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Mexican Media Takes Interest in Fate of Mexican-American Soldiers in Iraq - 2003-04-11

The war in Iraq is being followed closely in Mexico where anti-war sentiment has been dampened some by the images of celebrating Iraqis. There is also interest in the fate of Mexican-Americans serving in the U.S. Armed Forces.

The images from Baghdad of Saddam Hussein's statue being torn down as Iraqis cheered were on the front pages of Mexico's newspapers and lead items on television news programs. But even as commentators here acknowledged the success of the coalition campaign and the joy of the Iraqi people, they focused attention on other aspects of the ongoing conflict. News reports here in Mexico continue to concentrate on civilian victims of the war. Television announcers often use heavy sarcasm in saying that so-called "smart bombs" produced the death and destruction in civilian areas.

Mexican media have also made much of the chaotic scenes in Basra and Baghdad where there has been widespread looting. The motives behind the U.S./British military action are also a continuing subject of criticism here. One newspaper cartoon shows the fallen statue of Saddam Hussein with oil gushing out of the base and a diabolical-looking Uncle Sam figure smiling and dancing nearby.

News reports also focus on the estimated 17,000 soldiers with some family tie to Mexico who are among the 250,000 U.S. armed forces personnel currently in Iraq and areas nearby. Several soldiers who have died in the war were either from Mexico or had at least one parent who had been born in Mexico.

Mexican reporters have sought out aunts, uncles and grandparents of Mexican-American soldiers who have died in combat to register their grief and to seek their opinions about the war. The Televisa network broadcast an interview on the scene in Baghdad with one U-S soldier with Mexican ties.

Twenty-year-old marine Omar Monge said he hoped to get back home as soon as possible. He said he has family members in the Mexican states of Morelos and Sonora, where his mother lives, and a girlfriend in the United States.

Some Mexican press reports have accused the United States of trying to lure illegal Mexican immigrants into the armed forces with promises of citizenship. The U.S. embassy here has denied that, saying that only citizens or legal residents may enter the military. However, citizenship proceedings are generally expedited for a U.S. resident visa-holder who serves in the armed forces.

Meanwhile, protests in front of the U.S. embassy have diminished. Many political groups are now getting back to matters closer to home. Peasant groups and telephone workers marched near the embassy Thursday saying they were protesting Mexican government labor policies, and the war in Iraq.