Clinton To Address Trade and Turmoil in Mexico

Hillary Clinton will address trade and turmoil in Mexico this week.

ByABC News
March 23, 2009, 12:59 PM

MEXICO CITY -- March 23, 2009— -- A maelstrom of drug-related violence. A brewing trade war. And a wheezing economy.

Mexico's growing problems take center stage this week as a parade of U.S. Cabinet members start to descend on Mexico City before next month's visit by President Obama.

Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton will arrive Wednesday and meet with Mexican President Felipe Calderón during a two-day trip to Mexico City and the northern city of Monterrey, trying to find common ground on contentious issues such as border violence and trade rules.

"We have a number of speed bumps in the relationship," said Harley Shaiken, director of the Center for Latin American Studies at the University of California-Berkeley. "The visit is meant to flatten them."

The issue grabbing the most attention, Shaiken said, is Mexico's crackdown on drug cartels, which has unleashed a wave of brutal murders in the border cities of Tijuana and Juárez.

Cartel violence killed 6,290 people across Mexico last year and more than 1,000 in the first eight weeks of 2009, according to Mexico's government.

Some of the violence has spilled into the U.S., where Mexican drug cartels are believed to operate in 230 cities, according to a recent U.S. Justice Department report. Mexico has accused U.S. authorities of doing little to reduce drug use and interrupt the flow of drugs within the USA, even as thousands of Mexican troops fill the deserts and search cars at checkpoints along Mexico's interstates.

The United States has cut funding for the Merida Initiative, an aid package aimed at helping Mexico's drug fight. Congress recently trimmed the first chunk of aid to $300 million from $450 million.

Mexico wants the United States to restrict the sale of guns, which can end up in the hands of Mexican smugglers.

Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano earlier told USA Today that the United States plans to send a large contingent of federal agents to the border, but how many and how much will be spent are still to be announced.

Obama is likely to unveil more anti-crime proposals, said Raúl Brangas, a professor of international relations at the University of the Americas in Puebla, Mexico. "He's seen the importance of having a safer border," Brangas said.

Napolitano and Attorney General Eric Holder have visits scheduled to Mexico next month before Obama's visit April 16-17.