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Mexican President Calderon to Make State Visit to Washington

  • Robert Raffaele

Mexican President Felipe Calderon will be in Washington Wednesday and Thursday for a state visit that will include an address to a joint session of Congress. Mr. Calderon's trip comes as both nations publicly claim greater cooperation in tackling violence stemming from cross-border drug trafficking, as well as immigration and trade issues.

Both presidents consider their efforts crucial to future generations of Americans and Mexicans.

And Presidents Barack Obama and Felipe Calderon have pledged cooperation on a wide range of issues - especially border security aimed at battling drug and gun trafficking, and the flow of illegal immigrants into the United States.

"We have to acknowledge that we live in a common house, in a common region. And the future of one country will be tied to the other," said Juan Pardinis, with the Woodrow Wilson International Center's Mexico Institute.

He said Mexico should push for labor reforms and better education to give its youth viable, legal alternatives to the drug trade.

And the U.S. Congress should approve more funding to Mexico for training, equipment and other initiatives to fight the drug trade.

Since December 2006, Mr. Calderon has deployed more than 45,000 troops to combat the drug cartels. But escalating violence has killed more than 22,000 people since then.

No new initiatives are expected during Mr. Calderon's visit.

"Overall, this will be a meeting about reaffirming the status quo, reaffirming the progress that's being made on lots of different issues, but not one with a big ambitious agenda," said Shannon O'Neil, who is with the Council on Foreign Relations. She says Mr. Calderon will likely restate his opposition to a new law in the southwestern U.S. state of Arizona that requires immigrants to carry registration documents at all times. Both Mr. Calderon and Mr. Obama say the measure encourages unfair profiling of Mexicans.

But O'Neil says the Obama administration must not allow Mr. Calderon's criticism to deflect attention from joint U.S.-Mexican successes, especially in the war on drugs. "They need to validate that this is the way forward with Mexico, and in general, by being seen together and talking about things in a quite positive way that it is worth this investment in security," she said.

Mr. Calderon's term in office ends in two years. Some analysts see him as a "lame duck" president with a keen interest in support from Washington.

Political analyst Denise Dresser said, "He wants American validation for the war on drugs. He wants a big pat on the back. He wants recognition for his boldness, bravery, his willingness to take on organized crime, at a time when the war on drugs is increasingly unpopular in his own country. I think Felipe Calderon is coming here with the hope that once President Obama embraces him and says all the right things in terms of applauding what he has done right over the past three years. he can bolster his political legitimacy."

A recent poll in Mexico (by the GEA-ISA firm) shows that 52 percent of Mexicans would support the comeback of the PRI party, after 12 years of rule by Mr. Calderon's National Action Party.