Drugs top Clinton talks in Mexico

Bill Clinton has been around the globe as President but he has never crossed his southern border. Today he puts that right with an official visit to Mexico, dubbed the United States' "distant neighbour". It will be his first official visit to a Latin American country.

The flow of narcotics from Mexico to the US, as well as the flow of Mexicans themselves, will top the agenda in talks with President Ernesto Zedillo. But the three-day visit will be largely symbolic, the start of a long- delayed effort by Mr Clinton to tighten trade and other ties with the nations to the south.

Critics say he is somewhat late. Since he led a so-called Summit of the Americas in Miami in December 1994, pledging a pan-American free trade zone within a decade, he has largely neglected Latin American nations and seen Europe muscle in.

The European Union did more trade with the South American common market - known as Mercosur - than did the US last year for the first time.

"They [the Americans] only turn to look at our countries when there are wars, conflicts or natural disasters," Nicaraguan President Arnoldo Aleman said recently.

Mr Clinton will be welcomed politely, but not particularly warmly in Mexico, where people still dream of going north to prosperity but where stories of the two countries' 19th century war are still handed down from generation to generation.

"I don't see it as a visit of reconciliation," Mr Clinton told reporters in Washington. "I see it as building an ongoing partnership between two great nations that share a huge border and a common future, have some common problems, and inevitably some disagreements."

The major common problem is their 2,000-mile border, seen by poor Mexicans as a stepping stone to prosperity, from the Third World to the First. In August new US laws come into force that will, if not amended, mean that new arrivals who do not qualify for citizenship or do not want US citizenship will not be entitled to federal welfare benefits. These provisions are accompanied by a tougher approach to illegal immigration.

The legislation is not popular with some US states, which fear they could end up funding welfare programmes for legal immigrants. It worries the Mexican authorities, however, who fear that emigration - which provides an important safety valve for internal discontent and a reliable source of US dollars - could become even harder than at present.

Mr Zedillo will tell Mr Clinton the key is in helping narrow the economic gap, otherwise Mexicans will always head north.

Mr Clinton is expected to congratulate Mr Zedillo on his efforts to curb the flow of marijuana, cocaine and heroin across the border although the Mexican President's critics say many government officials at federal, state and local level are still in the pay of drug lords.

Last week Mexico announced it was scrapping its corruption-riddled anti- narcotics agency and giving its duties to the attorney-general's office. The head of the agency, an army general, was arrested in February for protecting the country's leading drug baron.

Mr Clinton and Mr Zedillo are expected to sign a vaguely-worded agreement on the security of US drug enforcement agents. The latter seek the formal right to carry weapons on Mexican soil for their own protection against violent drug trafficking gangs. Mexico has long opposed the idea, citing its sovereignty, but in effect most US agents carry weapons anyway.

In case it all seems one-way, Mexico will protest to the US over the influx of weapons. Mexico's ambassador to Washington, Jesus Silva Herzog, said Mexican drug gangs get most of their guns from the US because of lax gun laws and poor border checks.

Suggested Topics
Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksAn introduction to the ground rules of British democracy
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Games Developer - HTML5

£28000 - £45000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: With extensive experience and a...

Recruitment Genius: Personal Tax Senior

£26000 - £34000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an opportunity to join ...

Recruitment Genius: Assistant Product Manager

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: Due to on-going expansion, this leading provid...

Recruitment Genius: Shift Leaders - Front of House Staff - Full Time and Part Time

£6 - £8 per hour: Recruitment Genius: This is an opportunity to join a family ...

Day In a Page

A Very British Coup, part two: New novel in pipeline as Jeremy Corbyn's rise inspires sequel

A Very British Coup, part two

New novel in pipeline as Jeremy Corbyn's rise inspires sequel
Philae lander data show comets could have brought 'building blocks of life' to Earth

Philae lander data show comets could have brought 'building blocks of life' to Earth

Icy dust layer holds organic compounds similar to those found in living organisms
What turns someone into a conspiracy theorist? Study to look at why some are more 'receptive' to such theories

What turns someone into a conspiracy theorist?

Study to look at why some are more 'receptive' to such theories
Chinese web dissenters using coded language to dodge censorship filters and vent frustration at government

Are you a 50-center?

Decoding the Chinese web dissenters
The Beatles film Help, released 50 years ago, signalled the birth of the 'metrosexual' man

Help signalled birth of 'metrosexual' man

The Beatles' moptop haircuts and dandified fashion introduced a new style for the modern Englishman, says Martin King
Hollywood's new diet: Has LA stolen New York's crown as the ultimate foodie trend-setter?

Hollywood's new diet trends

Has LA stolen New York's crown as the ultimate foodie trend-setter?
6 best recipe files

6 best recipe files

Get organised like a Bake Off champion and put all your show-stopping recipes in one place
Ashes 2015: Steven Finn goes from being unselectable to simply unplayable

Finn goes from being unselectable to simply unplayable

Middlesex bowler claims Ashes hat-trick of Clarke, Voges and Marsh
Mullah Omar, creator of the Taliban, is dead... for the fourth time

Mullah Omar, creator of the Taliban, is dead... again

I was once told that intelligence services declare their enemies dead to provoke them into popping up their heads and revealing their location, says Robert Fisk
Margaret Attwood on climate change: 'Time is running out for our fragile, Goldilocks planet'

Margaret Atwood on climate change

The author looks back on what she wrote about oil in 2009, and reflects on how the conversation has changed in a mere six years
New Dr Seuss manuscript discovered: What Pet Should I Get? goes on sale this week

New Dr Seuss manuscript discovered

What Pet Should I Get? goes on sale this week
Oculus Rift and the lonely cartoon hedgehog who could become the first ever virtual reality movie star

The cartoon hedgehog leading the way into a whole new reality

Virtual reality is the 'next chapter' of entertainment. Tim Walker gives it a try
Ants have unique ability to switch between individual and collective action, says study

Secrets of ants' teamwork revealed

The insects have an almost unique ability to switch between individual and collective action
Donovan interview: The singer is releasing a greatest hits album to mark his 50th year in folk

Donovan marks his 50th year in folk

The singer tells Nick Duerden about receiving death threats, why the world is 'mentally ill', and how he can write a song about anything, from ecology to crumpets
Let's Race simulator: Ultra-realistic technology recreates thrill of the Formula One circuit

Simulator recreates thrill of F1 circuit

Rory Buckeridge gets behind the wheel and explains how it works