Clinton in Mexico: More Than Meets the Eye

Foreshadowing President Obama’s visit in April, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s visit to Mexico comes at a time when the country is being scandalously described as a “failed state,” that could possibly “undergo an insurgency” and turn “anarchic.” Her diplomatic mission is ostensibly to calm down the American public while defusing the fears of an allegedly collapsing Mexico and a dramatically weakened security situation between the two neighbors. Coinciding with her visit are the reciprocal indictments which each government has leveled at the other for the shocking series of events being witnessed by the drug and gang-related violence flaring up along the U.S.-Mexican border.

Clinton’s scheduled trip to Monterrey on Thursday, a city where violence and kidnappings have escalated and even the US consulate has been attacked, is a symbol of the Obama administration’s pledge to help bolster Felipe Calderón’s struggling anti-cartel campaign. This initiative is pointedly being aimed at the crippling violence and perceived lawlessness now occurring in Mexican border cities. The violence has also begun to spill over into corresponding U.S. border cities, such as Tucson and Phoenix. In addition to the war of words that has been going on for the past weeks between Mexico City and Washington, another war – a much deadlier one – runs parallel to the heavy rhetoric. These skirmishes take place on the streets, public squares and suburbs of Ciudad Juarez, Reynosa and Tijuana, which have become more poisonous in recent days.

The series of reciprocal indictments and ongoing war of words seen in newspaper editorials and legislative tirades have ultimately worked against facilitating any long-term solutions from being easily discussed. While Obama has begun to reinforce law enforcement agencies on the border and promised to crackdown on money laundering and arms smuggling, the Mérida Initiative was cut down to $300m from the original $450m worth of anti-corruption, surveillance and intelligence equipment in, to the noticeably reduced amount for a job that overtly needs considerably more funding. As the Calderon government is placed under strain by the violence, Clinton must reassure the embattled Mexican president that the US will play its part in the offensive against the numerous and well-funded transnational crime syndicates.

A backdrop mandate for Secretary Clinton’s visit to Mexico City is provided by Congress’s decision to terminate a pilot program that opened U.S. highways and markets to Mexican Truck deliveries. This decision temporarily paralyzed US-Mexican trade relations due to Washington’s inability to abide by the terms of their very own, but ill-drafted free trade agreement. The Obama administration, via Secretary Clinton’s diplomacy, must demonstrate to Calderón the importance of constructing – as a joint effort – a modern border infrastructure that will allow trade between the two nations to flourish, rather than an ex parte rejection of some of the more objectionable terms set forth under the NAFTA agreement. The U.S.’ aspiration to maintain a solid relationship with Mexico must be emphasized by the Secretary’s visit that must also construct mutually beneficial U.S.-Mexican ties. It is essential for Washington to demonstrate that the White House is moving into new territory by changing its strategy and providing solutions that address the national interests and wellbeing of the citizens of both countries, to no one’s loss

According to Mexican Ambassador to the U.S., Arturo Sarukhan, “It’s time for the U.S. and Mexico to stop playing checkers and start playing chess.” In order to engage Mexico City’s justifiable qualms of being relegated to a secondary tier priority when it comes to U.S. policy, Secretary Clinton’s visit must address the very real demands, and requirements that a truly benign and enlightened U.S.-Mexican relationship requires.