President Felipe Calderón of Mexico announced yesterday that he will meet with U.S. President Barack Obama at the White House next Thursday, March 3, amid a recent spike in drug-related violence and increased friction over leaked diplomatic documents. Last week two U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) special agents were shot at in San Luis Potosí, and WikiLeaks cables released in December revealed a much rockier relationship between Mexican and U.S. government officials and uneasy attitude toward the drug war than had been publicly expressed.
U.S. and Mexican officials have consistently touted the unprecedented level of cooperation between the two governments on battling drug cartels and associated violence, including $1.4 billion from the U.S. in training, equipment and other drug war aid. Nonetheless, since December 2006, when President Calderón took office and deployed soldiers and federal police in a widespread crackdown, more than 34,000 people have been killed in drug-related violence. Most recently, ICE agent Jaime Zapata was killed and his partner Victor Avila injured last week while driving north from Mexico City to Monterrey.
On Tuesday, the same day that Zapata was buried in Brownsville, Texas, President Calderón remarked in an interview with Mexico’s El Universal newspaper that U.S.-Mexico relations had become strained after WikiLeaks’ release of cables that included statements by U.S. officials reflecting frustration with a “risk-averse” Mexican army and inter-agency rivalries. Calderón said the cables show that U.S. diplomatic officials are ignorant of Mexico’s security situation and tend to exaggerate, while rivalries and a lack of coordination among U.S. agencies, including the Drug Enforcement Agency, Central Intelligence Agency and Immigration and Customs Enforcement, are undermining the war on drugs. He also said the U.S. government should do more to curb demand for drugs in the United States, where the most illegal drugs in the world are consumed, and to stop the flow of arms into Mexico.
Both presidents said the reason for the meeting, which will be the fifth between the two leaders since President Obama took office in January 2009, was the two countries’ shared interests and was not the result of any individual incident.