LatinaLista — Today’s meeting between President-elect Obama and Mexico’s President Felipe Calderon was basically a get-to-know-you affair with small talk over a lunch that featured tortilla soup, choice of fish or steak with cilantro and for dessert, a coconut cream custard.
President-elect Obama meets Mexico’s President Felipe Calderon.
Yet, with the gravity of the issues now facing Mexico and threatening the security of the United States, it’s hard to imagine that “small talk” dominated today’s meeting. Yet, unfortunately, that just may be the case.
Pool reporters reported that “Calderon said their conversation was general but productive. They spoke about organized crime, immigration reform, the financial crisis, energy and other hemisphere issues.”
However with a published report making the rounds that declares Mexico could become a narco-state in the coming decade, today’s dialogue should have bypassed general topics and focused on setting up a definitive partnership between our two countries to combat Mexico’s lawless spiral, acknowledging the role the U.S. has in it and how to keep drug cartel violence from impacting U.S. citizens.
In describing his conversations with President Calderon today, Obama said:
“Well first of all, it is a tradition that is appropriate that the incoming president of the United States meets with the president of Mexico because we have such an extraordinary relationship between our two countries, one that my intention is to make stronger as the years go on, to build on the commercial ties, the security ties and the cultural ties that exist between the United States and Mexico.
It has been especially gratifying to me to participate in this meeting because I’m such an admirer of the work that President Calderon has done on behalf of this country. Not only has he shown leadership in the economy but he has shown extraordinary courage and leadership when it comes to the security issues, dealing with drug trafficking, dealing with the violence that has existed as a consequence of the drug trade.
So my message today is that my administration is going to be ready on day one to work to build a stronger relationship with Mexico. As the President indicated we talked about a range of issues. Not only did we talk about security along the border regions, how the United States can be helpful in Mexico’s efforts, we talked about immigration and how we can have a comprehensive and thoughtful strategy that ultimately strengthens both countires.
We talked about the current financial crisis and how it affects Mexican as well as United States’ businesses; and recognized that the continued cooperation of Mexico and the United States is going to be critical in order for us to strengthen an economy that obviously has a key leader south of our borders who’s going to be a very important ally in us expanding democracy, human rights, being able to send a message that despite some of the tensions that have (been visited? Inaudible) over the past several years between the United States and Latin America, that we are ready to turn the page and write a new chapter in this story.
One of the things that’s particularly exciting is the leadership that Mexico under President Calderon’s administration has already taken on the issue of energy. …this is an area of great interest to me, I believe that the future of the economy is going to rest on how we’re able to adapt to a potential crisis with climate change…
The friendship between the United States and Mexico has been strong, I believe it can be even stronger and that’s going to be the commitment of my administration.
Though Obama’s remarks are meant to be uplifting and offer hope to Mexico that the U.S. is ready to resume tacking issues of mutual concern, like immigration reform, the current situation in Mexico calls for more than that.
A report filed by former U.S. drug czar Barry McCaffrey found that “a failure by the Mexican political system to curtail lawlessness and violence could result of a surge of millions of refugees crossing the US border to escape the domestic misery of violence, failed economic policy, poverty, hunger, joblessness, and the mindless cruelty and injustice of a criminal state.”
As Latina Lista noted in an earlier posting, current elements in Mexican society have the potential to propel a new kind of undocumented immigrant into the U.S. â€” one fleeing for their own safety.
President-elect Obama has no time to lose in setting up a special task force to address Mexico’s problems because, as countries that share a border, their problems are the problems of the United States as well.
As McCaffrey’s report noted:
Much is at stake for future US economic and national security policy from 2009 through 2017. A
stable, economically healthy, and law-based Mexican neighbor is fundamental to US expectations
of prosperity and peace within North America. The drug menace and drug addiction is central to
much of the US criminal and social malignancy that has put more than 2 million Americans
behind bars, clogged our courts, and placed enormous burdens on our health system.
Now is the time during the opening months of a new US Administration to jointly commit to a fully resourced major partnership as political equals of the Mexican government. We must jointly and respectfully cooperate to address the broad challenges our two nations face. Specifically, we must support the Government of Mexicoâ€™s efforts to confront the ultra violent drug cartels. We must do so in ways that are acceptable to the Mexican polity and that take into account Mexican sensitivities to sovereignty.
The United States Government cannot impose a solution. The political will is present in Mexico to make the tough decisions that are required to confront a severe menace to the rule of law and the authority of the Mexican state. Where our assistance can be helpful, we must provide it. The challenge is so complex that it will require sustained commitment and attention at the highest levels of our two governments.
We cannot afford to fail.