THE OLYMPIAN AND WIRE REPORTS
MEXICO CITY - Eighteen U.S. activists from The Evergreen State College have been expelled from Mexico for violating a ban on political activities by foreigners.
It appears to be the first time that the government of President Vicente Fox, who took office in December 2000, has expelled foreign political activists.
The Evergreen students were accused of taking part in a machete-waving march and demonstration on May 1 with farmers from the nearby town of Atenco who are protesting government attempts to expropriate their lands for a new Mexico City airport.
Evergreen officials said they have not been in contact with students or faculty on the trip. The students were in Mexico for a class called, "The Mexican Nation-State: History, Political Economy and Community," said Stanley Bernstein, Evergreen director of college relations.
"We haven't been in contact with anybody," Bernstein said Friday afternoon.
The students and faculty member Dan Leahy were scheduled to travel in Mexico for four weeks and spend another four weeks living in San Patricio, a town in Jalisco.
Leahy was a regular visitor to Mexico, Bernstein said.
Local television stations repeatedly broadcast images of some of the foreigners waving machetes and shouting support for the Atenco farmers in broken Spanish. Several local news commentators expressed outrage.
Javier Moctezuma, deputy secretary of the interior, said the foreigners were expelled because they had violated Article 43 of the Mexican Constitution, which limits political activity by non-citizens.
Most apparently were put on a flight out of Guadalajara to the United States late Thursday or early Friday.
The Interior Department, which oversees security and political affairs, said those expelled for violating the terms of tourist visas were students at "Evergreen University" in Washington state, apparently a reference to The Evergreen State College.
Evergreen officials did not immediately return phone calls from The Olympian.
Fox, whose election ended 71 years of single-party rule in Mexico, had halted the earlier government practice of scouring southern Mexico for foreign supporters of the Zapatista rebels and expelling them.
The previous government expelled scores of foreign activists and priests in an apparent effort to restrict support for the rebels.
Fox, however, had canceled some of those bans and had even allowed numerous foreigners to accompany a Zapatista political tour of southern Mexico last year - saying that they had been granted special visas as observers rather than tourists.