Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Gorbachev: Walls between countries do not work

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Gorbachev: Walls between countries do not work
10 October 2007
Steve Taylor

[Mikhail Mikhail Gorbachev takes questions from the audience at UTPA on Tuesday
evening. His translator stands next to him. (Photo: RGG/Steve Taylor)

EDINBURG, October 10 - Ron Whitlock, host of KRGV-TV*s Valley
Newsline show, knew in advance what question he would ask, should he get
the chance to pose one to Mikhail Gorbachev.

The former Soviet Union leader and Nobel laureate kicked off the
University of Texas-Pan American*s Distinguished Speakers series for
the 2007-08 school year. Afterwards he participated in a lively question
and answer session with the audience.

Whitlock wanted to pose a question that might illicit the response,
*Mr. Bush, don*t build that wall.*

Such an answer would sit well alongside one of the most famous lines of
the 20th Century. *Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall,* said
President Ronald Reagan in a speech at the Brandenburg Gate in what was
then West Berlin, West Germany, on June 12, 1987.

Those in the packed auditorium clearly hoped for a similar response
because they gave Whitlock huge applause when he asked:

*President Gorbachev, if you agree that there*s a parallel between
the Berlin Wall and the U.S. wall currently being placed along the
border of Mexico and the United States what would you tell President
Bush if he were here with us tonight?*

Gorbachev seemed to know the answer Whitlock and the audience wanted to

*Well, I cannot repeat what President Reagan once said,* said
Gorbachev, through a translator. *But take each historically: the
Great Wall of China, or the Berlin Wall, and other walls. They have not
been particularly effective; not particularly efficient.*

The response drew the biggest cheer of the evening. Gorbachev added:

*Also, given a country as wealthy as the United States, (it)
doesn*t have all the money in the world. Why spend the money on
this kind of thing?*

The audience cheered again.

Two weeks ago, Customs and Border Protection unveiled a plan to build
70 miles of border fencing in the Rio Grande Valley. Students at UTPA
and the University of Texas at Brownsville have led opposition to the

There were no other questions about the border wall but plenty dealing
with major world issues such as globalization, protecting the
environment, and the rise of China as an economic powerhouse.

In his speech, Gorbachev told how he rose through the ranks of the
Communist Party and how his party turned against a leader it once
idolized, Joseph Stalin. Gorbachev did not dwell on the 1985 to 1991
period, when he was the last president of the Soviet Union.

However, he spoke a lot about the challenges the world faces today.
Gorbachev said he backed globalization, although he realized many Third
World countries were not happy with it.

Gorbachev also called on the United States to do more to help save the
world*s environment. He said the world*s environment was fast
approaching a *red line.* After it has been reached there will be
now way back, Gorbachev said.

Gorbachev said the 20th Century was dominated by the U.S. and the
nation might think it was going to dominate the 21st. The rest of the
world had other ideas, he said.

Guardian reporter Joey Gomez contributed to this story.

* Copyright of the Vox Veritas Corporation dba Rio Grande Guardian,; Melinda Barrera, President, 2007. All
rights reserved.

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