Mexico Talks Focus on Security Obama, Pena Nieto Discuss Dealing with Crime, Immigration

By Pace, Julie | Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA), May 3, 2013 | Go to article overview

Mexico Talks Focus on Security Obama, Pena Nieto Discuss Dealing with Crime, Immigration


Pace, Julie, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)


MEXICO CITY -- President Barack Obama sought Thursday to tamp down a potential rift with Mexico over a dramatic shift in the cross- border fight against drug trafficking and organized crime, acceding that Mexicans had the right to determine how best to tackle the violence that has plagued their country.

Since taking office in December, Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto has moved to end the widespread access that U.S. security agencies have had in Mexico to tackle the violence that affects both sides of the border. It's a departure from the strategy employed by his predecessor, Felipe Calderon, which was praised by the United States but reviled by many Mexicans.

Mr. Obama said the shifting security relationship would not hurt cooperation between the neighboring nations. "I agreed to continue our close cooperation on security, even as the nature of that cooperation will evolve," the U.S. president said during a joint news conference at Mexico's grand National Palace. "It is obviously up to the Mexican people to determine their security structures and how it engages with the other nations -- including the United States."

Mr. Pena Nieto as well downplayed the notion that the new, more centralized arrangement would damage its security partnership with the United States. He said Mr. Obama agreed during their private meeting earlier in the day to "cooperate on the basis of mutual respect" to promote an efficient and effective strategy.

Mr. Obama arrived in Mexico on Thursday afternoon for a three- day trip that will also include a stop in Costa Rica. Domestic issues followed him south of the border, with the president facing questions from reporters about potential escalation of the U.S. role in Syria, a controversy over contraceptives access for teenage girls and the delicate Capitol Hill debate over an immigration overhaul.

The latter issue is being closely watched in Mexico, given the large number of Mexicans who have emigrated to the United States both legally and illegally. More than half of the 11 million people in the United States illegally are Mexican, according to the Pew Research Center.

For Mr. Obama, the immigration debate is rife with potential political pitfalls. While he views an overhaul of the nation's patchwork immigration laws as a legacy-building issue, he has been forced to keep a low-profile role in the debate to avoid scaring off wary Republicans. …

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