By Diego Graglia, FI2W web editor
MEXICO CITY — Even before he landed in Mexico City today to begin a two day visit, President Obama had already sent a strong message to Mexicans via one of the capital city’s most influential newspapers.
“Years of Progress, At Risk: Obama” That was the headline this morning on the cover of El Universal, announcing an op-ed article penned by Obama, which ran simultaneously in several countries in newspapers belonging to the Grupo de Diarios de América consortium.
In the piece, the president acknowledges that the U.S., distracted “by other priorities,” has on many occasions “neither sought nor maintained relationships with its neighbors.”
…our progress is directly linked to progress in the whole American continent. My government has committed to the promise of a new day. We will renew and sustain more extensive relationships between the United States and the hemisphere.
In advance of the Summit of the Americas he will attend later this week in Trinidad and Tobago, Obama reminds Latin American readers that this week he softened the American approach to Cuba –reducing travel and remittance restrictions– and he asks that the continental debate leave behind its 20th century frame of mind.
To face our economic crisis, it is not necessary to debate whether it is better to have a rigid, government-managed economy or an unfettered capitalism with no regulations; it is necessary to take pragmatic and responsible measures that promote our common prosperity.
Still, in an American diplomatic tradition dating to the 1960s, he also uses the letter to renew the calls to Latin American countries to “join us in supporting liberty, equality and human rights for all Cubans.” (See below for a contrarian view from two of the most important Latin American leaders.)
Obama also proposes creating a Society of the Americas to address energy and climate issues, as one of the ways to deal with the global economic crisis. He also reaffirms his commitment to working with Mexico in the war against drug cartels, “starting from home.”
Other Mexican newspapers also led today with the historic visit.
Center-right daily Reforma used a picture of a latex mask factory in Puebla which received an order for 5,000 Obama replicas. “He is already an icon of world pop culture. His visit to Mexico is like when the Pope came,” the factory’s owner said.
On a more serious note, Reforma also carried the news that the Drug Enforcement Agency does not approve of the initiative being discussed in Mexico these days of legalizing marijuana to cut off one of the cartels’ main sources of cash.
Leftist La Jornada reflected the extreme security measures that surround Obama’s visit (as well as the security challenge the Mexican drug war has become for the administration.)
Sections of the city –including the upscale neighborhood of Polanco, where Obama will sleep tonight– have seen heavy police and military presence since Wednesday. More than 3,500 officers are to take part in the security operation. Traffic, always chaotic, will be considerably worse today close to the areas where the American president is scheduled to be.
Milenio led with a complaint from the previous Mexican president, Vicente Fox, who told CNN he obtained no real cooperation from the United States when he tried to fight the drug cartels.
“A good relationship and friendship are not enough, neither are nice words like those Secretary Hillary Clinton said … What we need is commitments,” Fox said.
As evidence that U.S. intentions are frequently misaligned with Latin American objectives, Milenio also reported that the presidents of Brazil, Lula Da Silva, and Colombia, Álvaro Úribe –seen, respectively, as the leaders of the progressive and conservative camps in the region– will propose that Cuba be accepted to the Summit of the Americas and to the Organization of American States. The Communist Caribbean nation has historically been isolated from these hemispheric fora due to U.S. pressure.