Mexico’s Calderón: “I Did It My Way”

Felipe Calderón achieved what may have been his finest hour in an otherwise lackluster presidency, in the course of his just concluded trip to Washington. Conducting himself with great personal dignity in his address to a joint session of Congress, he managed to lay down a series of telling salvos targeted against U.S. culpability in an arms trade in which thousands of illicit weapons have been delivered to Mexico’s armed common street gangs, as well as to drug cartel militias, while an insufficient and rudderless effort has been the best that the Obama administration has been able to do when it came to cutting down the demand for drugs in the U.S.

While in the U.S., President Calderón did not try to minimize Mexico’s own shortcomings in its bilateral relations with the U.S., acknowledging that his country could have done more in terms of creating new jobs within its own country and reducing the level of violence along the U.S.-Mexico border. While recognizing Washington’s sovereign right to control its border with Mexico, Calderón agonized over the point that it is the Obama administration’s obligation to regularize a legal flow of job-seeking immigrants into the U.S., where they are needed, and that U.S. officials should not daub job-seeking Mexicans as criminals, rather than as honest but poor people seeking to improve their and their families’ living standards.

Even though Calderón has not had a particularly distinguished presidency since taking office in 2006 nor has he been particularly successful in his version of the anti-drug war, and even if his policies inadvertently have led to greater casualties and a huge surge in violence within Mexico, with few tangible results, he at least had the personal courage that now allows him to say, “I did it my way.” This is in stark contrast to a host of his predecessors, going back to the shameless Carlos Salinas presidency, which irreparably destroyed Mexico’s immune system to ward off infirmities coming from the U.S.