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1/9 US Border Patrol to close Friendship Park, will replace by solid border fence
Released 15 January 2009  By

Symbolic park makes way for new fences on US-Mexico border
January 9, 2009

A beachfront plaza founded over 30 years ago as a symbol of goodwill between
the US and Mexico border is being closed to make way for a giant, reinforced

Friendship Park, between Imperial Beach in California and Tijuana in Mexico,
was dedicated by Patricia Nixon, then first lady, in the early 1970s, and
has long been a popular meeting and picnic spot.

Although a chain-link fence divides the space along the border, the barrier
allows people on either side, often those separated by immigration status,
to have contact, share food, talk and kiss.

But the US Border Patrol has ordered the area, part of the Border Field
State Park, be permanently closed to the public and a secondary, solid
border fence be erected north of the existing fence stretching out to the
Pacific Ocean.

The US is already developing plans for a "surge" of force to tackle the
escalating bloodshed from Mexico's brutal drug wars, should the violence
spill across the border.

Michael Chertoff, the US Homeland Security Secretary, ordered law
enforcement agencies last summer to devise a strategy for dealing with the
kind of violence plaguing Mexico after the death rate from the ongoing
warfare there reached a critical point.

More than 5,300 people have been killed over the past year in bouts of gun
fighting as well as targeted executions and other violence, often close to
the US border. As well as members of drug cartels, the casualties have
numbered law enforcement officers, other officials and innocent bystanders.

But the move to erect the new fences has shocked and upset frequent visitors
to the park, which surrounds a marble obelisk erected shortly after the
Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo ended the Mexican-American War in 1848.

State and local officials had argued that the symbol of international
goodwill be spared from the new stretch of fencing the federal government is
building, part of 700 miles of barriers the Bush administration pledged to
erect along the US border with Mexico.

The Border Patrol confirmed its decision to local authorities this week.
Previously there had been suggestions the new fence would incorporate a
pedestrian gate and public access to the monument would continue.

But crews have now begun tearing up cement at the plaza and removing trees.
The federal agency plans to construct a dirt road between the fences.

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