President-elect Barack Obama met with Mexican President Felipe Calderon Monday, emphasizing the importance of strong U.S.-Mexico relations. Analysts discuss how Mr. Obama may handle the ties in light of Mexico's drug war and the global economic downturn.
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President-elect Obama's first meeting with a foreign leader followed tradition, when he met today with Mexican President Felipe Calderon to discuss the U.S.-Mexican agenda.
Mexico is under siege from drug trafficking and the violence that comes with it. Drug-related homicides doubled to 5,400 last year, most of them in Mexican cities near the U.S. border. Also fueling this violence are guns bought legally in the U.S. and smuggled into Mexico.
President Calderon has deployed Mexican troops to take on the drug cartels. And, in 2007, the U.S. pledged $1.4 billion in aid to help. Mr. Obama supported the so-called Merida initiative, which has seen just $300 million go to Mexico so far. Both men highlighted the drug issue when they met with reporters in Washington.
FELIPE CALDERON, president, Mexico: We need to combat together this common problem and fight against organized crime with all our effort and combine the capabilities of our governments.
U.S. PRESIDENT-ELECT BARACK OBAMA:
I'm such an admirer of the work that President Calderon has done on behalf of his country. Not only has he shown leadership in the economy, but he has shown also extraordinary courage and leadership when it comes to the security issues dealing with drug trafficking, dealing with the violence that has existed as a consequence of the drug trade.
And, so, my message today is that my administration is going to be ready on day one to work to build a stronger relationship with Mexico.
Also on the agenda were immigration, trade, and the current financial crisis.
Calderon will meet with President Bush tomorrow at the White House.
And for more on what to expect in U.S.-Mexico relations in the new administration, we turn to two experts on Mexico.
Armand Peschard-Sverdrup is senior associate at the Center For Strategic and International Studies. And Pamela Starr is senior lecturer in international relations and public diplomacy at the University of Southern California.
Welcome, both of you.