President Obama said the United States was partially responsible for the drug wars that have
strained relations with Mexico and ravaged the border during an appearance with Mexican President Felipe Calderon
"We are very mindful that the battle President Calderon is fighting inside
of Mexico is not just his battle, it's also ours," Obama said. "We have to
take responsibility just as he's taken responsibility."
Obama committed to seizing more weapons and increasing border security in an
effort to stanch the flow of cash and guns to Mexico that has aided cartels
in an area with more than 35,000 deaths related to drug violence in the last
The pledge comes on the heels of the death of U.S. Immigration and Customs
Enforcement agent Jaime Zapata, who was shot with a gun smuggled from the
The meeting of the presidents came against the backdrop of U.S. cables posted recently on Wikileak that questioned whether the Mexican government could police
cartels that have infiltrated the top ranks of law enforcement. Those leaks have generated resentment among Mexican leaders.
Despite the promise for increased cooperation, those who actually patrol the
border expected runaway corruption to continue in Mexico.
"[Calderon] picked a fight he couldn't win," said T.J. Bonner, president of
the National Border Patrol Council, which represents U.S. agents. "It's
clear the Mexican government can't even protect themselves against the
cartels. It's just completely out of control. We don't believe we can trust
the cops and soldiers down in Mexico."
Without an increased financial investment in the drug wars, Calderon said
the two countries were doomed to experience more violence.
In a show of good faith, senior administration officials said they expect to
expedite around $900 million in funding to Mexico by the end of the year for
Obama and Calderon also brokered a deal on a plan that would allow both U.S.
and Mexican trucks to cross the border. The United States now blocks the Mexican
vehicles over concerns that they don't meet safety standards.
In the deal is finalized by Congress, Mexico would lift tariffs on dozens of
American products in place since the dispute began. However, Calderon's assessment of the president was far less flattering away
from the glitz of a White House ceremony. "I have found cooperation on this matter with President [George W.] Bush and
with President Obama, but obviously institutional cooperation ends
up being notoriously insufficient," Calderon recently told the Mexican
newspaper El Universal.
"How can Americans cooperate? By reducing drug use, which they haven't done. And, the flow of weapons hasn't slowed, it has
increased," he said.
Tensions between the countries are not likely to be eased by the presidential visit, experts said.
"It's a nice start but they still have a lot of work to do," said Maureen Meyer, a Mexico
expert at the Washington Office on Latin America.