By the Mexico International Team
At last week’s state meeting between Presidents Felipe Calderón and Barack Obama, the Mexican leader found himself having to answer to growing concerns about high-profile violence in Mexico. First, there was the disappearance of former PAN (National Action Party, to which Calderón also belongs) leader Diego Fernandez last week. Media reports are uncertain, but many think he has been kidnapped or murdered. Then there was the murder of mayoral candidate Jose Maria Guajardo, also of the PAN party, in the state of Tamaulipas, which media sources refer to as a “drug-plagued region”. These more recent incidents, in addition with general reports of violence along the border, leave Calderón with the duty of addressing the violence in Mexico as necessitating aid from the U.S, while assuring that the situation can be controlled and the aid will not go to waste.
Early on, Calderón attacked the Arizona immigration law, arguing that the law is discriminatory. President Obama agreed that the law “has the potential of being applied in a discriminatory fashion” and stated that it is currently under review by the Justice Department. John McCain, Republican senator from Arizona, later stated that it was “unfortunate and disappointing” that Calderón chose to comment on this particular item of policy during this state visit.
President Obama took this opportunity to address general immigration reform, saying that "the Arizona law expresses some of the frustrations the American people have had in not fixing a broken immigration system." He called upon Congress, saying that he needs 60 more votes in the Senate. However, the need for immigration reform was illustrated much more poignantly by a little girl in Maryland, whose school was visited by First Ladies Michelle Obama and Margarita Zavala on May 19th. The girl asked if Barack Obama was really “taking away” undocumented immigrants, adding that her mother “doesn’t have papers.” Michelle Obama also called upon Congress in fielding the question, stating that “everybody’s got to work together on that in Congress.”
During his address of a joint session of Congress, Calderón referred to the record number of extraditions of high-level traffickers to the United States as proof that Mexico is taking the drug war seriously. With funds provided by the U.S. through the Mérida Initiative, Calderón has carried out an intensive military strategy to deal with the drug violence. However, during this visit, President Obama took some responsibility for the role of the U.S. has played in creating this problem: both drug demand and arms imported from the U.S. fuel drug trafficking and ensuing violence in Mexico.
In the face of increasing violence, it is clear that the Mérida Initiative’s emphasis on police and military funding is ineffective. Even record numbers of extraditions have done little to quell drug trafficking. The violence does, however, force many people to seek work and homes elsewhere, and many choose to migrate to the U.S, where they often face discrimination.
Ironically, President Calderón, said that “the time has come to reduce the causes of migration and turn this into a legal, orderly and secure flow of workers and visitors,” when it is so often policies created collaboratively by the U.S. and Mexican governments that are at the roots of migration. As long as policies putting free trade and militarism over people continue, people have no choice but to leave their homes.