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Mexico: The Buzz Over Obama

Frontera NorteSur, News Report, Staff Posted: Apr 16, 2009

In their Mexico City meeting scheduled for April 16, U.S. President Barack Obama and Mexican President Felipe Calderon are expected to focus heavily on issues of border security and organized criminal activities. In the run-up to the meeting, Mexican academics, social activists and politicians urged the two leaders to broaden their agenda to include other issues of critical importance in the relationship between Mexico and the United States.

At a round-table discussion in the Mexican capital this week, academics warned the Mexico-U.S. relationship runs the risk of being reduced to security issues as defined by the current administrations in power in Washington and Mexico City, especially the one in Washington.

The sudden U.S. interest in Mexico, said international relations expert Gabriel Guerra Castellanos, stems not so much from love but from the United States' fear that Mexico is a possible threat to national security.

While the U.S. plays chess, we in Mexico play dominoes, Guerra said. Guerra and other participants addressed the U.S.-Mexico relationship at an event sponsored by the ITESM institute of higher learning in Mexico City. The foreign affairs analyst urged the Mexican government to be more proactive in its relations with the United States.

On April 15, Mexican Congressman Cesar Duarte Juarez, president of the lower house of the Mexican Congress, confirmed he will be present during the Obama-Calderon encounter. Duarte repeated contentions that U.S.-origin arms trafficking was bolstering the power of organized crime, but said he
hoped to hear Washingtons positions on other issues of common concern like migration.

Tamaulipas Governor Eugenio Hernandez Flores pointed to the relaxation of some U.S. travel restrictions to Cuba as a positive sign that a new synergy could develop in Mexico-US relations to encompass public safety, migration, trade and the economy.

Grassroots citizens organizations plan to hold events in Mexico City to pressure the United States and Mexican governments on a number of fronts. A network of Mexican and U.S. activists plans to attempt to deliver a letter to President Obama that supports immigration reform, opposes border wall
construction and demands the withdrawal of US troops from Iraq and Afghanistan. On the immigration question, the activists also demand no new contract labor or temporary worker program. The letter has the support of deported immigration activist Elvira Arellano, Fernando Suarez del Solar, father of a U.S. soldier slain in Iraq, and several Mexican congressmen, among others.

Mexican Congressman Edmundo Ramirez, coordinator of the PRI party working group in the lower house of the federal Congress, also urged President Calderon and President Obama to oversee an immigration reform that is favored by the migrants in the United States, and which will prevent family
separations and deaths from dangerous border crossings.

For their part, activists affiliated with the Mexican No Corn, No Country campaign plan a press conference at the U.S. Embassy April 16 to discuss the effects of the North American Free Trade Agreement on the Mexican countryside.

Pro-immigration reform activists definitely have the ear of the new U.S. president. In an exclusive interview with the US-based Spanish-language television network prior to his first state visit to Mexico, President Obama said he will set in motion an immigration reform process this year, though he could not guarantee a new law would be passed in 2009.

President Obama did not specify who will be covered in an immigration reform law or what type of visas or permits might be issued. In a chat with Univision host Jorge Ramos, President Obama linked immigration reform to border security.

The President also said U.S. Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano was reviewing the mass round-ups of undocumented people in the United States, a practice he said was no solution to the immigration dilemma.

The Obama-Calderon encounter caps several days of feverish activity around security issues on both sides of the border.

Only in the last couple days, Homeland Security Secretary Napolitano named a new border czar and announced tens of millions of dollars will be spent on new security programs, while New Mexico Democratic Senator Tom Udall said hed support the stationing of 100 new National Guard troops on
his states border with Mexico. The construction of a long-delayed section of the U.S. border wall estimated to cost more than one billion dollars also got underway near Brownsville, Texas.

At the same time, it was revealed that the Mexican army will acquire six state-of-the-art French-built helicopters valued at nearly $300 million. On television and in print, national Mexican media featured photos of a nervous 20-year-old woman captured along with an arsenal of heavy weaponry
in the northern state of Sonora.

As the presidential meeting drew near, more than 4,000 security personnel and U.S. Secret Service agents flooded the Mexican capital. Demonstrators from Greenpeace Mexico displayed a huge banner from a Mexico City monument before police stopped them. In their message, the environmentalists urged the U.S. and Mexican presidents to Save the Climate.

Sources: Univision, April 14 and 15 2009. Albuquerque Journal/Associated Press, April 15, 2009. La Jornada/Notimex, April 15, 2009. Lapolaka.com, April 15, 2009. Cimacnoticias, April 14, 2009. Article by Federico Campbell Pena. El Universal, April 13, 14, 15, 2009. Articles by Noe Cruz Serrano, Juan Velediez, Roberto Aguilar Grimaldo, and Notimex. Greenpeace.org.mx

Frontera NorteSur (FNS0 is an online, U.S.-Mexico border news Center for Latin American and Border Studies New Mexico State University Las Cruces, New Mexico

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