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

Could Nemtsov Threaten Putin in Death as in Life?

Dynamic and debonair opposition leader had supported liberal economic reforms, criticized Russian president's aggression in Ukraine More

Oil Smuggling Highlights Challenges in Shutting Down IS Finances

Pentagon spokesman says Islamic State 'certainly continues to get revenue from the oil industry black market' but that airstrikes have made a dent More

India Focuses on Infrastructure, Investment to Propel Economy

Government expects economy to grow at 8 to 8.5 percent in next fiscal year More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
US Supreme Court Hears Hijab Discrimination Casei
X
Katherine Gypson
February 25, 2015 11:30 PM
The U.S. Supreme Court has heard opening arguments in a workplace religious discrimination case that examines whether a clothing store can refuse to hire a young woman for wearing the headscarf she says is a symbol of her Muslim faith. Katherine Gypson reports from the Supreme Court.
Video

Video US Supreme Court Hears Hijab Discrimination Case

The U.S. Supreme Court has heard opening arguments in a workplace religious discrimination case that examines whether a clothing store can refuse to hire a young woman for wearing the headscarf she says is a symbol of her Muslim faith. Katherine Gypson reports from the Supreme Court.
Video

Video Falling Gas Prices Hurt Nascent Illinois Hydraulic Fracturing Industry

Falling oil prices are helping consumers purchase cheaper petroleum at the pump. But that’s made hydraulic fracturing or “fracking” less economically viable for the companies in the United States invested in the process. VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports on one Midwestern town that was hoping to change its fortunes by cashing in on the next big U.S. oil boom.
Video

Video Fighting in Sudan's South Kordofan Fuels Mass Displacement

Heavy fighting in Sudan's South Kordofan state is causing hundreds of thousands to flee into uncertain conditions. Local aid organizations estimate as many as 400,000 civilians have been internally displaced since the conflict began more than three years ago, while another 250,000 have fled across the border to refugee camps in South Sudan. VOA's Adam Bailes reports.
Video

Video Lao Dam Project Runs Into Opposition

A Lao dam project on a section of the Mekong River is drawing opposition from local fishermen, international environmental groups and neighboring countries. VOA's Say Mony visited the region to investigate the concerns. Colin Lovett narrates.
Video

Video A Filmmaker Discovers Her Biracial Identity in "Little White Lie

Lacey Schwartz grew up in an upper middle-class Jewish family, in a town in upstate New York where almost everyone she knew was white. She assumed that she was, as well. Her recent documentary, Little White Lie, tells the story of how she uncovered the secret of her true racial background. VOA’s Carolyn Weaver has more on the film.
Video

Video Deep Under Antarctic Ice Sheet, Life!

With the end of summer in the Southern hemisphere, the Antarctic research season is over. Scientists from Northern Illinois University are back in their laboratory after a 3-month expedition on the Ross Ice Shelf, the world’s largest floating ice sheet. As VOA’s Rosanne Skirble reports, they hope to find clues to explain the dynamics of the rapidly melting ice and its impact on sea level rise.
Video

Video US-Cuba Normalization Talks Resume Friday

Negotiations aimed at normalizing diplomatic relations between the U.S. and Cuba resume Friday. On the table: lifting a half-century trade embargo and easing banking and travel restrictions. There's opposition in Congress, but some analysts say there may be sufficient political and economic incentives in both nations for a potential breakthrough this year. VOA's Mil Arcega reports.
Video

Video Pakistan's Deadline For SIM Registration Has Cellphone Users Scrambling

Pakistani cell phone users have until midnight Thursday to register their SIM cards, or their service will be cut off. While some privacy experts worry about government intrusion, many Pakistanis are just worried about keeping their phone lines open. VOA Deewa reporter Arshad Muhmand has more from Peshawar.
Video

Video Myanmar Warns Factory Workers to End Strikes

Outside Myanmar's main city Yangon, thousands of workers walked off their jobs earlier this month demanding a doubling of their wages, pay raises after a year and input from labor unions on industrial regulations. Since Friday, the standoff has grown more tense as police moved in to disrupt the sit-ins, resulting in clashes that injured people from both sides. VOA correspondent Steve Herman visited industrial zones which have become a focus of Myanmar's fledgling workers rights movement.
Video

Video Oscar Winners Do More Than Thank the Academy

The Academy Awards presentation is Hollywood’s night to reward the best movies from the previous year. It’s typically a lot of glitter, a lot of thank you’s, a lot of speeches. But many of this year’s speeches carried messages beyond the thank you's. VOA’s Carolyn Presutti takes a look.

All About America

Circumventing Censorship

An Internet Primer for Healthy Web Habits

As surveillance and censoring technologies advance, so, too, do new tools for your computer or mobile device that help protect your privacy and break through Internet censorship.
More