The Obama Administration and Mexico


AP_US_Mexico_Obama_16apr09_210.jpgToday is a big day for Mexico City. President Obama’s overnight stay is the first visit from a U.S. President since Clinton’s two-day stopover in 1997. Really; it’s been twelve years since the President of the United States has visited the capital of Mexico. It’s no wonder the new administration has to work overtime to mend this special relationship. While I understand that President Bush was quite occupied with major events on the other side of the world, a neighborly visit would have been nice (and convenient from Crawford, Texas). I acknowledge the history of U.S. intervention in Latin America is less than stellar; at times appalling. So being ignored by President Bush has been considered a positive by many in Latin America, but I propose that we needn’t choose between a bad relationship with Mexico and a non-existent one. Obama’s challenge is to create an entirely new framework for U.S.-Mexican relations specifically and Latin America in general.
The Obama administration has approached the U.S.-Mexican relationship and the crisis affecting our shared border with an appropriate sense of urgency. Secretary of State Clinton laid the groundwork for real cooperation in her visit last month. She verbalized what few U.S. politicians have previously been willing to say, that U.S. drug use and demand are significantly to blame for Mexico’s current drug crisis. Clinton declared that the United States shared a co-responsibility for the drug war and vowed to stand “shoulder-to-shoulder” with Mexico in defeating the drug lords. Her words represent a new approach toward Mexico that I see as an excellent step in addressing the crisis. Mexico City is not in a position to beat the drug lords on their own and the U.S. cannot influence this fight without a posture of cooperation.
Secretary of Homeland Security Napolitano followed Clinton’s vows for partnership and action by appointing Alan Bersin to the position of Border Czar. Bersin is responsible for coordinating the U.S. and joint response to illegal arms and drug flows, as well as curbing the flow of illegal immigrants. Napolitano has also taken swift action in beefing up security along the border to stem the north and south flow of illegal traffic.
The agenda for Obama’s visit is relatively simple: demonstrate support for the Mexican Government. There is much negotiating to take place between the U.S. and Mexico on NAFTA, immigration, and the economy, but thanks to the leg work provided by his diplomatic and national security teams, President Obama can use this visit to strengthen this important bilateral relationship. And Obama’s Mexico visit is a cornerstone of his ambition to reconnect the United States with Latin America in a mutually beneficial way.
For further reading on the dysfunctional relationship between the U.S. and Mexico I recommend a series of articles released this week by The New America Foundation and Slate Magazine.
— Faith Smith


7 comments on “The Obama Administration and Mexico

  1. Mr.Murder says:

    The most important item from this right now is gas drilling. US plants can supply the equipment and good portions of tech labor for it.
    Anything to make it more affordable for the transition economy.
    Obama should reconvene with Mexico. Remember where I sufggested a TVA style wing of Energy/Interior dealing with domestic and offshopr oil production? Obama spoke of increased production here.
    That means incentives but we can pair it with actual environmental oversight. This would be a dual oversight role to make sure meters aren’t marked wrongly to guagew price spikes(a common tactic of the past ten years).
    Also this could pattern precedent for market entry with Cuban petroleum interests offshore.
    Foregin and Domestic goals achieved.


  2. Don Bacon says:

    Obama at the press conference:
    “Now, having said that [waffling on assault guns], I think none of us are under any illusion that reinstating that ban would be easy. And so, what we’ve focused on is how we can improve our enforcement of existing laws, because even under current law, trafficking illegal firearms, sending them across a border, is illegal. That’s something that we can stop.”
    Currently while there are long lines of cars coming into the US from Mexico, there is no restriction leaving the US and going into Mexico. Apparently that will change. Another freedom lost.


  3. Don Bacon says:

    Since when is speaking a foreign language a prerequisite for having a good relationship with the relevant foreign leader?
    That’s classic.
    A joke I heard from a tour leader in Croatia recently:
    Q: What do you call someone who speaks three languages?
    A: Trilingual
    Q: Two languages?
    A: Bilingual
    Q: One?
    A: American


  4. PissedOffAmerican says:

    I would like to see one single piece of evidence that American arms are flowing south to “arm the drug cartels”. This is classic foreshadowing of a policy direction, namely the banishment of so called “assault weapons” from ownership by AMERICAN CITIZENS. Fact is, small arms on the world market are a dime a dozen, and the cartels hardly need to go to the trouble of smuggling arms south. This is pure unadulterated propaganda, that would do the lying pricks in the last Administration proud. Change, my ass. Obama is as big a liar as George Bush ever dreamed of being. Two peas in a pod.


  5. Katherine says:

    Since when is speaking a foreign language a prerequisite for having a good relationship with the relevant foreign leader? Even so, it’s questionable whether Bush speaks anything beyond grade school Spanish. It would be a stretch to call him professionally fluent.
    Additionally, Bush’s “special relationships” with various world leaders were no guarantee of cooperation or success in shared policy goals. Just because Fox and Bush were both border state governors doesn’t in any way imply that they were good partners–as Faith correctly points out, Bush’s neglect of our southern neighbor certainly didn’t ameliorate the drug violence in Mexico, and Obama is trying to pick up the pieces of yet another Bush mess.
    Also if you check out right now, the front story is the Summit of the Americas, “a warm welcome and new partnerships in Mexico.”


  6. Don Bacon says:

    I agree with DB. Are there no rational limits to Obamania?
    Bush spoke Spanish (Obama doesn’t), advocated citizenship for undocumented Mexicans in the US against his party (Obama doesn’t) and, according to CNN: “We know about the kinship that President George W. Bush had with Mexican President Vicente Fox, both of them ranchers and former border state governors.”
    Obama made a quick visit to Mexico City yesterday and held a press conference with Calderon which isn’t up on the WH website yet. Apparently it was no big dfeal.


  7. Dennis Byron says:

    What a crock and typical academic tilting of the facts. Bush met Fox in Cancun and at Fox’s home and at Bush’s home and honored Fox with the first head of state dinner in DC. So what if he didn’t go to Mexico City.


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