Reforma‘s most recent poll reveals that President Obama is viewed favorably amongst most Mexicans–especially those who live in the northern part of the country. Other findings indicate that people under 30 years and Mexicans with a university degree have a positive view of the President of the United States.
As President Barack Obama prepares to travel to Mexico Thursday for a meeting with President Enrique Peña Nieto economic growth, immigration and security policies top the agenda. Yet one unmentioned theme – Mexico’s dismal labor rights record – has important consequences for all three of these policy areas.
From 2006-2012, the government of Felipe Calderón mounted a full-scale assault on democratic labor unions in Mexico, combining all the mechanisms of labor control built up during 70 years of one-party rule with full-scale military assaults on striking workers. Although the compensation of Mexican workers relative to U.S. workers in manufacturing was lower in 2010 than in 1975, Calderón was determined to drive wages even lower to attract foreign investment.
It is not yet clear whether Peña Nieto intends to continue Calderón’s repressive policies, or whether he will finally respect Mexican workers’ rights. The message that Obama sends could make a crucial difference.
Amid the clamor framing President Barack Obama’s overnight stop in Mexico’s capital Thursday, smarter folk will be listening to the sounds of silence. Because in such whistle-stop summits national leaders usually strive to accentuate the positive.
But more than the happy chatter — about trade, economic reforms and enduring friendships — what Obama and Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto don’t say, at least publicly, may be more telling about their countries’ close but often conflicted relationship. Analysts say US officials privately have been chewing nails over what might be Peña’s dismantling of their close involvement in Mexico’s six-year campaign against its crime lords.
When former Mexican President Felipe Calderón waged his war on drug cartels, the media were guaranteed a crime photo op every few weeks. Alleged gangsters were thrust before the press along with heaps of guns, money and narcotics. These narco-perp walks were often accompanied by videos in which heavy-breathing suspects confessed how they had committed hundreds of murders and smuggled tons of cocaine to American users. And the parades often coincided with top U.S. officials visiting Mexico and trumpeting how the two nations stood shoulder to shoulder in their joint fight against cartel crime.
However, it is unlikely that U.S. President Barack Obama will be shown any such displays when he visits Mexico this Thursday. Since President Enrique Peña Nieto took power in December, the parades have stopped as part of an overhaul in the government’s security strategy. (Human-rights defenders also decried these staged pantomimes of justice.) Peña Nieto has shifted focus from fighting cartels to modernizing the economy and has encouraged media outlets to dedicate less coverage to decapitations and shoot-outs. In the run-up to Obama’s visit, both governments have emphasized trade and immigration reform over the battle with the cocaine kings. “The Peña Nieto administration has made it clear it wants to reduce the emphasis on violence and wants to talk about other things such as its reform agenda,” says security analyst Alejandro Hope, a former official of Mexico’s intelligence agency, CISEN. “It wants to change the conversation.”
WHERE: 5th Floor Woodrow Wilson Center
On the same day that President Obama begins his trip to Latin America, the authors of the Mexico Institute’s new policy report will present their recommendations for strengthening U.S.-Mexico relations. President Obama and President Peña Nieto will meet in the context of booming bilateral trade, a major U.S. effort to reform immigration law, a potential Mexican energy reform, and ongoing but evolving cooperation in addressing public security and organized crime. The discussion will touch on each of these topics, as well as other issues in the bilateral relationship.
On Friday, April 26th experts from the Wilson Center’s Mexico Institute and Latin American Program participated in a media briefing on Obama’s trip to Mexico and Costa Rica.
- Audio and a transcript from the briefing are available here.
The Chicago Council on Global Affairs, in conjunction with the Woodrow Wilson Center, released a public opinion survey brief on Americans’ views toward Mexico. The survey results suggest that increased public awareness of bilateral endeavors could boost support for increased economic and energy integration in the future.
- A PDF of the survey is available here.
This week’s meeting between Presidents Obama and Peña Nieto brings U.S.-Mexico relations to center stage. This second face-to-face between the two leaders occurs at a critical time in each presidency. Domestic reform efforts that have far-reaching implications for the bilateral agenda are underway in both countries. These include immigration reform in the U.S. and reforms to boost economic competitiveness in Mexico and though they inject some short-term uncertainty into the relationship they also infuse it with a sense of new possibilities and opportunity.
Recent efforts to broaden the discourse on U.S.-Mexico relations have been largely successful—and overdue. Nevertheless, security remains the focal point for many citizens of both countries and a primary challenge for Mexican leaders.
President Obama travels to Mexico this week amid signs that the relationship between the United States and its southern neighbor’s new government faces a new period of uncertainty after years of unprecedented closeness forged by the deadly war against Mexican drug cartels.
The government of Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto is said to be wary of the level of U.S. involvement in security affairs that characterized the administration of his predecessor, Felipe Calderon. As a result, the Mexican government is expected to narrow U.S. involvement in its attorney general’s office and Interior Ministry, the agencies that oversee police and intelligence, current and former U.S. and Mexican officials say.
Washington’s political cacophony will be muffled this week, with Congress in recess and President Barack Obama scheduled to travel outside the United States. Even so, the president’s trip to Mexico and Central America will shine a spotlight on efforts to overhaul America’s immigration system.
With President Barack Obama set to visit Mexico next week, a group of 23 U.S. lawmakers asked the administration to prioritize the defense of human rights in relations with the Aztec nation. The legislators expressed their concern over “the persistence of grave human rights violations in Mexico” in a Dear Colleague letter to Secretary of State John Kerry.
Headed by Reps. James Moran (D-Va.) and Ted Poe (R-Texas), the lawmakers are urging Obama to make the defense of human rights “a central part” of Washington’s agenda with Mexico. During the 2006-2012 government of Felipe Calderon, who militarized the war on drugs, complaints to Mexico’s independent National Human Rights Commission about abuses by police and soldiers increased fivefold to 2,723, the congressmen emphasized.