The Corner

President Obama in Mexico

President Obama dined and slept last night in the largest city in the Americas. Mexico City pulsates with life, problems, and history.

La Capital is the city of the vainglorious General Santa Anna and the progressive Porfirio Díaz, who lamented, “Poor Mexico, so close to the U.S. and so far from God.”

The Halls of Montezuma, so named by Americans when U.S. troops captured the city and helped to complete our vision of Manifest Destiny, are there. 

It is the city of the mighty Mexican nationalists, like Lázaro Cárdenas, and haughty Third World mandarins, like José López Portillo.

Since the early 1980s, Mexican presidents have drawn closer to the U.S. The “distant neighbor” became less distant; “intermestic” [international-domestic] issues keep us worrying about a common future. What hurts the U.S. hurts Mexico, and vice-versa.

President Obama’s Mexico visit inches the historical ball of cooperation forward and signals a certain leveling of the playing fields between nations. His watchwords seem to be: co-responsibility, no more arrogance, and gun-control for all!

Yet, in Mexico the president backed swiftly away from an open confrontation with U.S. voters who “cling to guns or religion or antipathy to people who are not like them.” He urged Mexico’s President Calderón to cool his ardor for the reinstatement of the expired ban on assault weapons and stressed the need for stepping up enforcement of existing laws, interdiction of southbound gun movements, and better forensic cooperation with the Mexicans.

Obama promised to push for ratification of an Organization of American States convention on firearms, an international instrument of debatable utility currently languishing in the Sargasso Sea of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.

On border security, migration, trade, and real progress on energy issues, little progress appears to have been made. But the atmospherics appear to have been good.

President Obama made no major mistakes while in Mexico. His “we will do our part” pep talk was delivered with his customary charm and verbal skill. Yet, conciliatory watchwords cannot abolish a history of conflict, inequities, and clashing national sentiments that remain the stuff of U.S.-Mexican relations. 

Ray Walser is senior policy analyst for Latin America at the Heritage Foundation’s Douglas and Sarah Allison Center for Foreign Policy Studies.

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