Friday, May 24, 2024

Clinton to Travel to Mexico to Address Drug Trade Violence

Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton will visit Mexico this Wednesday to meet with Mexican President Felipe Calderón. She will visit Mexico City and Monterrey to discuss the escalating drug violence and trade rules between Mexico and the United States.

This will mark the first cabinet member visit to Mexico before Obama’s visit April 16-17.  Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano and Attorney General Eric Holder have scheduled visits to Mexico in April as well.

“We have a number of speed bumps in the relationship,” said Harley Shaiken, director of the Center for Latin American Studies at the University of California, Berkeley. “The visit is meant to flatten them.”

The most pressing issue that Clinton will address is Mexico’s crackdown on drug cartels that has resulted in brutal murders in the border cities of Tijuana and Juárez. Cartel violence has killed 6,290 people across Mexico last year and more than 1,000 in the first eight weeks of 2009, according to Mexico’s government.

Violence has also trickled into the United States, where Mexican drug cartels are believed to operate in 230 cities, according to a recent U.S. Justice Department report.

Clinton is expected to address Mexico’s accusations that U.S. authorities are doing little to reduce drug use and drug trade within the United States. USA Today reports that Napolitano plans to send a large number of federal agents to the border, but how many and how much will be spent are still to be announced.

Also on the agenda will be the Merida Initiative, an aid package that the United States has cut funding for even though it is aimed at helping Mexico’s drug fight. Congress recently cut their aid from $450 million to $300 million.

Mexico also would like for the United States to restrict the sale of guns  which can often end up in the hands of Mexican smugglers.

NAFTA also will be part of Clinton’s conversations with Calderón as both countries struggle in the current economic downturn. As previously reported in La Plaza, Congress challenged NAFTA by canceling funding for a pilot program that would allow Mexican trucks to travel on U.S. highways. Mexico responded by slapping tariffs of 10%-45% on some U.S. goods.

During the presidential campaign, both Obama and Clinton said they wanted to renegotiate the 1994 trade pact with Mexico and Canada to better protect U.S. workers.

Immigration reform is not expected to be at top on the agenda because of other more urgent issues such as the economy.

USA Today

Dallas Morning News