TOPICS > Politics

Drug War, H1N1 Virus Top Mexico Summit

BY Maureen Hoch  August 10, 2009 at 10:53 AM EDT

President Barack Obama and Mexian President Felipe Calderon; AFP/Getty Images

The leaders issued a joint statement emphasizing their unified commitment to keeping a predicted resurgence of the H1N1 virus this fall at bay. Read the full statement here.

A senior Obama administration official told news agencies the goal was to ensure that the residents of the three countries are fully informed about steps to mitigate the virus, which is believed to have originated in Mexico last spring.

Mexico recorded 146 deaths from swine flu among 17,416 total cases, the country’s health ministry said Aug. 4, according to Bloomberg News. There were 43,771 cases worldwide of H1N1 flu and 302 deaths as of July 24, reported the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Presidents Calderon and Obama also discussed cooperation on fighting drug cartels through a three-year, $1.1 billion package of aid to Mexico, called the Merida Initiative that includes helicopters, intelligence sharing and police training.

Listen to NPR White House correspondent Scott Horsley discuss the summit’s significance and the combined efforts to combat drug violence:

Mexico says U.S. equipment and training are taking too long to arrive, partly due to concerns in the U.S. Congress over Mexico’s human rights record, reported Reuters.

Democratic Sen. Patrick Leahy of Vermont has blocked what was described as a favorable U.S. State Department report on Mexico’s human rights record, delaying the release of $100 million in U.S. aid intended to help Mexico fight narcotics traffickers.

Mexico’s ambassador to the United States, Arturo Sarukhan, told reporters “there is one senator that is worried about the issue,” and that “this is not part of a wide movement inside the Senate.”

Another pressing trade issue — a cross-border trucking dispute — is on the agenda. Mexican trucks are supposed to be allowed to cross into the United States under the North American Free Trade Agreement, but U.S. trucking companies say Mexican trucks are not safe.

Mexico imposed retaliatory tariffs of $2.4 billion in U.S. goods in March after Mr. Obama signed a bill canceling a program allowing Mexican trucks to operate beyond the U.S. border.

President Obama has made it clear that he is working with Congress on what is viewed as a safety issue, but Calderon has told him that the dispute has hurt trade, raised consumer costs and reduced job creation, according to a statement from his press office.

Canadian officials also are expected to raise concerns about “Buy American” elements of a $787 billion U.S. economic stimulus program that they fear could shut out Canadian companies. Canada is the United States’ largest trading partner.

And Mexico’s ambassador to Canada, Francisco Barrio, said that in talks with Harper, Calderon expressed concern about a measure to require Mexicans to have visas to visit Canada, according to Reuters.