Feature

How they see us: Mexico reaps little from a state visit

One outcome of President Felipe Calderón's visit to the U.S. is that President Obama finally agreed to allow Mexican trucks into the U.S.

What a diplomatic faux pas, said Miguel Ángel Granados Chapa in El Mañana. Mexican President Felipe Calderón, on a state visit to Washington last week, practically ordered President Obama to replace the U.S. ambassador to Mexico. Calderón had been exhibiting an “obvious coldness” toward Ambassador Carlos Pascual for weeks, ever since WikiLeaks released a pile of embassy cables showing that Pascual considers the Mexican government disorganized in its fight against drug dealers. In particular, an official in Pascual’s embassy criticized the Mexican army as “risk averse” and said the navy was much more reliable. In a huffy interview with The Washington Post, Calderón said the leaks had caused “severe damage” in relations, and he implied that he’d “lost confidence” in the ambassador. It was an overreach. The State Department responded with an unequivocal endorsement of Pascual, saying basically: He’s staying, deal with it. Calderón’s visit to the White House should have provided “good propaganda”; instead it “turned into a snub.”

The problem is not Pascual, said Jorge Zepeda Patterson in El Universal. The U.S. ambassador has truly immersed himself in the waging of the drug war. He has “traveled the war zones more often than Calderón’s officials” and held dozens of meetings with Mexican analysts, journalists, human-rights activists, businessmen, and others, asking probing questions about the extent of corruption and the reach of drug lords’ power. “Pascual knows what he’s talking about when he reports that there are officers in the Mexican army that cannot be trusted.” As detailed in the WikiLeaks material, Pascual’s opinion is grounded in the numerous occasions when the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency has given the army enough information to capture drug lords only to see them get tipped off. The U.S. ambassador should not be “run out of town for telling the truth in his reports.”

The flap over the ambassador is a sideshow anyway, said Sergio Sarmiento in Frontera. The most pressing problem in Mexican-U.S. relations is “the flow of arms” from the U.S. to Mexican drug gangs. Tens of thousands of American weapons are smuggled south every year, and they end up being used in the drug violence that has killed 35,000 Mexicans in the past four years. Yet in the state visit with Calderón, Obama “acknowledged his powerlessness” to take on the gun lobby, ban assault weapons, or even crack down on gunrunners. That’s because Americans see wielding guns “as the very essence of freedom,” said Román Revueltas Retes in Milenio. They think that what makes them American is the ability to “launch a bullet at any potential aggressor on their own, without recourse to the sort of law-enforcement bodies that are responsible for protecting people in civilized societies.” Still, there was one achievement from the state visit. Obama finally agreed to allow Mexican trucks into the U.S.—something provided under NAFTA but long blocked by the American trucking industry. So now all those weapons that flood into our country “can at least be transported on Mexican trucks.”

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