Pubdate: Mon, 17 May 2010
Source: Washington Post (DC)
Copyright: 2010 The Washington Post Company
Author: Jorge G. Castaneda
Note: Jorge G. Castaneda was foreign secretary of Mexico from 2000 to 2003 in the government of Vicente Fox. He teaches international relations at New York University and is a fellow at the New America Foundation.
TIME FOR A RESET IN U.S.-MEXICAN RELATIONS
Mexican President Felipe Calderon will make his first full-fledged visit to Washington this week since taking office 3 1/2 years ago. Given the issues facing their countries, Calderon and President Obama might be tempted to nickel-and-dime their encounter. But the time is a ripe for a “big idea,” not unlike what NAFTA — warts and all — was when it was proposed in 1990. Instead of narrowing everything down to drugs, security and how the United States can best back Mexico’s war, the two countries should “de-narcoticize” their relationship and make their goal Mexico’s development and transformation into a middle-class society.
Calderon has been battered by the effects of the international economic crisis at home ( Mexico’s economy shrank 6.5 percent last year ); by 23,000 deaths in the drug war ( 257 deaths in early May constituted the highest weekly toll since 2007 ); by opposition intransigence to reforms and institutional gridlock; this past weekend, by the kidnapping and possible death of the most influential figure of his party for the past two decades; and by Arizona’s new immigration law, which is seen in Mexico as anti-Mexican. With the 2012 Mexican presidential campaign already underway, Calderon, on his way to lame-duck status, would probably be content with raising a few specific issues ( trucking, American gun-running into Mexico ), obtaining a categorical restatement of U.S. support for Mexico’s fight against organized crime and one more acknowledgement of U.S. responsibility for drug use.
Consider the border. On paper, the two governments want freer flows of legal goods, services and people but much tighter control over illicit flows: people and drugs from south to north, guns, chemicals and “blood money” from north to south. But what about the reality of Arizona, where the Obama administration may have to send the National Guard and against which Mexico has issued a travel advisory? Pressure is also growing on Calderon to legalize marijuana if California does so in November. Can these contradictory points be dealt with one by one?