Tuesday, May 18, 2010

A Serious and a Not-So-Serious Comment on Calderón's Trip to Washington

Isabel Studer, a scholar of the US-Mexico relationship, wrote the following about Calderón's upcoming visit to Washington:
The exhaustion of the White House, the frustration of the average American with unemployment and the economic crisis and the midterm elections which will take place in a few months in a context of persistent political polarization leave a very tight margin to string together grand initiatives in Mexico-US cooperation. This circumstance also requires that, in his speech before the American Congress, President Calderón treats cautiously key topics for Mexico that will be defined in this forum: the prohibition of long-range weapons, access for Mexican trucks to American territory, immigration reform, energy cooperation. Adopting nationalist postures over any of the above issues will end up giving ammo to more than one congressman seeking to exploit it electorally...
This a really tough line to walk. Calderón has an opportunity afforded to few leaders, but he will also be speaking to group with many members inclined to react with hostility to anything that sounds like chiding from a Mexican president. Then again, there's not a whole lot Mexico wants from the US that won't ruffle some congressional feathers, so maybe he should just speak the truth and let the chips fall where they may. I just hope it doesn't turn into thirty minutes of drug-war tropes.

It's also worth pointing out the potential for success is perhaps a bit inflated by the people who pay attention to this sort of thing. Let's say Calderón plays it perfectly, gently yet firmly asserts the Mexican position on a variety of issues, while committing Mexico to addressing its own problems in a way that reassures the most defensive congressmen. Does that translate into stricter gun legislation? Free access for Mexican trucks to American highways? Comprehensive immigration reform? In all likelihood, no, no, and no, at least not while Calderón is in office. Congressmen are motivated by their own votes, not speeches from foreign leaders, however eloquent.

Also, evidently Calderón's going to eat dinner with Eva Longoria.

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