News / USA

Obama Visits Mexico Amid Shifting Drug War Strategy

A street vendor smokes a cigarette as police officers walk past, next to the boarded Zocalo Square outside the National Palace, where U.S. President Barack Obama and his Mexican counterpart Enrique Pena Nieto will meet Thursday in Mexico City, May 2, 2013
A street vendor smokes a cigarette as police officers walk past, next to the boarded Zocalo Square outside the National Palace, where U.S. President Barack Obama and his Mexican counterpart Enrique Pena Nieto will meet Thursday in Mexico City, May 2, 2013
Greg Flakus
U.S. President Barack Obama will visit Mexico and Costa Rica this week, starting with a flight Thursday to Mexico City, where he will meet with President Enrique Pena Nieto , who took office in December of last year. The two leaders may put most emphasis on trade and bilateral cooperation, but they also are likely to review efforts to defeat drug smuggling organizations based in Mexico.

x
The presidential visit to Mexico provides leaders from both countries an opportunity to emphasize their commitments to trade, economic development and bilateral cooperation. But George Grayson, who teaches at the College of William and Mary and is the author of numerous books about Mexico, said each man has separate priorities.

"The goal is to get the United States to shift its emphasis from security to social and economic matters. The United States is quite anxious to find out the blueprint for Mexico's new policy toward organized crime," Grayson said.

President Nieto took office in December amid a continuing drug war that so far has claimed around 75,000 lives. His predecessor, President Felipe Calderon, shortly after taking office in 2006, used the military to attack organized crime groups, known as cartels in Mexico. He also forged an agreement with the United States that led to close cooperation in the drug war.

But capturing or killing cartel leaders left vacuums that other drug traffickers rushed to fill, often using extreme violence. Grayson said violence remains pervasive.

"The number of deaths per day has increased slightly under Pena Nieto's first hundred days or so in office and, as far as I can tell, the cartels are as strong as ever," Grayson said.

In a recent speech, President Pena Nieto said he will continue the fight for law and order.

He said his goal is to restore peace, while respecting individual rights and promoting economic development.

But his government is scaling back cooperation with the United States and avoiding the large-scale operations carried out by Mr. Calderon. George Grayson said the new Mexican leader is seeking help from France, rather than the United States, to develop an elite national police force and a more sophisticated strategy.

"Use drones, informants, eavesdropping and various technological devices to try to be smarter in fighting the cartels and that kind of knowhow really only comes from the United States," Grayson said.

Grayson said Mexican leaders have always been leery of cooperation with the United States that might involve meddling in Mexico's affairs. But such thinking may be losing ground.

A recent public opinion poll conducted in Mexico by the Washington-based Pew Research Center showed 66 percent of respondents with a favorable attitude toward the United States, 10 percentage points higher than it was a year ago. But the same poll shows that around 35 percent of Mexicans would move to the United States if they could.

Grayson said this poses a problem for immigration reform.

"An earlier poll showed that two thirds of Mexicans believe that the border between the two countries is only a surveyor's line.  There is just no doubt that if we were to open the border you would have a cascade of people coming across," Grayson said.

Grayson says passage of a comprehensive immigration bill by the U.S. Congress seems unlikely at this time, but that some pieces might be approved separately.

You May Like

Turbulent Transition Imperils Tunisia’s Arab Spring Gains

Critics say new anti-terrorism laws worsen Tunisia's situation while others put faith in country’s vibrant civil organizations, women’s movement More

Burundi’s Political Crisis May Become Humanitarian One

United Nations aid agencies issue warning as deadly violence sends tens of thousands fleeing More

Yemenis Adjust to Life Under Houthi Rule

Locals want warring parties to strike deal to stop bloodletting before deciding how country is governed More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Texas Town Residents Told to 'Just Leave' Ahead of Flood Threati
X
Greg Flakus
May 29, 2015 11:24 PM
Water from heavy rain in eastern and central Texas is now swelling rivers that flow into the Gulf of Mexico, threatening towns along their banks. VOA’s Greg Flakus visited the town of Wharton, southwest of Houston, where the Colorado River is close to cresting.
Video

Video Texas Town Residents Told to 'Just Leave' Ahead of Flood Threat

Water from heavy rain in eastern and central Texas is now swelling rivers that flow into the Gulf of Mexico, threatening towns along their banks. VOA’s Greg Flakus visited the town of Wharton, southwest of Houston, where the Colorado River is close to cresting.
Video

Video New York's One World Trade Center Observatory Opens to Public

From New Jersey to Long Island, from Northern suburbs to the Atlantic Ocean, with all of New York City in-between.  That view became available to the public Friday as the One World Trade Center Observatory opened in New York -- atop the replacement for the buildings destroyed in the September 11, 2001, attacks.  VOA’s Bernard Shusman reports.
Video

Video Seoul Sponsors Korean Unification Fair

With inter-Korean relations deteriorating over the North’s nuclear program, past military provocations and human rights abuses, many Koreans still hold out hope for eventual peaceful re-unification. VOA’s Brian Padden visited a “unification fair” held this week in Seoul, where border communities promoted the benefits of increased cooperation.
Video

Video Purple Door Coffeeshop: Changing Lives One Cup at a Time

For a quarter of his life, Kevin Persons lived on the street. Today, he is working behind the counter of an espresso bar, serving coffee and working to transition off the streets and into a home. Paul Vargas reports for VOA.
Video

Video Modular Robot Getting Closer to Reality

A robot being developed at Carnegie Mellon University has evolved into a multi-legged modular mechanical snake, able to move over rugged surfaces and explore the surroundings. Scientists say such machines could someday help in search and rescue operations. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Shanghai Hosts Big Consumer Electronics Show

Electronic gadgets are a huge success in China, judging by the first Asian Consumer Electronics Show, held this week in Shanghai. Over the course of two days, more than 20,000 visitors watched, tested and played with useful and some less-useful electronic devices exhibited by about 200 manufacturers. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Forced to Return Home, Afghan Refugees Face Increased Hardship

Undocumented refugees returning to Afghanistan from Pakistan have no jobs, no support system, and no home return to, and international aid agencies say they and the government are overwhelmed and under-resourced. Ayesha Tanzeem has more from Kabul.
Video

Video Britain Makes Controversial Move to Crack Down on Extremism

Britain is moving to tighten controls on extremist rhetoric, even when it does not incite violence or hatred -- a move that some are concerned might unduly restrict basic freedoms. It is an issue many countries are grappling with as extremist groups gain power in the Middle East, fueled in part by donations and fighters from the West. VOA’s Al Pessin reports from London.
Video

Video 3D Printer Makes Replica of Iconic Sports Car

Cars with parts made by 3D printers are already on the road, but engineers are still learning about this new technology. While testing the possibility of printing an entire car, researchers at the U.S. Department of Energy recently created an electric-powered replica of an iconic sports roadster. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Al-Shabab Recruitment Drive Still on In Kenya

The al-Shabab militants that have long battled for control of Somalia also have recruited thousands of young people in Kenya, leaving many families disconsolate. Mohammed Yusuf recently visited the Kenyan town of Isiolo, and met with relatives of those recruited, as well as a many who have helped with the recruiting.
Video

Video A Small Oasis on Kabul's Outskirts Provides Relief From Security Tensions

When people in Kabul want to get away from the city and relax, many choose Qargha Lake, a small resort on the outskirts of Kabul. Ayesha Tanzeem visited and talked with people about the precious oasis.
Video

Video Kenyans Lament Losing Sons to al-Shabab

There is agony, fear and lost hope in the Kenyan town of Isiolo, a key target of a new al-Shabab recruitment drive. VOA's Mohammed Yusuf visits Isiolo to speak with families and at least one man who says he was a recruiter.
Video

Video Scientists Say Plankton More Important Than Previously Thought

Tiny ocean creatures called plankton are mostly thought of as food for whales and other large marine animals, but a four-year global study discovered, among other things, that plankton are a major source of oxygen on our planet. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Kenya’s Capital Sees Rise in Shisha Parlors

In Kenya, the smoking of shisha, a type of flavored tobacco, is the latest craze. Patrons are flocking to shisha parlors to smoke and socialize. But the practice can be addictive and harmful, though many dabblers may not realize the dangers, according to a new review. Lenny Ruvaga has more on the story for VOA from Nairobi, Kenya.

VOA Blogs