Budget woes threaten Mexico’s reputation as a conservation leader

11/29/2015 Washington Post

Endangered Mexican prairie dogs and a pair of ultra-rare Worthen’s sparrows greeted the pickup truck bouncing down a dirt track in this remote northern desert. But the two environmentalists aboard were after an even more elusive prize.

“Stop!” one shouted, his binoculars trained on a distant mountain. Enrique Cisneros of the Mexican Fund for Nature Conservation thought he had spotted a golden eagle, the national symbol that has all but vanished from the country. Just as suddenly, the bird was gone.

“It requires a lot of time to observe them,” said Alejandro Lozano, a professor of wildlife management who sat alongside him. “And many people, too.”

And that is a problem. In Mexico, conservationists say, environmental oversight is becoming as vulnerable as the wildlife, as program budgets have shrunk and scores of employees at the agency that monitors protected areas have been fired. This year, Mexican environmentalists have repeatedly voiced alarm about the federal government’s commitment to conservation.

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In Arizona, border security in spotlight amid immigration-reform efforts, sequester cuts

borderThe Washington Post, March 17, 2013

With the winter sun’s glare bouncing off his old red pickup, John Ladd drives slowly along the 10-foot wall of iron stakes and steel mesh that crosses his 14,000-acre cattle ranch, dividing his great-grandfather’s land from the Mexican desert but not always keeping intruders out.

“Here’s where the drug smugglers cut through the wall in January,” Ladd says, pointing to a large jagged square in the metal that has since been rewelded. “They use blowtorches and hydraulic grinders. They can get a truck through in minutes, and as soon as they reach the highway they’re gone.”

Ladd’s ranch in the southeastern corner of Arizona is dotted with cameras on stilts, and U.S. Border Patrol trucks cruise the range daily, scattering his Herefords and Angus. Beyond the wall, Mexican soldiers patrol in Humvees. Before it was erected in 2007, illegal migrants constantly camped in his bushes on their way north. These days, fewer make the attempt, but a more sophisticated and dangerous threat has replaced them.

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Sequester Cuts Aid Smugglers, Border Patrol Union Says

borderBloomberg, 3/6/2013

Illegal immigration, drug smuggling and border crime may rise as U.S. spending cuts reduce hours for Border Patrol agents, their union said yesterday.

The officers may have to take as many as 14 days of unpaid time off, or furloughs, and see their typical work hours cut to 8 from 10 as overtime is scaled back by U.S. Customs and Border Protection, said Shawn Moran, vice president of the National Border Patrol Council, representing 17,000 non-supervisory agents.

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Napolitano: Sequestration could mean severe cuts to Border Patrol

Janet NapolitanoPolitico, 2/14/2013

Automatic spending cuts due March 1 could pose a real setback for immigration reform by forcing the Border Patrol to reduce its workforce hours by the equivalent of 5,000 agents beginning in April — a nearly one-quarter reduction.

That’s the upshot of testimony by Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano before the Senate Appropriations Committee on Thursday. The number 5,000 is the most detailed public assessment yet by her department of the fallout from the threatened sequester.

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Collateral damage

The Economist, 8/2/11

AS THE United States Congress frantically sought budget cuts that would secure passage of an increase in the debt ceiling last week, Republican lawmakers set their sights on the government’s spending on Latin America. One particularly easy target was the United States’s $48.5m annual contribution to the Organisation of American States (OAS). The American right has long tarred the regional group, led by José Miguel Insulza, a Chilean social democrat, as an ally of hostile leftist regimes—despite the fact that it suspended Cuba for 47 years, and that Mr Insulza’s highest-profile conflicts as its secretary-general have been with Venezuela’s Hugo Chávez. As the House Foreign Affairs Committee debated whether to maintain the funding, David Rivera, a Republican from Florida, called the OAS “an enemy of the US and an enemy to the interests of freedom and security.” By a party-line vote of 22 to 20, the committee voted on July 20th to eliminate payments to the OAS altogether.

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Obama’s budget proposal cuts border fence funds

Dallas Morning News, 5/7/2009

border-fencePresident Barack Obama’s budget blueprint Thursday canceled plans to extend the border fence along the U.S. – Mexico border beyond the 670 miles already completed or planned, symbolically breaking with a much-heralded approach to border security advocated by President George W. Bush.

The top financial officer at the Department of Homeland Security, Peggy Sherry, and her team told reporters in a telephone conference call that the Obama administration would not extend the barrier network that has irked Mexico and stirred concerns among immigrant-advocate organizations.

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