President Obama departs Mexico for Americas SummitPosted: Updated:
President Obama departed Mexico for the summit of the Americas in Trindad Tobago. While here in Mexico City, the President said he wanted to usher in a "new era" in the bilateral relationship. A new approach was clearly evident during this trip.
The cornerstone of that new approach "shared responsibility." It's no surprise to anyone living in a border state that drug users and gun smugglers in the U.S. contributed to the rise of powerful drug cartels in Mexico. But the acknowledgment from President Obama goes a long way in fostering a more honest relationship based on mutual respect.
"You can't fight this war with just one hand. You can't just have Mexico making an effort and the United States not making an effort. And the same is true on the other side,"
said the President.
President Calderon was practically beaming at the podium where the two men addressed media from both countries and around the world. Mexico's president even glossed over the Mexican trucking conflict focusing more on cooperative efforts to help both countries and the North American region compete on a global scale.
President Calderon said he had presented a list of 200 infrastructure improvements to make the border both safer and more efficient, including 6 new border crossings and bridges.
While in Mexico President Obama said he's committed to fixing the "broken system" that now characterizes the U.S. immigration policy. He said he's in favor an approach that fosters and orderly, safe immigration but also creates a path to legalization for undocumented workers now "living in the shadows" in the U.S. That would involve paying some sort of penalty (probably a fine) and earning citizenship over time. President Obama said he supported this approach while in Congress but the effort failed because it was "politicized." It's hard to see how it could suceed now in the midst of an economic downturn.
President Obama sought to get beyond the usual contentious issues of illegal immigration and drugs that characterize most high level visits to Mexico "Our relationship is not simply defined by these problems. It's also defined by opportunities that's what we want to take advantage of as well."
In this spirit President Obama will participate in the 5th Summit of the Americas in Trinidad-Tobago. This attitude is welcomed in by many in Latin America who say the U.S. has neglected the region.
Cuba, the only non-democracy in the region, is not invited to the 34 nation Summit of the Americas. But the island will figure prominently at the gathering.
In Mexico City a reporter asked President Obama about lifting the Cuba travel ban for all American travelers. The adminstration this week cleared the way for Cuban-Americans with family ties to visit the island and send money to relatives. President Obama told the reporter not to dismiss that step and called it "significant" but added it's time for the Cuban government to also demonstrate a willingness change, to allow it's citizens to travel anywhere off the island, to "respect human rights and the needs of the Cuban people."