President Obama met in Mexico on Thursday with President Enrique Peña Nieto. Publicly, the two leaders focused on trade. That makes sense given the strong economic ties between the two nations and Peña Nieto's efforts to introduce more competition to Mexico's energy and telecommunications sectors in the hopes of boosting his country's economy.
But privately the two presidents will also discuss bilateral security, including Peña Nieto's decision this week to require all U.S. law enforcement contact with federal police to be routed through Mexico's Interior Ministry. That shift, as well as Mexico's reported intention to restrict American security officials' access to drug intelligence, has sparked concern in Washington, where Sen. Patrick J. Leahy (D-Vt.) has already put a hold on the release of $246 million in anti-crime funding for Mexico until lawmakers can get a better sense of how the money will be used.
Some critics worry that Peña Nieto, who took office in December, is scaling back cooperation and distancing himself from the United States in an effort to protect his image and burnish his nationalist credentials. Those concerns aren't irrational. After all, his Institutional Revolutionary Party, which held power in Mexico for 70 years until the 2000 election, has a long history of nationalism and anti-American rhetoric.