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Reading the fine print: Hillary Clinton

22 January 2011

U.S. press reports (Reuters) only say Hillary Clinton is swooping down on Guanajuato next week for unspecified talks with President Calderón and Foreign Secretary Espinoza… to “to discuss competitive and border topics as well as better collaboration to jointly fight organized crime.”

What Reuters leaves out, I had to read in Agence France-Press.  My “google-search” for this story brought up  ChannelNewsAsia (Singapore) as the first choice.  was tacked on to the end of the Singapore, and other English-language sources I checked.  Tacked to the end of the Singaporean (and other English-language stories using AFP) — but the lead in La Jornada — was in regard to one issue on the agenda, organized crime activity along the United States border:

“I don’t think that the issue here is whether the stability of our of our society is at risk, but certainly, you know, this is a national security threat,” Clinton spokesman Philip Crowley told reporters.

“These international criminal organisations, they have assets and weapons and people that certainly can challenge any security force.”

The United States — the main market for Mexico-trafficked drugs and supplier of illegal weapons — has offered training and equipment to Mexico’s security forces under a three-year, 1.3-billion-dollar Merida Initiative to tackle organised crime, which is set to evolve this year.

“This visit is an opportunity to reinforce the close relations between the two nations and to identify common objectives and strategies to ensure greater security and well-being for the citizens of both countries,” Crowley said.

On her third official visit to Mexico, Clinton will be seeking to smooth over close ties upset last September, when she said Mexican cartels were starting to look like an insurgency.

I’m of a mind to presume the bold-faced comment was a bit of Gallic irony. Or, rather, galling.  While AFP (at least some AFP stories) are mentioning, as an aside, that somewhere during the one-day meeting there will be some discussion of follow-up to the Cancún conference on climate change, the Spanish news service, EFE (via Latin American Herald-Tribune) goes into more detail on differences between the governments:

Mexico has repeatedly asked the United States to restrict the sale of automatic weapons because Mexican cartels take advantage of the ease of purchasing them to arm themselves and subsequently direct an immense amount of fire-power against the army and police.

In recent years, the United States – the world’s leading consumer of illegal drugs – has provided Mexico with $1.4 billion in arms, materiel and training for the war on drugs by virtue of the Merida Initiative. There has also been a constant exchange of intelligence.

United by trade and demographic ties, the two nations have also been in conflict for several years because Mexican truckers are barred from transporting cargo into the United States.

The Mexican ambassador to Washington, Arturo Sharukan, said this month that the No. 1 priority for his diplomatic mission in 2011 will be dealing with possible laws that limit the rights of undocumented immigrants in the United States, of the kind already enacted in Arizona.

Climate change is probably the most important issue, and those mentioned by EFE are a priority for the Mexican government, but — given Ms. Clinton’s (or, rather, her spokesman’s) intemperate and undiplomatic remarks which will, of course, simply lead to more discussion of the U.S. failure to do anything about its firearms and money smuggling operations, and its inability to decide how it wants to handle its massive consumer demand for narcotics.

I see real danger in that Ms. Clinton’s remarks seem to suggest a rationale for more direct intervention in Mexican national security matters, but if the U.S. administration does not mean to foster this interpretation, then Mr. Obama is ill-served by his Secretary of State and should consider replacing her if he expects his country to have friendly relations with its second largest foreign oil supplier and third largest trading partner in the future… or with any of his neighbors in the Western Hemisphere.


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