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Obama, Calderon Pledge More Cooperation Against Drug Violence

  • Kent Klein

U.S. President Barack Obama and Mexican President Felipe Calderon hold a news conference in the East Room of the White House, Mar 3, 2011

U.S. President Barack Obama and Mexican President Felipe Calderon hold a news conference in the East Room of the White House, Mar 3, 2011

U.S. President Barack Obama and Mexican President Felipe Calderon agreed Thursday to work more closely to combat drug violence. The two leaders tried to smooth over recent disagreements on how the war on drugs should be fought.

President Obama praised his Mexican counterpart for what he called “extraordinary courage” in fighting Mexico's illegal drug cartels.

“Tens of thousands of Mexicans - innocent citizens and dedicated security forces - have lost their lives," said President Obama. "I have reaffirmed to President Calderon that in this cause, Mexico has a full partner with the United States.”

Mr. Obama said he would accelerate U.S. aid to train and equip Mexican forces fighting the cartels. On Wednesday, White House officials said that $900 million will be spent on the cause this year.

Mexican officials, including President Calderon, have complained that the United States is doing too little to reduce its demand for illegal drugs, and to slow the flow of money and weapons to the cartels.

President Obama acknowledged the problem and pledged greater efforts against it, while saying he would defend the constitutional amendment that allows Americans to own guns.

“We are very mindful that the battle President Calderon is fighting inside of Mexico is not just his battle; it is also ours," said Obama. "We have to take responsibility, just as he has taken responsibility.”

Mr. Calderon applauded Mr. Obama’s efforts and pledged greater cooperation with the United States.

“I would like to thank President Obama for the clarity with which he speaks to the effects that the consumption of drugs has in his country as well as the illegal traffic of weapons and of moneys into Mexican territory," said President Calderon. "I know that together we can achieve ever greater results.”

The debate over the drug war grew more heated last month, with the murder of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agent Jaime Zapata in northern Mexico, with a gun smuggled from the United States.

Officials in Washington have criticized Mexico’s efforts to control the violence, and they are considering arming U.S. agents working there.

Mexican law does not allow foreign law enforcement agents working in the country to carry guns. Mr. Calderon said there should not be an exception for U.S. agents.

“The law does not allow agents of the United States or of any other country to take part in tasks involving justice enforcement in our territory," said Calderon. "As a result, they cannot carry weapons or undertake operational tasks.”

But the Mexican president said Zapata’s death should urge the neighboring countries to work together to solve the problem.

The two presidents also discussed efforts to reform U.S. immigration policy. Mr. Obama again reassured Mr. Calderon that he is committed to comprehensive immigration reform.

The two leaders reached an agreement to resolve a longstanding dispute over trucking. The United States has refused to allow Mexican trucks to enter the country because of concerns about whether they can meet American safety and environmental standards. Mexico has retaliated by placing higher tariffs on many U.S. products.

Under the preliminary agreement, Mexico will gradually lift the tariffs, with the last one lifted when the first Mexican truck is approved for travel on U.S. roads.