US-Mexico ties: Tensions simmer beneath Calderón's visit to White House
Ahead of today's visit, Mexican President Felipe Calderón said the US has not done its part to reduce arms trafficking and drug consumption, and lambasted US diplomats for leaked cables that called his security forces corrupt and uncoordinated.
Smiles are likely to be all around when Mexican President Felipe Calderón meets with President Obama today at the White House. But simmering beneath the surface, the highest-profile US killing in Mexico in 25 years along with damaging cables released by WikiLeaks have pushed bilateral relations to one of their most tense points in Mr. Obama's presidency.Skip to next paragraph
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In public statements, diplomats on both sides of the border say bilateral coordination has never been tighter and that the leaders’ meeting had been in the works long before US Immigration and Customs (ICE) Agent Jaime Zapata was murdered by gunmen in Mexico on Feb. 15.
But President Calderón painted a different picture last week in an unusually candid interview with Mexico's El Universal daily newspaper. He said the United States has not done its part to reduce arms trafficking and drug consumption, and lambasted US diplomats in Mexico for leaked cables that called his security forces corrupt and uncoordinated.
American forces are the uncoordinated ones, he added, while calling US Ambassador to Mexico Carlos Pascual “ignorant” in connection to the cables.
So how will Calderón handle his list of grievances during this afternoon's visit?
“The ball is in Calderón’s court,” says Andrew Selee, director of the Mexico Institute at the Woodrow Wilson Center, where Calderón is also scheduled to speak today. “Is he going to come out swinging, saying the US isn’t doing enough, or is he going to come in to mend fences to some of the tensions? ... Part of me thinks he wants to ratchet up the volume in the relationship.”
What Calderón wants
Mexico’s Foreign Ministry said Calderón will likely discuss drug consumption and arms smuggling from the US during his fifth meeting with Obama in two years. Also on the agenda will be keeping money flowing for the $1.6 billion Merida Initiative, which has come in fits and starts.
“That there are insufficiencies is precisely what we are trying to address, as well as to strengthen a relationship as important as the relationship between Mexico and the United States,” Mexico’s Undersecretary for North America Julian Ventura told reporters Tuesday.
Mr. Ventura said both governments will likely renew promises Thursday to speed up funding for the Merida Initiative. He denied local media reports that Calderón no longer spoke with US Ambassador Pascual, saying there is a “direct and intense” relationship.