Political Risk Latin America Blog @PolRiskLatam

Crisis in the U.S.-Mexican Relationship

Posted in News and Articles, Political Risk by politicalrisklatam on March 3, 2011

by Diana Villiers Negroponte for The Brookings Institute, March 2nd, 2011.

A full blown crisis has erupted in the U.S.-Mexican relationship at a time when the U.S. is focused on domestic budget issues and events in the Middle East and North Africa. The summit between President Barack Obama and Mexican President Felipe Calderón this week is intended to focus on the essential needs of two neighbors. For several months, Mexican elites have been grumbling about U.S. interference, the inadequate financial contribution within the Merida Initiative compared to U.S. support for Plan Colombia, and U.S. failure to understand the nature of Mexico’s violent crime.

The crisis blew up on February 22, when in an interview with El Universal, President Calderón stated that U.S. cooperation in the Mexican drug war is “notoriously insufficient.” He added that American diplomats have “done a lot of harm [Mexico-U.S. relations] with the stories they tell and that, in all honesty, they distort so as to impress their own bosses.” Calderón sees the failure to coordinate a serious problem among U.S. federal agencies, including the DEA, CIA and ICE. The reference to U.S. Immigration & Customs Enforcement did not mention that seven days earlier ICE agent Jaime Zapata was murdered while carrying out his duties on the road to San Luis Potosí. President Calderón had no niceties for Zapata’s death, but instead chose to blame the lack of coordination among U.S. agencies for the failure to reduce drug consumption and the increase of weapons moving southward.

U.S. Secretary for Homeland Security Janet Napolitano responded immediately to the accusations that U.S. agencies were failing to coordinate. On February 24, the White House confirmed an outstanding U.S. invitation to hold a presidential meeting in Washington. However, whether this summit can calm down the Mexican leadership and restore trust among senior officials on both sides of the border is yet to be seen. Can this meeting restore a constructive relationship necessary to engage on trade, energy, competitiveness, scientific research, immigration and security? (continue reading… )

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