its soldiers serve in U.N. peacekeeping missions,
Many Mexican politicians also remain profoundly wary of increasing ties
to their powerful northern neighbor, particularly military ties.
"Trilateral initiatives have always been welcome in Mexico but
our country cannot become a land of Rambo or Arnold Schwarzenegger,''
said Congressman Jaime Alcantara, a member of the lower house's Defense
Alcantara, of the Institutional Revolutionary Party, which has a plurality
in Congress, said that "Mexico does not intervene in the affairs
of other countries and that is an important reason it has not suffered
the terrorist attacks the United States and Canada want to guard against.''
President Vicente Fox and his conservative National Action Party have
worked to move Mexico toward greater cooperation with the United States
on border security, free trade and migration concerns.
"The fight against terrorism is an international one and I think
Mexico understands how important cooperation is,'' said National Action
legislator Benjamin Mucino. "Any plan that will allow Mexico to
work together with its neighbors is a step in the right direction.''
But when Foreign Secretary Jorge Castaneda condemned the attacks of
Sept. 11, Mexican lawmakers spent hours grilling him about the possibility
Washington might force Mexico to send troops to Afghanistan.
"Mexico's people are not interested in building a command that
will force Mexican soldiers to take orders from American soldiers,''
said Mucino, also a member of the lower house's Defense Commission.
"We do not have the military resources, the political interest
or the public support to become a launch pad for U.S. and Canadian forces
that want to keep watch on Central America, South America or anywhere
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