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Obama Meets Mexican President-Elect Nieto to Discuss War on Drugs, Immigration

November 27, 2012 at 12:00 AM EST
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RAY SUAREZ: And we turn to Mexico. At the White House today, President Obama greeted the man who will soon lead the United States’ neighbor to the south.

PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: This is a longstanding tradition.

RAY SUAREZ: As cameras flashed, the newly re-elected U.S. president met this afternoon with the newly elected president of Mexico, Enrique Pena Nieto, who takes office Saturday.

BARACK OBAMA: Mexico has become not simply an important bilateral partner, but is today a very important multilateral, multinational leader on a whole range of issues from energy to climate change.

And we look forward to working with Mexico not only on regional issues, but also on global issues.

ENRIQUE PENA NIETO, Mexican president-elect (through translator): We also share a very important vision, a vision of creating more jobs. We know this is very important not only for the American people, but also for the Mexican people, for both our nations, but not only that. We also have the opportunity to integrate North America to be participating in this part of the world.

RAY SUAREZ: Their most immediate challenge may be the surge of drug violence in recent years. Outgoing Mexican President Felipe Calderon waged war on the cartels at a cost of 60,000 dead over six years.

But last summer, Pena Nieto told the NewsHour’s Margaret Warner there has to be a better way.

ENRIQUE PENA NIETO (through translator): It is very clear that, after several years of this fight on drug trafficking, we have more drug consumption and drug use and drug trafficking. That means that we’re not moving in the right direction. Things are not working.

And I’m not saying that we should legalize. It’s exactly the opposite. I’m against legalization, but with a debate where countries in the hemisphere, and especially the U.S., should participate in this broad debate to redefine the way in which we fight drug trafficking.

RAY SUAREZ: The two presidents will also have to confront illegal immigration from Mexico to the U.S. The issue was largely ignored by Mr. Obama and his Republican challenger, Mitt Romney, in the fall campaign.

Since Election Day, when they lost Latino voters by a lopsided margin, Republicans have begun joining calls for reforms. It’s also an issue with potential economic repercussions on both sides of the border.

Mexico and the U.S. have become vital trading partners as the Mexican economy booms. It now ranks as the second largest Latin American economy behind Brazil’s.