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Hard talk and contentious agenda awaits Bush in Mexico

Tuesday, March 13th 2007 - 21:00 UTC
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President George W. Bush arrived in the Mexico's Yucatán capital of Mérida late Monday on the last leg of his five-nation Latin American tour. He is set to meet President Felipe Calderón Tuesday to talk trade, migration and security, all highly controversial issues for the neighboring countries.

No new bilateral polices are expected, but experts see the visit as a chance for Mexico to push its agenda and appeal for more U.S. help in fighting powerful drug trafficking cartels. Conservative President Calderón has repeatedly called for more U.S. help in his fight against organized drug traffickers who have corrupted Mexico's police and justice system. Turf battles between rival crime syndicates have left thousands dead. In an interview on Saturday, Calderón called on the United States "to come up with something that is more than symbolic gestures" and said the high U.S. demand for narcotics limits his government's ability to fight organized crime. "We Mexicans are risking our lives in fighting organized crime", he insisted. As in other nations Bush has visited during this regional tour, demonstrations are expected - on Sunday some protesters had already mobilized in Mérida's colonial center. In preparation, thousands of federal police and U.S. Secret Service agents have been deployed in the city and on the nearby ranches where talks will take place. Another contentious issue is migration policy and the wall being built by the US along the border which has infuriated Mexicans. In their first meeting in the White House last November Calderón told Bush that the decision to build the 1.130 kilometer long was a "mistaken decision". However Calderón did express support for Bush's initiative for the creation of a temporary work program that would help legalize the millions of undocumented Mexicans living and working in United States. An estimated 12 to 15 million Mexicans live and work in the United States. According to a public opinion poll published in Reforma, Mexico City's main daily, only 37% of Mexicans have a positive image of President Bush. "For each Mexican who has a favorable opinion of President Bush there are two who have a non favorable opinion of him", said Reforma. The Mexican press also points out the fact that President Bush is a "lame duck", with no control over Congress, an unpopular war and the presidential race to replace him already on track.

Categories: Tourism, United States.

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