Sat, Nov 23, 2013 - Page 9 News List

Shedding light on life in the shadow of the world’s security walls

From Mexico to Morocco, barriers separate communities. While some say they offer a sense of security, others claim they create a feeling of imprisonment


By Jo Tuckman

The Guardian, CIUDAD JUAREZ, Mexico

Maria Guadalupe Guereca, 57, is the mother of Sergio Adrian Hernandez, who was shot dead on the Mexican side of the border under the Puente Negro by a US border patrol agent on June 7, 2010 when he was 14 years old. The agent who fired the bullet was Mexican:

“Sergio Adrian was the youngest of my six children. He was a sensitive boy. He started walking when he was one. I don’t even know what he was doing here down by the bridge with two other kids. They had gone to visit his brother, who works taking luggage out of buses for inspection when they cross.

“They said that my boy was trying to cross when the agent shot him, but it is not true. They said he was throwing rocks but there aren’t any rocks here to throw. My son did not deserve to be killed like that.

“I wanted the agent punished but we lost the case. The lawyer in Houston helping us said there is hope in the appeal, but I don’t have any. I work in the municipal government building just over there and I used to come here to the river quite a lot. I’d stand by the column where he was killed and I’d look at the graffiti for my son on both sides.

“About six months ago some US agents walked over the river to where we were and asked how long we were going to keep causing trouble. They laughed when I said I would never give up. It made me nervous to come back.

“I have lived all my life in Juarez apart from two years in Los Angeles working in a restaurant. I worked as a maid in El Paso too, crossing every Monday and coming back on Saturday. We would pay one dollar to cross the river on a tire. There was water in it then.

“The frontier has treated me very badly and sometimes I want to go far away but what is left of my family is here. Sergio is dead and I have a daughter in the US. She has no papers. Another daughter left Juarez after her boyfriend was killed and she got threats. She left three children behind.”

North Korea-South Korea

By Steven Borowiec

The Guardian, SEOUL

To get to the plot of land where he grows sweet potatoes and soya beans, Lee Jae-geun must pass through a military checkpoint manned by soldiers carrying assault rifles. Lee farms in Tongil village, the only populated area of the demilitarized zone that separates South and North Korea. Despite farming on North Korea’s doorstep, Lee, 63, like most South Koreans, is not much scared by North Korea’s hostile rhetoric.

“There are threats all the time,” he says. “It doesn’t bother us. If all of a sudden there were no threats and everything was totally peaceful, that would be strange.”

While North Korea’s saber-rattling doesn’t scare Lee, the political theater on the peninsula does have effects on life in Tongil. Earlier this year, when inter-Korean tensions spiked and North Korea cut off access to the jointly operated Kaesong industrial complex, Lee was locked out of his land for three days. In 2010, after an artillery exchange on Yeonpyeong island left four South Koreans dead, Lee was denied entrance for 15 days. All his dogs and chickens starved to death in that time.

While there is some apprehension over the possibility of conflict, Tongil also has unique benefits. Unlike almost everywhere else in South Korea, there is no industry here and few cars. Strict rules mean there has been only minimal development; the land is mostly untouched and the air is clean. Villagers drink untreated water, which they draw from aquifers, and gleaming white cranes gather at every body of water.

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