Time for a Reset between the U.S. and Mexico

It looks like Mexico will elect Sr. Pena-Nieto this summer.  It looks like the U.S. will elect Gov. Romney this fall.

If this turns out to be the case, let's hope that these two men bring some fresh ideas, because the U.S.-Mexico relationship desperately needs a new "reset."  

It's fair to say that Pres. Calderón and Pres. Obama did not get much done.  Theirs was not a fruitful relationship for three reasons:

1) Pres. Obama was never really interested in Mexico.  He was, and continues to be, a Chicago Democrat more in tune with the labor unions and crony capitalism than with free trade with Mexico or Latin America.  

As we recall from the 2008 campaign, candidate Obama ran against free trade agreements and promised to renegotiate NAFTA.  

Even The Washington Post could not believe the level of pandering from candidate Obama.

He demonstrated his incredible ignorance of our southern neighbor when he said that Mexico does not have "labor laws."  The opposite is true; in fact, Mexico needs to reform its labor laws and make itself more attractive to employers rather than make it impossible for companies to fire people.

2) The Obama-Calderón relationship was poisoned from day one when Pres. Obama and Dems dumped the "truck agreement" that Pres. Bush had negotiated.  This was done without consulting Mexico.  It was the Dem majority pandering to the labor unions.  It's not a good day for diplomacy when the new president of the U.S. pulls the rug out from a major economic partner like Mexico.

3) Finally, Pres. Calderón made the foolish mistake of carrying Pres. Obama's water on SB 1070, the Arizona immigration law.  It made Calderón the face of the Arizona law and killed any chance of getting anything done.  (Let's not forget that a lot of those Dems who applauded Pres. Calderón's Arizona-bashing speech lost in 2010.)

Furthermore, Pres. Calderón stabbed the Republicans who had fought for the Mérida Plan and criticized the aforementioned "truck decision."  Someone in the Mexican embassy forgot to tell Pres. Calderón that he had more friends in the GOP than in "the union controlled" Dem party.

At the same time, Pres. Calderón got nothing from Pres. Obama -- i.e. no immigration reform was ever submitted to Congress when the Dems had majorities.   

I have never seen a Mexican president used so cynically by a U.S. president.  I hope that Pres. Pena-Nieto will refresh the political team in the Washington embassy; after all, I don't think that these "experts" gave Pres. Calderón good advice.

We knew that the Calderón-Obama talks were not very productive when the biggest headline from a recent visit was that the Mexican first lady loves the NY Jets and their QB, Matt Sanchez. 

But back to the present and the near future.  We've reached an important point, and a new relationship is desperately needed.

For one thing, the killing in Mexico is horrific.  We get one headline after another.  For another, the press has been targeted!  How can Mexicans understand what is  happening in their country when journalists are being shot and intimidated?  And then there's the news regarding the tragedy of Central Americans crossing Mexico.

In short, Pres. Romney and Pres. Pena-Nieto need to sit down and speak bluntly to each other.

1) Border security is a matter of national security for both countries.  Unfortunately, Pres. Obama's border policy was all based on pandering to the Mexican vote in the US.  He was never serious!  He was interested just in scaring Hispanics into believing that the GOP would send their "abuela back to Durango."  Actually, it is the Obama economy sending "abuela" and lots of others back to just about every state in Mexico (including Durango!).

2) If we're going to address the Mexican cartels, it's time to let U.S. soldiers tackle them directly.  Let the cartels understand that they will face a division of the U.S. Army rather than border agents on bicycles.  I understand that the border patrol does a great job, but they are no match to gangs with high-powered weapons.

Bottom line?  Pres. Romney should declare that Mexican cartels are a threat to our security and label them terrorists!  We need to escalate our game and drive home the point that breaches of our border will not be tolerated.  Romney should authorize commanders on the ground to use whatever tactics are necessary, from pre-emptive attacks to drone strikes.  In other words, we need to start using our technology to kill leaders!

Why U.S. soldiers?  The Mexican Army is exhausted and stretched too thin.  U.S. soldiers will bring a new seriousness to the mission and welcome relief to a Mexican army drained from five years of a very heavy war.

The Mexican army has done a great job.  But at the same time, Mexico's army was never created to fight a war of this kind.  It has to be retrained, like in Colombia under Plan Colombia.

Will Mexicans support U.S. troops?  I was surprised to read that "[m]ost Mexicans want U.S. to take a bigger role in fighting violence[.]"  And I think that more and more Mexicans understand that their army is not capable of fighting this war.  Again, the violence has reached a point where people want security rather than abstract discussions of sovereignty.  (Sovereignty means nothing if cartels are killing people and journalists all over.)

Of course, we understand that the military option is not a magic bullet.  Mexico needs to make some internal changes, such as improving its police force and enforcing the rule of law.  However, you have to have security before you have honest policemen and a judicial system that works for all, not just those who have connections.

3) Pres. Romney needs to remind U.S. voters that they are funding the drug wars with their illegal drug purchases.  We are contributing to the killing south of the border every time we casually smoke marijuana or try cocaine.  We are the consumers, and that needs to be said over and over again.

It's important for Pres. Romney, and Anne Romney, to talk about drug consumption as a threat to our children and a deposit in the cash register of the Mexican cartels.

4) Pres. Pena-Nieto needs to tell Mexicans, and their political class, to stop blaming U.S. immigration laws for all of Mexico's problems.  Mexicans should be reminded that Mexico has immigration laws, too.  It's time for Mexico to reform itself so that the country is more attractive to young people.  Mexico is still living in the 1930s when it comes to PEMEX, and in the 1920s when it comes to land management.  Let's hope that the "new PRI" will reform two of the "old PRI's" sacred cows -- i.e., the incredibly inefficient and corrupt PEMEX, plus the unproductive agricultural sector.

5) Pres. Romney and Pres. Pena-Nieto need to revive the old "brasero" program killed by the Dems in the late 1960s.  It was not perfect, but it did create a legal mechanism for employers and employees to work together.

I know that I'm getting ahead of myself because the elections are still in the future.  But regardless of who's in office, Mexico and the U.S. need a tough and frank discussion about some mutual, and very serious, problems.

We did not have it with Pres. Calderón and Pres. Obama. 

We need it now!  

I am confident that Pres. Romney will tell the new Mexican president some things that Pres. Calderón never heard from Pres. Obama.

My guess is that most Mexicans in Mexico will be happy to hear that we have a president of the U.S. who will kill people with AK-47s rather than one who engages in "coqueteo" and gives meaningless "Cinco de Mayo" speeches to entertain the "si se puede" crowd.

Read more from Silvio Canto, Jr. here.