Obama and Calderón agree to a deepening relationship

President Filipe Calderón and President Barack Obama share a one-on-one meeting in the White House Thursday. White House Photo by Pete Souza

U.S. President Barack Obama and his Mexican counterpart, Felipe Calderón, say they have agreed to deepen their cooperation in the fight against Mexico’s drug cartels.

In a joint news conference at the White House Thursday, Obama said Calderón has shown extraordinary courage in battling the cartels and stressed that the U.S. accepts shared responsibility for the drug violence.

President Obama said the U.S. is speeding up efforts to equip and train Mexican forces and is also working to reduce the demand for drugs and combat the flow of weapons and money to Mexico.

Both Calderón and Obama also pledged to work to improve security along the U.S.-Mexico border, following the killing in Mexico last month of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agent Jaime Zapata.

Calderón expressed his deepest condolences to Zapata’s family and said Mexico hopes to bring to justice the drug gang leader arrested in connection with the shooting. Obama said the U.S. has requested the extradition of the suspect and expects the “full weight of the law” to be brought against him.

The two leaders also reaffirmed their commitment to work together on immigration, the economy, climate change and clean energy. Obama also said the United States and Mexico have found a clear path to resolving a long-running dispute over trucking between the two nations.

As part of the 1994 North American Free Trade Agreement, Mexican truckers were to be able to deliver goods into the United States. However, the United States had refused to allow them in, over safety and environmental concerns. Mexico imposed higher tariffs on some U.S. goods because of the dispute.

More than 34,000 people have been killed since Calderón launched a crackdown on drug cartels in 2006.

In congressional testimony this week, U.S. Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano said she is very concerned about escalating violence on the U.S.-Mexico border.

On whether the U.S. would arm its agents in Mexico to ensure their safety, both Obama and Calderón said Mexican laws do not allow foreign agents inside Mexico to be armed. Obama said the United States’ job in the fight against drug cartels is to help with information, equipment and coordination, but stressed that the U.S. does not carry out law enforcement activities in Mexico.

Calderón said Mexico is exploring alternatives for protecting U.S. agents.

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