Along the border, rhetoric is high. As if there were not enough things to worry about here at home US, there is however, one more issue that may create the final perfect storm: Mexico.
The violence in Mexico that has spun out of control so quickly in 2008 has created a political reaction. It is hard to escape the bombardment of reports that has dominated our airwaves. From government and military officials to the talking heads, Mexico has been declared as a failed state, on the verge of civil war, and posing a threat to US national security.
Recently, President Obama weighed in on the issue saying that he was “not interested in militarizing the border.” However, Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano is singing a different tune. Her recent call for “more boots on the ground” along the border is currently taking place.
Not learning the harsh lessons from the past, Frontera NorteSur has just reported that Napolitano is unleashing a Vietnam tactic on the border. In the Vietnam War, the US sprayed vast tracts of land with the chemical defoliant Agent Orange as part of a counter-insurgency strategy aimed at removing forest cover for Viet Cong and North Vietnamese forces.
Because a giant bamboo-like weed known variously as Carrizo cane â€“ scientifically as Arundo donax â€“ has run rampant along portions of the Rio Grande between the US, the US Border Patrol and DHS are eager to find a way to kill it. The variety of Carrizo cane that is common in the Laredo-Del Rio borderlands grows as tall as 30 feet and provides convenient cover for undocumented border crossers and smugglers. On the US side, US Border Patrol plans to use the same Vietnam tactic to eradicate stands of the Carrizo cane.
The herbicide in question is imazapyr. Like all broad spectrum herbicides, imazapyr efficiently kills most plants with which it comes in contact, even those not intended as targets of the herbicide. However, as Jay J. Johnson Castro, Sr., executive director of the Rio Grande International Studies Center at Laredo Community College noted, “Nobody knows the impact of imazapyr.”
However, should the risk outweigh the benefits?
According to CropLife, herbicides are the most widely used type of pesticide and comprise around 50% of all crop protection chemicals used throughout the world. The pesticide industries dismiss the risks and assert that pesticides are regulated and therefore safe. However, there are significant problems with the registration process that do not ensure their safety.
One reason, the studies conducted on pesticide are proprietary or not peer-reviewed. Second, the extrapolations for human safety are from animal research. The animals used are usually rats and they have genes that do not exist in people for the detoxification of chemicals.
The risks and negative aspects associated with obsolete or wrongly managed pesticides should not be ignored. Imazapyr is said to have a low risk, but the general public may not always possess the information to enable them to make an objective judgment and they therefore often exhibit unfounded bias. What is known, A fact sheet prepared by the Washington State Department of Agriculture reports that imazapyr was highly mobile and persistent in soils.
Even though the Vietnam War has ended over 30 years ago, the effects of Agent Orange is still wreaking havoc on millions, including the newly born. Nobody knows when the congenital deformities, one of many horrific health consequences of the toxic chemicals, will end.
US dioxin expert Arnold Schecter found dioxin (Agent Orange) was never diluted by water and is chemically stable so it doesnâ€™t easily decompose. As a result, it still exists, infiltrating the ecosystems and food chains in many parts of Vietnam. This is how the deadly chemical continues to claim its new prey â€” people who live off the land and water systems contaminated by it.
A report on imazapyr chemicalâ€™s history developed for the non-governmental group Alaska Community Action on Toxics (ACAT) found that imazapyr can persists in soil, groundwater and surface water for over a year. Although imazapyr is a known corrosive that can irritate the eyes, skin and respiratory system, numerous epidemiological studies have identified herbicides as a potential risk factor for Parkinson’s disease.
If it is true, there is nothing to worry about, then why was Carlos Montiel Saeb, general manager for Nuevo Laredo’s water utility, told by Border Patrol to turn off their water pumps a few hours prior to spraying?
Last year, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) announced that it would draw up plans for a DHS “surge” on the Mexico-US border to prepare for the possibility that Mexico’s drug war would “spill over” into the US. DHS’ new Secretary, Janet Napolitano, is showing signs she is determined to continue in the immigration crackdown launched by her predecessor Michael Chertoff without looking for humane alternatives.
The US Department of Agriculture’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) announced on March 6 that it has completed an environmental assessment of the Carrizo cane and concluded that the introducing reed-killing wasps, Tetramesa romana, is the best of a handful of potential solutions.
While there appears to be a growing consensus in the US to assist Mexico in its efforts to combat the drug cartels, but NOT when the health risk outweigh the benefits.
Update: KeyRose at La Sanbe just posted that Pro8news just reported that the date for spraying will be delayed and that negotiations are underway because “our neighbors to the south have something to say.”
This is a minor and temporary victory. The news and local officials can downplay it and spin it all they want. The truth is, word spread fast and furious way in the blogosphere and we should pat ourselves on the back. However, we must stay vigilant and keep an eye on this.