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Bush and Calderon Meet in Mexico

President Bush concluded his Latin America tour with a meeting in Mexico with President Felipe Calderon — their first meeting since Calderon took office in December.  Bush has been the target of demonstrations throughout his trip, and many in Mexico are disappointed in the Bush Administration's policies, particularly as they relate to immigration, as well as its perceived lack of engagement in the region.  President Bush is hoping his visit will help alleviate some of this sentiment. 

Migration and drug trafficking topped the agenda for Bush and Calderon during their meeting on the Yucatan peninsula.  Calderon said that he understood that the attacks of September 11th altered Bush's foreign policy agenda, but challenged Bush on his pledge to make Latin America a priority for his administration.  Calderon also expressed his hopes of creating better jobs and more opportunity at home, so fewer Mexicans will feel the need to try to cross the border. He said of the American proposal to build a 700-mile fence along its southern border that “migration cannot be stopped and certainly not by decree,” but rather by investment and new jobs in Mexico. (Washington Post) Calderon asserted that money for just one kilometer of road in Mexico would do more to decrease illegal immigration than 10 kilometers of a border fence. (LA Times)

President Bush expressed his commitment to passing comprehensive immigration reform and said he hopes to convince Congress to soften immigration laws and allow for a guest worker program. Bush's efforts to pass such a program, along with a path to citizenship, were blocked in the House of Representatives last year by members of the President's own party, whom he might have been targeting when he commented, “I remind my fellow citizens that family values don't stop at the Rio Grande River, that there are decent, hard-working honorable citizens of Mexico who want to make a living for their families.” (AP/Forbes) The new Democratic majority in Congress would reportedly support an immigration overhaul, and Senators Edward Kennedy and John McCain are supporting Bush's desire to pass a reform bill.

On the issue of drug trafficking, Calderon said he would do his part to reduce the drug supply crossing into the U.S., and in fact, he has already dispatched his army to eight Mexican states to combat drug violence. He also suggested that the U.S. should do more to lower its demand for drugs, saying that he cannot succeed in the drug war unless the U.S. can reduce the billions of dollars a year its citizens spend on drugs. Bush agreed that combating drug trafficking needs to be a collaborative effort on both sides of the border, and vowed to work on efforts to reduce U.S. demand.

Calderon, a pro-business conservative, did not seem to have particularly high hopes for any major changes coming from the Bush visit and, interestingly, expressed his desire for Mexico to develop closer relations with Cuba. The two Presidents have one more day together before wrapping up their summit.

Further Reading:
From Mexico Also, the Message to Bush is Immigration (New York Times)
Bush Promises Push for Immigration Reform (
Anti-Bush Protests in Mexico City (BBC)

Bush and Calderon Meet in Mexico

Calderon and Bush (AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais)