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Mexican columnists ponder Obama visit, wisdom of drug war

May 02, 2013|By Cecilia Sanchez and Richard Fausset
  • Beginning a trip to Mexico and Costa Rica, President Obama walks out of the Oval Office on Thursday to board Marine One on the South Lawn of the White House.
Beginning a trip to Mexico and Costa Rica, President Obama walks out of the… (Shawn Thew / European Pressphoto…)

MEXICO CITY — When President Obama arrives in Mexico on Thursday, he and his Mexican counterpart, Enrique Peña Nieto, are expected to focus on economic issues.

But in the Mexican press, many columnists this week have been more interested in questions that have emerged about the future of the U.S.-Mexico security partnership. Some also are using the occasion to wonder whether the war on drugs, as promoted by the Americans, is worth fighting at all.

The enhanced security partnership between the U.S and its southern neighbor flourished under former President Felipe Calderon, who welcomed U.S. assistance in his six-year struggle against Mexico’s powerful drug cartels. It was a struggle that unleashed a wave of violence that left some 70,000 Mexicans dead, but did little to halt the northward flow of drugs.

The Peña Nieto government, which took power in December, appears to be reassessing that relationship. And that, as The Times reported this week, has resulted in some unease among U.S. officials, who are waiting to see how close the relationship will remain in the future.

An editorial Thursday in the Mexico City newspaper El Universal acknowledges the widespread worry among U.S. officials. But the editorial also asserts that American politicians have done little to diminish the voracious demand for drugs north of the Rio Grande, have failed to stop the sale of weapons that have ended fueled the violence in Mexico and have neglected to seriously address the laundering of drug money. [The columns linked to from here are in Spanish.]

“Does President Obama come here to commit himself to such debates, vital to destroying the root of narco-trafficking, or only to tell us that our role in the relationship is to subordinate ourselves to them?” the paper asked.

Columnist Leo Zuckermann, in the paper Excelsior, writes that America prefers to fight the drug war on Mexican soil but “the war against drugs is their war, not ours. And indeed, if there’s something they’ve learned since Nixon declared this war, it’s that they’re never going to win it.”

The American states that recently legalized marijuana, Zuckermann argues, understand this.

“But it’s not that way for the federal government of the United States, which keeps committing to fight drugs with bullets, preferably beyond their territory.”

Another Excelsior columnist, Ana Paula Ordorica, assumes that Obama wants to find out more about Peña Nieto’s new security plan. But she writes that the Mexicans are hoping to shift the conversation to other topics and thus diminish the perception of Mexico as “bloody, rough and violent.”

“In essence, Obama is coming to see if his worries are warranted or not,” she wrote. “In this context, the challenge for the Mexican government will be to make clear that, yes, there is a [security] plan, and move on as quickly as possible to other themes.”

In the newspaper Reforma, columnist Lorenzo Meyer writes that the U.S.-backed security policies of recent years “have already failed,” and “haven't contributed to strengthening and stabilizing Mexico, but, rather, the contrary.”

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