Senior Obama administration officials downplayed concerns that the newly installed Mexican government is moving away from its cooperation with the United States on security matters and efforts to combat narcotics trafficking.
Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto, an Institutional Revolutionary Party (IRP) member who was inaugurated in December, has indicated his government will be a less helpful partner in the cross-border fight to repel Mexican drug traffickers, according to reports.
President Barack Obama will seek to bolster security cooperation agreements when he visits with Nieto Thursday during a trip to Mexico.
Nieto has indicated his government will move away from previous efforts to stymie drug cartels, which has led to violence along the U.S.-Mexico border.
“The new administration has shifted priorities away from the U.S.-backed strategy of arresting kingpins, which sparked an unprecedented level of violence among the cartels, and toward an emphasis on prevention and keeping Mexico’s streets safe and calm,” the Washington Post reported on Sunday.
Administration officials downplayed these reports Wednesday afternoon during a conference call with reporters.
“We find it completely normal” for the new Mexican government to reexamine past security agreements with the United States, Ricardo Zuniga, a special assistant to the president and senior director for western hemisphere affairs, told reporters.
These recent moves are not a sign Mexico wants to bow out of the ongoing drug war, Zuniga said.
President Barack Obama will mainly seek to focus on the U.S.-Mexico economic relationship rather than security agreements during the trip, according to White House deputy national security adviser Ben Rhodes.
While there has been a focus on “security cooperation” during past visits to Mexico, “on this trip, however, we want to broaden the relationship beyond security,” Rhodes said.
There is “significant potential to increase and deepen our commercial ties,” Rhodes said.
Rhodes also said the political battle over U.S. immigration reform efforts would take center stage during the president’s discussions with Nieto.
“Mexico is an important partner in immigration reform,” Rhodes said.