Obama, Calderon Offer Rival Drug War Narratives at Summit

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At a meeting of North American leaders, the presidents of the US and Mexico offered differing views of drug-related violence in Mexico, with Calderon criticizing the US’s failure to stop gun trafficking.

On April 2, the White House hosted the so-called “Three Amigos” summit between US President Barack Obama, Mexico’s Felipe Calderon and Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper. While the meeting ended in standard promises of closer cooperation on law enforcement and border security, comments from the US and Mexican leaders hinted at tension between the two countries.

The Associated Press reports that Obama and Calderon “traded barbs” in public remarks after the meeting, starting with Obama’s claim that the violence in Mexico is affecting the country’s institutions, and could hurt relations with the US. “It can have a deteriorating effect overall on the nature of our relationship,” Obama said. “And that’s something that we have to pay attention to.” The US president also expressed concern about the potential for a “spillover effect,” with violence spreading across the border.

Calderon responded by downplaying drug violence, noting that it has not had a substantial effect on tourism. He pointed to the massive demand for drugs in the US as one of the main drivers of the problem.

The Mexico president also issued a thinly-veiled critique of US efforts to stop the flow of guns across the border, believed to be the main source of arms for Mexican cartels. While he acknowledged Obama’s work to crack down on cross-border arms trafficking, he said it was insufficient, noting that the US president faces “internal problems … from a political point of view.” He also hinted that lax gun controls could be part of a deliberate attempt to profit from the market for guns in Mexico.

InSight Crime Analysis

Calderon has been highly vocal in his attempts to curb arms trafficking into Mexico. In February, he unveiled a massive billboard on the border which calls on US officials to stop the flow of guns south. The sign, which weighs 3 tons, reads “No More Weapons!” in English, in letters composed entirely of US guns seized in Mexico in recent years.

By “internal problems,” Calderon was likely referring to the political fallout from the Justice Department’s controversial “Operation Fast and Furious,” in which thousands of US guns were allowed to cross the border. Ever since word of the terminated operation leaked, gun rights activists in the US have used it to oppose the president’s efforts to crack down on illicit gun sales. With Obama’s re-election campaign already underway, it is unlikely that he will implement major gun regulations in the near future.

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