President Calderon issued a reality check during his brief visit this week, calling for co-responsibility for all of the problems facing both countries and denouncing the U.S. deflection of issues regarding immigration and the war on drugs. “We are neighbors, allies, and common people,” he said, “and until your government understands this our progress together will take more time.”
During his address at the Woodrow Wilson Center on Thursday afternoon, he set the record straight about Mexico’s status—economically, socially, and politically. In areas such as health care and educational reform, Mexico is sprinting at a rate that will make the country increasingly competitive in the upcoming decade. Calderon warned: “Americans needs to get ready to compete with the areas of the world that are growing at a faster rate.”
Calderon accredited his country’s progress to its ability to confront obstacles in a way unlike their neighbors across the border: “Facing the problems is the only way to fix them. In Mexico we have not been ignoring them to postpone the difficulty or to avoid the costs of fixing them.”
Fighting the Drug-Trade Cancer
An anecdote was shared to illustrate the struggle against organized crime: a patient is diagnosed with cancer and incorrectly blames all of his subsequent health problems on the doctor who diagnosed him, because he seemed to be healthy before radiation treatment. To Calderon this represents the violence Mexico is now encountering in their struggle to rid the region of drug cartels, and depicts why there may suddenly seem to be more violence than before. “I am also fighting a cancer in Mexico,” he said, “and I will cure Mexico.”
Addressing the root of the problem with improved education has been a priority on the agenda; last year Juarez alone opened five new high schools and three new college campuses. “But in the meantime,” Calderon asks, “is it okay for me to just let the cartels do whatever they want? No it is not.”
A four-way approach to imposing consequences was outlined, including the deployment of armed forces and the continued reformation of the Mexican judicial system. But Calderon reminds us, “the solution must come from both sides of the border.” Reducing the American demand for drugs is the only way to significantly lessen the grip of organized crime in the region.
According to Calderon, the bottom line is: “There are too many guns in America.” Reform in Mexico can only be so effective until there is significantly less access to weapons. While President Obama insists that America is fighting to increase the prosecution of gun-runners, Calderon claims it is not nearly enough.
Building a Better Future
Ultimately President Calderon wants to remind Americans that we share a common destiny, and collective economic prosperity is in everyone’s interest. He reminded us, “We are not competing North America vs. South America. We are now competing Americas vs. Asia, and we have to use our mutual advantages to best do that.”
In his meeting with President Obama, Calderon proposed we do this by lifting tariffs and eliminating barriers to trade. Obama responded by agreeing to end the U.S. ban on Mexico’s trucks, allowing them to travel beyond the narrow border zone they’ve been restricted to. Mexico will in turn suspend 50 percent of the tariffs that were imposed in retaliation to these restrictions when the definitive accord for the new program is signed.
Emphasizing Mexico’s efforts on all fronts, Calderon extended challenges for the U.S. to meet his country halfway in terms of economic growth, immigration reform, and the war against drugs and illegal weapons. “Mexico is fully committed to doing our part,” he said, “but the solutions must come from both sides of the border.”