Felipe Calderón

“I have no problem in recognizing Lula da Silva’s regional leadership”

An interview from Mexico’s President Felipe Calderón to El País in English. 

Before his visit to Madrid for the EU-Latin American and Caribbean Summit, Mexico’s President Felipe Calderón gave a press conference in Mexico City to discuss some of the main issues facing his country, among them regional leadership, the war against drug cartels, and recent legislation in Arizona targeting illegal immigration.

Question. Has Brazil replaced Mexico as regional leader?

Answer. President Lula is a charismatic leader, which reflects his country’s role, and we have no problem in recognizing that. We are very glad to see responsible leadership in Latin America, but Mexico has a role to play as well. My administration has deliberately focused on the region; we have widened our commercial ties with our neighbors and strengthened our political alliances.

Q. Spain’s invitation to Honduras almost ruined the Summit. What is Mexico’s position?

A. What happened in Honduras was a coup, and the response of all democracies should be to reject that. A coup in a democracy is inconceivable, and should be rejected by diplomatic means. The government in Honduras must play a role in stabilizing the situation there.

Q. Many Mexicans are suffering as a result of the new legislation in Arizona [giving police wide powers of stop-and-search of suspected illegal immigrants]. Has this created tension with US authorities?

A. There is a dangerous racial component to it that allows criteria based on physical appearance to be applied. It is clearly discriminatory. The law will solve nothing. Migration is a natural phenomenon that cannot be stopped by passing laws. The US and Mexican economies are complementary: one is capital intensive, the other, workforce.

Q. What has been the Mexican government’s response?

A. We will defend migrants, whatever their status, from this abusive law. We have advised Mexicans not to visit Arizona because it is dangerous. This is already y having an impact on theeconomy there, which is largely dependent on Mexicans. We hope that this will serve as a warning that this law will only damage relations with Mexico.

Q. How would you explain the continued power of organized crime in the face of your war on drug trafficking?

A. If we had taken the mafias on earlier, when the problem first arose, we would have solved the issue by now. Instead, the gangs were tolerated, and they have spread throughout the country and have taken over social structures, as well as many institutions. Things were made worse by the 2004 law in the United States allowing the sale of assault weapons, which gave the cartels firepower.

(Published by El País – May 19, 2010)

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