Calderón Offers Advice to Obama

President Felipe Calderón, who met Monday with Obama, visited President Bush yesterday at the White House.
President Felipe Calderón, who met Monday with Obama, visited President Bush yesterday at the White House. (Pool Photo By Kevin Dietsch Via Getty Images)
By Manuel Roig-Franzia
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Mexican President Felipe Calderón said yesterday that President-elect Barack Obama should take steps to stem a "worrisome" rise in anti-U.S. sentiment in Latin America.

In a meeting with Washington Post editors and reporters, Calderón warned that Obama will face threats throughout the region to principles promoted by the United States, such as free markets, property rights and the rule of law.

"He has the leadership, the credibility, to change that situation quickly," Calderón said. "We can work together to promote the values we share."

Calderón met Monday with Obama, continuing a tradition of Mexican presidents sitting down with newly elected U.S. presidents before Inauguration Day. The rapport between the two men could help determine the future of such hot-button issues as immigration and trade.

"We coincide about the benefits of trade," Calderón said, noting that Mexico is one of the United States' largest trading partners. "In Mexico, we are fans of American products."

Calderón credited the North American Free Trade Agreement with creating jobs in both countries and said he would be responsive to Obama's concerns about labor rights and the environment.

Calderón, who favors U.S. immigration reform, said Obama cautioned him about "obstacles and difficulties in the [U.S.] political arena." About half of the estimated 12 million undocumented immigrants in the United States are Mexican. The U.S. economic slowdown has made it more difficult for many of them to send home money, and some have returned to their native country because they cannot find work here.

Calderón said he has a plan to create 300,000 jobs in Mexico in the next six months. "My dream is to see a Mexico in 20, 30 years or less where nobody will need to go out of the country for economic reasons," he said.

Calderón has deployed tens of thousands of Mexican soldiers and federal police to fight drug cartels. The United States must do its part, Calderón said, by limiting arms trafficking and reducing drug consumption. "We are working hard on the supply side," he said. "Working on the demand side is critical."

Later yesterday, Calderón met with President Bush, who thanked him for cooperating in the war on drugs.

"We are committed to fighting criminals and to overcoming them once and for all," Calderón said in a joint appearance with Bush. "And the rule of law is the one thing that I want to stress we are going to promote, no matter what, in our country."

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