Today, these ties are being put to new tests as we attempt to seize the unprecedented opportunities of a new century while also addressing its urgent threats, including a global economic crisis that has spared neither the United States nor Mexico, and amplifies the already serious challenges we share.
Drug trafficking that has terrorized some Mexican communities, especially those along the border, is another urgent challenge our governments are working together to address. This situation is intolerable for honest, law-abiding citizens of Mexico, America, or anywhere people of conscience live. This affects not only the government, the law enforcement, the military, the judicial system of Mexico and the people of Mexico, but of the more than 60 million Americans who live in U.S. border states.
This is why I have been very clear: the United States recognizes that drug trafficking is not only Mexico’s problem. It is also an American problem. And we, in the United States, have a responsibility to help Mexico address it.
The United States and Mexico can do more, and do better, to meet our shared challenges.
Traffickers use guns purchased in the United States to fight each other and to challenge the Mexican military and police. Their enterprise is financed in part by our country’s demand for drugs, which sends up to $25 billion a year in illicit drug profits back into the hands of the drug kingpins. Drug profits are propping up cartels financially allowing them to continue their campaign of violence and lawlessness. Recently, the Obama Administration announced a comprehensive plan to increase security along our border, including more officers to stop the illegal flow of guns into Mexico.
We are closely working with Mexican leaders through the Merida Initiative. And through this partnership between our nations, the United States has pledged $1.4 billion to train and equip Mexican law enforcement, facilitate the gathering and sharing of information, and help to strengthen Mexico’s judicial system and public institutions.
In Mexico City, I also announced the creation of a bilateral office where Mexican and U.S. officials can work together to coordinate our efforts to fight drug trafficking. The Obama Administration also intends to provide more than $80 million in urgently needed funding for Blackhawk helicopters to enhance the capacity of Mexican law enforcement officers. I saw some of those Blackhawks at the base I visited in Itzapalapa, and heard firsthand about how it is helping to right the disadvantage that law enforcement has had, given the military assault weapons and the other ways that the drug cartels have been spreading lawlessness and violence.
Mexico and the United States may have a border between us, but we have a common purpose. And if we believe in that, there’s no limit to what we can accomplish together.
What provisions are being put in place to deal with the violence in Mexico?
As I recently said in Monterrey, the United States will be stepping up to help address the serious security challenges that Mexico is facing. And Mexico, of course, must do its part as well.
I am a firm believer in results. I’m in the solutions business. I know that Foreign Minister Espinosa and President Calderon feel the same way. We are going to develop a checklist with tasks and timelines to measure progress toward our goals. As we prepare for President Obama’s visit to Mexico in a few weeks’ time, we will be working to expand and deepen, in consultation with other members of our government and the Mexican Government, what our specifics of this agenda between us will be.
Now, of course, it will cover security issues: What can we do to speed up the implementation of the Merida Initiative, including delivery of equipment; what Mexico can do to speed and enhance its efforts to combat the drug cartels and implement needed police and judicial reforms. It will cover our shared economic challenges, including a new competitiveness agenda, shared efforts to implement G-20 outcomes, and of course, trade, commerce, and border infrastructure modernization. It will cover clean energy - steps we can take to expand our partnership bilaterally and multilaterally - and it will cover health, education, human rights, global and hemispheric issues, including the Summit of the Americas.
We’re going to roll up our sleeves and get to work, and we’re going to be involving not just our leaders but also the people of our countries. I had been stressing before I went to Mexico, and certainly during my time there, how unique the relationship is between our two countries. After my visit, I am more convinced than ever that we will stand shoulder to shoulder in support of one another and that we will make progress together.
After your recent visit, do you believe travel to Mexico is safe?
The United States is not advising American citizens to stay away from Mexico. Millions of U.S. citizens safely visit Mexico each year, and we expect that to continue. We send out travel alerts all the time at this time of year just so that people are well informed and exercise good judgment. But we are not advising anyone to change their plans. In fact, I just advised one of my friend’s daughters to have a wonderful time on her spring break in Mexico.
Will you discuss the issue of Mexican trucking into the United States and its implications for safety and national security, especially in light of the drug cartels?
This question was also raised at my recent town hall meeting in Monterrey. The United States is working with the Mexican Government to work out a resolution of the concerns that have been raised by the United States Congress that we think we can answer. But we shouldn’t just take Mexico trucking and act as though that’s the only issue that we have to worry about going across our border. Millions of people go back and forth across our border in cars and trucks and buses and trains and airplanes and boats and on foot.
We have to have better surveillance along our border of cars and every other form of transportation going both way - coming from the north to the south, and going from the south to the north. If there are legitimate questions that have to be answered about how we move goods and services and people across our border, then we have to answer all of them.
The question of Mexican-registered trucks also has to be resolved, but it has to be put into the broader context of what we’re going to do together to make sure that anything that crosses our border either way is not carrying drugs or weapons or laundered cash or human beings who are being sold into trafficking. We’ve got to be aware of that on every front.
I want to look at this broadly, and that’s one of the reasons why Secretary Napolitano and Attorney General Holder are going to Mexico to talk about how to implement the announcement that the Obama Administration made about how we’re going to provide more surveillance, how we’re going to have a better system for finding out what’s in those cars.