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Remarks by President Obama and President Calderón of Mexico at Joint Press Conference

The White House

Office of the Press Secretary

For Immediate Release March 03, 2011
Remarks by President Obama and President Calderón of Mexico at Joint Press Conference
East Room

***Please note the correction to the President’s remarks below.

1:17 P.M. EST

PRESIDENT OBAMA: Good afternoon. I am delighted to welcome my friend and partner, President Calderón, back to the White House. I want to discuss our meeting today and then address the situation in Libya.

President Calderón was last here, along with First Lady Señora Zavala, for a very productive state visit last spring —- a visit that reflected the new era of respect and cooperation and partnership between our two countries. We’ve since worked together as global partners at the G20 summits in Toronto and Seoul and at the APEC Summit in Yokohama. And I very much appreciate President Calderón being here today to deepen the cooperation that is so essential to the prosperity and security of both of our countries.

Of course, the relationship between the United States and Mexico isn’t measured just in the partnership between two Presidents. It’s evident every day in the strong bonds between our two societies. It’s the thousands of people who work together, at every level -— federal, states and community levels -— to keep our citizens safe, to keep our economies growing. It’s the tens of thousands of students and teachers and researchers in exchanges between our schools and our universities.

It’s the one million people who cross our shared border every day —- tourists and business people -— sustaining one of the largest trading relationships in the world. And it’s our families and our friends —- the many Americans living in Mexico, and the tens of millions of Mexican Americans who make outstanding contributions to this country every single day.

As I said, we’re also global partners. As part of the G20, we’re advancing the global economic recovery, and I look forward to visiting Mexico when President Calderón hosts the G20 next year. Together, we’ve responded to the earthquake in Haiti, and we’re securing the world’s vulnerable nuclear materials. I especially want to commend President Calderón for Mexico’s successful leadership of the Cancun Conference, including progress toward a Green Fund that he himself helped to get started and champion and which will help developing countries adapt to climate change.

Most recently, our governments have spoken out forcefully for the human rights of the Libyan people, and Mexico played a leading role at the United Nations in suspending Libya from the Human Rights Council.

President Calderón, this not only reflects our commitment to the shared values of freedom and justice and rule of law. It’s also another example of Mexico’s global leadership —- as you said in your address to our Congress last year —- that “Mexico is standing tall” and ready to take its “rightful place in the world.”

It is this appreciation of the great bonds between Americans and Mexicans, and the values and responsibilities that we hold in common that allowed us to make progress once again today.

We’re working to expand the trade that creates jobs for our peoples. Remember, Mexico is the second largest market for American exports. It supports some 1 million American jobs. And our exports to Mexico are growing faster than they are with the rest of the world.

So we’re moving ahead with plans for a 21st century border so people and goods can cross securely and efficiently. We’re working to coordinate and streamline regulations and get rid of unnecessary trade barriers to make it easier to do business together. We’re making new investments in clean energy partnerships, including green buildings and smart grid technologies. And based on negotiations so far, I’m hopeful that we can conclude an agreement by the end of the year to develop new sources of energy in the Gulf of Mexico.

I’m especially pleased to announce that, after nearly 20 years, we finally have found a clear path to resolving the dispute over trucking between our two countries. I thank President Calderón and his team —- as well as my Transportation Secretary, Ray LaHood, and our U.S. Trade Representative, Ambassador Ron Kirk —- for reaching this proposed agreement. I look forward to consulting with Congress and moving forward in a way that strengthens the safety of cross-border trucking, lifts tariffs on billions of dollars of U.S. goods, expands our exports to Mexico, and creates job on both sides of the border.

We’re also deepening our cooperation against the drug cartels that threaten both our peoples. As I’ve said before, President Calderón and the Mexican people have shown extraordinary courage in the fight for their country. Tens of thousands of Mexicans — innocent citizens and dedicated security forces — have lost their lives. I have reaffirmed to President Calderón that in this cause, Mexico has a full partner with the United States. Because whether they live in Texas or Tijuana, our people have a right to be safe in their communities.

So we are continuing to speed up the delivery of equipment and training that our Mexican partners need to keep up this fight. As President Calderón cracks down on money laundering in Mexico, we’re putting unprecedented pressure on cartels and their finances here in the United States. And we thank our Mexican partners for their close cooperation following the murder of one of our immigration and customs agents, Special Agent Jaime Zapata.

I reiterated that the United States accepts our shared responsibility for the drug violence. So to combat the southbound flow of guns and money, we are screening all southbound rail cargo, seizing many more guns bound for Mexico and we are putting more gunrunners behind bars. And as part of our new drug control strategy, we are focused on reducing the demand for drugs through education, prevention and treatment.

We have also discussed immigration, an issue on which both countries have responsibilities. As I told President Calderón, I remain deeply committed to fixing our broken immigration system with comprehensive reform that continues to secure our borders, enforces our laws — including against businesses that break the law — and requiring accountability from undocumented workers. And we have to conduct this debate in a way that upholds our values as a nation of both laws and immigrants. So I’m eager to work with Republicans and Democrats to get this reform done, which is vital to the U.S. economy.

Finally, I’m looking forward to receiving insights from the President as I prepare for my trip to Latin America this month, which will be an opportunity to strengthen our security cooperation throughout the region.

Mr. President, thank you for your partnership and for deepening the bonds between our countries, which only grow stronger each time that we meet.

Now, before I turn it over to President Calderón, I want to address the situation in Libya.

The United States, and the entire world, continues to be outraged by the appalling violence against the Libyan people. The United States is helping to lead an international effort to deter further violence, put in place unprecedented sanctions to hold the Qaddafi government accountable, and support the aspirations of the Libyan people.

We are also responding quickly to the urgent humanitarian needs that are developing. Tens of thousands of people —- from many different countries —- are fleeing Libya, and we commend the governments of Tunisia and Egypt for their response, even as they go through their own political transitions. I have, therefore, approved the use of U.S. military aircraft to help move Egyptians who have fled to the Tunisian border to get back home to Egypt. I’ve authorized USAID to charter additional civilian aircraft to help people from other countries find their way home, and we’re supporting the efforts of international organizations to evacuate people as well.

I’ve also directed USAID to send humanitarian assistance teams to the Libyan border, so that they can work with the United Nations, NGOs and other international partners inside Libya to address the urgent needs of the Libyan people.

Going forward, we will continue to send a clear message: The violence must stop. Muammar Qaddafi has lost the legitimacy to lead and he must leave. Those who perpetrate violence against the Libyan people will be held accountable. And the aspirations of the Libyan people for freedom, democracy and dignity must be met.

President Calderón.

PRESIDENT CALDERÓN: (As translated) Thank you very much, President Obama. Thank you so much for your hospitality. Ladies and gentlemen of the media, good afternoon.

President Barack Obama and I have held a very valuable conversation concerning the status of our bilateral cooperation and many aspects of this. As always, it has been very satisfying for me to see that we agree on the basic principle of co-responsibility. And I thank you, Mr. President, for your invitation to hold this working visit here in the city of Washington.

Some of the things that we evaluated is that our governments have progressed substantially on many of these aspects. The results of our cooperation in some aspects, unprecedented cooperation, have been translated into concrete examples, such as the opening last year in 2010 of the three first new border crossings over the past 10 years.

My state visit last year, as you mentioned, Mr. President, and the ongoing meetings that we have held and that we will continue to have in the immediate future have been especially important to our bilateral relationship so as to generate confidence — the confidence that we have today. We know today that we need to continue to be personally involved so as to ensure that the objectives that we trace are reached, such as those dealt with today. And we have broached the following subjects today.

First, internationally, at the international level, we have reiterated that Mexico and the United States are authentic, strategic partners, as can be seen by our joint work on the global and regional agendas. We have achieved substantive progress, as mentioned by President Obama, in matters such as climate change during the Conference of the Parties 16. And now we have made efforts to make the agreements reached in Cancun operational and as well as to adopt the next steps for the Conference of the Parties 17 in Durban.

Both countries will also play an important role within the G20, a mechanism that Mexico will be presiding over next year and in which we have reached important agreements for stability and recovery of the international economy. And in this context I would like to congratulate President Obama for the visit that he will be making to Brazil, Chile and El Salvador in a few weeks’ time. Greater dialogue among the United States and Latin American nations will always be beneficial to the hemisphere, and beneficial not just for Latin American countries but also for the United States.

The specific case of Central America, in addition here we’ve agreed to continue to work with the U.S. government so as to achieve more determined cooperation in support of regional efforts to strengthen the rule of law and the fight transnational organized crime.

Secondly, in terms of the border, both President Obama and I agree that we must turn this area into the land of opportunities and not of conflict. Last year we adopted a declaration on the administration of a 21st century border, which we want both for the United States and Mexico. And since then, the bilateral executive committee entrusted with that implementation has agreed to a plan of action in addition to issuing a joint declaration to prevent border violence, so as to enable us to avoid tragic events such as those that we’ve seen on both sides of the border.

Thirdly, in terms of immigration, President Obama has always recognized, invariably recognized the contributions of immigrants to the economy and society of the United States, and I recognize and value his clear and determined support for the adoption of a comprehensive migratory reform in this country, as well as his firm commitment to the human and civil rights of communities, regardless of their point of origin. I’ve expressed to him my concern for the proliferation of local initiatives that are against the interests or the rights of immigrant communities.

Fourth, in terms of competitiveness, Mexico has a regional perspective. The United States and Mexico can and must make the most of the comparative advantages that make us unique as a region and that would enable us to convert, to turn North America in its entirety into the most competitive region of the world. I am convinced that together we can achieve this.

The North America Free Trade Agreement was a great step forward for the commercial trade integration of the region. It generated hundreds of thousands, even millions, of jobs in the United States and in Mexico. And we are ready to deepen and to make the most of this relationship.

We must work efficiently to take advantage of the relative abundance of capital in the United States with the labor manpower available in Mexico through productive actions, investments in our countries, as well as the access that is secure, orderly and legal of national workers from Mexico in the U.S. market.

Our governments, something that is very important to us, have today reached an agreement, an agreement to solve our differences with respect to cross-border cargo trucking that had existed for many years. As I said, this has existed for a long time despite the fact that we had — that the integrated system for transportation existed and benefited both countries. It was strengthening our competitiveness and it generated jobs and it existed since 1994 when we agreed on the NAFTA.

In this sense, Mexico will be suspended — will be phasing out reprisals after non-compliance of the free trade agreement of North America by the United States and will be ending — and as a result of this, will be furthering liberalization of cargo transportation. The objective of my government has always been to reach a solution that’s mutually acceptable in this field.

And fifth, in the chapter of security, both governments have taken on our positions as co-responsible parties in the fight against transnational organized crime. This is a paradigm change in our relationship. And today we have reached increased levels of exchange of information that are unheard of in the past. I would like to thank President Obama for the clarity with which he speaks of the effects that the consumption of drugs has on his country, as well as the illegal traffic of weapons and of monies into Mexican territory. I know that together we can achieve ever greater results.

Last year was the year where we had the greatest number of achievements in the capture of the number of criminals — unprecedented number of criminals were caught, and this is the result of the increase of the institutional capacity of our agencies as well as international cooperation in terms of information and intelligence.

I also truly value the clear effort of the United States through transfer of equipment and training programs to our efforts — added to our efforts of institution — institutional efforts. And this I am sure will further our efforts tremendously. And I thank you for your support there, Mr. President. And I also am grateful for the clarity with which President Obama has recognized the great sacrifices that the Mexican society has had to make in view of organized crime and our fight of drug trafficking.

In the fight for the security of Mexico, thousands of military officers and members of the police force have died in Mexico. They fall in the line of duty. And to these deaths we add the death of Agent Jaime Zapata from the Immigration and Customs Enforcement Agency of the United States. And I would like to add my deepest condolences to his relatives, to the people and government of United States in view of his death.

I would like to tell you that the suspected perpetrator of his murder and his gang has been arrested and we hope to bring them to justice. His death must urge us to continue to work together so as to ensure a prosperous and peaceful future for our region.

Ladies and gentlemen, today I’d like to say that I thank the hospitality of President Obama, and I would reiterate my trust, my confidence in the government and institutions of this country. This country is a good friend to Mexico, as is President Obama. This opportunity represents for me a chance to strongly renew our efforts and to redouble our efforts to accomplish the security that our peoples deserve.

At the same time, I would like to congratulate President Obama for the leadership that he has shown in the problem of concern to all of us in North Africa, heading up the responsible efforts of the people and government of the United States to quickly find solutions to this problem.

Mr. President, once again, thank you ever so much for your hospitality, the friendship that you have always shown to Mexico, the responsibility that your government, your administration has unprecedently taken on in the subjects, the issues that are of common interest to us. Our bilateral relationship, my friends, does not only have a huge impact on the lives of Mexicans and Americans, but today it’s taken on with increasing strength and clarity and coordination by both of our governments.

Once again, thank you for your personal commitment, the cooperation, and co-responsibility of your government. We will continue to work together and harder to achieve the prosperity of both the Mexican and U.S. peoples. Thank you very much.

PRESIDENT OBAMA: I think we’re going to take one question each. Ben Feller, AP.

Q Thank you very much, Mr. President. I have a question for both Presidents — and in your case, sir, I suppose it’s a classic two-parter. (Laughter.)

PRESIDENT OBAMA: With a follow-up? So making it a three-parter? (Laughter.)

Q Thank you, sir. On Libya, I wanted to follow up on your comments. Colonel Qaddafi is vowing to fight to the end, and in the meantime, the people of his country are dying. Now, I know that you’ve admonished the press corps about impatience and I know that the international community and the United States have taken several steps, and you’ve named many of those today. But I’m wondering while this is happening, if you fear this is headed for a bloody stalemate. And more specifically, is a no-fly zone something that you’re actively considering? And can you talk about what you see is your broader doctrine for military intervention in a crisis like this?

The other topic is something that is quite different but does matter to millions of Americans. The National Football League is on the brink of a complete shutdown as of tonight over a labor dispute. Obviously that’s an economic issue for cities but also something that a lot of people just care about. And I’m wondering if it’s something that you’d be willing to personally intervene on. And if not, why not?

President Calderón, sir, I was wondering your thoughts on an issue that’s come up about potentially arming U.S. agents in Mexico. It’s come up here in the U.S. Attorney General Holder has raised it as at least something that should be considered. I’m wondering if you will consider it, and if that came up with President Obama.

Thank you both.

PRESIDENT OBAMA: All right. Let me deal with football first. (Laughter.) You’ve got owners, most of whom are worth close to a billion dollars. You got players who are making millions of dollars. My working assumption at a time when people are having to cut back, compromise, and worry about making the mortgage and paying for their kids’ college education is, is that the two parties should be able to work it out without the President of the United States intervening.

I’m a big football fan, but I also think that for an industry that’s making $9 billion a year in revenue, they can figure out how to divide it up in a sensible way, and be true to their fans who are the ones who obviously allow for all the money that they’re making. So my expectation and hope is, is that they will resolve it without me intervening, because it turns out I’ve got a lot of other stuff to do. (Laughter.)

With respect to Libya, I think you asked about do I have a doctrine. My approach throughout the convulsions that have swept through the Middle East is, number one, no violence against citizens; number two, that we stand for freedom and democracy. And in the situation in Libya, what you’ve seen is, number one, violence against citizens, and the active urging of violence against unarmed citizens by Qaddafi; and number two, you have seen with great clarity that he has lost legitimacy with his people.

And so let me just be very unambiguous about this. Colonel Qaddafi needs to step down from power and leave. That is good for his country. That is good for his people. It’s the right thing to do.

Those around him have to understand that violence that they perpetrate against innocent civilians will be monitored and they will be held accountable for it. And so to the extent that they are making calculations in their own minds about which way history is moving, they should know history is moving against Colonel Qaddafi, and that their support for him and their willingness to carry out orders that are direct violence against citizens is something that ultimately they will be held accountable for.

With respect to our willingness to engage militarily, what I’ve instructed the Department of Defense as well as our State Department and all those who are involved in international affairs to examine is a full range of options. I don’t want us hamstrung. I want us to be making our decisions based on what’s going to be best for the Libyan people, in consultation with the international community.

And we are doing that not just here in the United States within our own agencies, but we’re also doing it in consultation with NATO. We have already engineered the most rapid and forceful set of sanctions that have ever been applied internationally. We started unilaterally freezing $30 billion worth of assets, imposing severe sanctions against those in the Libyan government who’ve been carrying out some of these crimes. And as a consequence of that leadership, what we’ve seen is I think broad-based mobilization around the international community.

You are right that there is a danger of a stalemate that over time could be bloody, and that is something that we are obviously considering. So what I want to make sure of is that the United States has full capacity to act potentially rapidly if the situation deteriorated in such a way that you had a humanitarian crisis on our hands, or a situation in which civilians were — defenseless civilians were finding themselves trapped and in great danger.

I think it’s very important for us to do this in consultation, though, with the international community. One of the extraordinary successes of Egypt was the full ownership that the Egyptian people felt for that transformation. That has served the Egyptian people well. It serves U.S. interests well. We did not see anti-American sentiment arising out of that movement in Egypt precisely because they felt that we hadn’t tried to engineer or impose a particular outcome, but rather they owned it.

The same is happening is Tunisia. And I think that the region we’ll be watching carefully to make sure we’re on the right side of history but also that we are doing so as a member of the world community, and being willing to act on behalf of these values but doing so in a way that takes all the various equities into account.

So just to put sort of the final point on it, we are looking at every option that’s out there. In addition to the non-military actions that we’ve taken, I want to make sure that those full range of options are available to me. Some of them may end up being humanitarian. I mean, the biggest priority that we have right now is you’ve got tens of thousand people — tens of thousands of people who are gathered at a border and we’ve got to make sure that they can get home.

And that’s why we — we’re using some of our military aircrafts in addition to civilian aircrafts to help on that front. There may be situations in which Qaddafi is hunkered down in his compound but the economy or food distribution systems in Tripoli, for example, start deteriorating, and we’re going to have to figure out how do we potentially get food in there.

So there are a whole range of options, military and non-military, that we’re examining and we’ll be making these decisions based on what’s best for the Libyan people and how can we make sure that we’re minimizing the harm to innocent civilians during this process. Throughout all this, we will continue to send the clear message that it’s time for Qaddafi to go.

Q And a no-fly zone is one of those options still under consideration?

PRESIDENT OBAMA: That is one of the options that we would be looking at.

PRESIDENT CALDERÓN: (As translated.) First, in terms of Libya, I recognize and applaud the efforts undertaken by President Obama, as I said previously, to seek a solution in line with international law for this situation. For Mexico it’s absolutely clear that we cannot — it’s not possible that civilians be massacred and not go punished [sic], using weapons that are for the exclusive use of war. We must do everything that we can to avoid or stop that massacre.

Mexico indeed has presented a resolution within the framework of the Human Rights Commission of the United Nations. And in this Libya has been sanctioned by the Commission. And we are of course taking part, insofar as we are able to, in the search for a solution to this problem.

I believe that today it is — problem to re-value the principles and the values of human rights anywhere in the world — the principles and values that we recognize and value. We have them in North American society and people, in terms of that we condemn any act of violence against people where people are risking their lives, in terms of the use of weapons.

We condemn any act of violence against these people, and we believe that people must have the best conditions to guarantee their work, including their personal security. And in this effort I know that we have the support of different agencies of the government of the United States who have contributed enormously to the solution of the problems that we are facing together under the principle of shared responsibility that we are consolidating.

I must nonetheless clarify that there are very important legal restrictions in this matter in Mexico, as is probably the case in other countries, and most likely the United States, with respect to the actions of foreign agents in Mexican land. The law does not allow agents of the United States or of any other country to take part in tasks involving justice enforcement in our territory. As a result, they cannot carry weapons or undertake operational tasks. Their functions, in line with our treaties, are limited to the exchange of information, and technical assistance to support Mexican authorities in these tasks. So there’s an important legal restriction that exists.

But it’s very clear for me, as well, that we must find the way of enhancing the level of protection of any and all agents who are acting within the framework of the law against crime. And of course, we are deeply analyzing alternatives for this, and in dialogue with the Mexican Congress who is the party that has the final word, the final say on this matter.

And finally on the issue of football, I’m not an expert — my wife is, though. And I will ask her about it. I’m sure that she’s very concerned about the situation. But allow me to say that football is very important for many Mexicans.

(In English.) With the exception of Barney, you can count on us. (Laughter.)

PRESIDENT OBAMA: I will say that at the state dinner, the First Lady of Mexico seemed quite excited to see Mark Sanchez there. I don’t know if that was of concern to you. (Laughter.)

PRESIDENT CALDERÓN: (As translated.) You’ve already flipped the coin in a Jets game — Mrs. Zavala did.

Q Taking advantage of the moment and continuing the subject matter, I’m not going to ask many questions, but I will be very concrete. First, directly for President Obama, the Second Amendment of the United States Constitution allows American citizens to carry weapons and this principle is defended. However, President Calderón has said that this law in Congress — this could actually go against U.S. agents, and this has happened. So, President Obama, in Mexico we have the veto, the power of veto. I don’t know how far you have the ability to veto that law that has been approved. And if you have that responsibility, why don’t you do so, sir? How long are we going to allow Mexicans to be murdered — and not just Mexicans, but now Americans, as well?

Now, with respect to the Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano has sent a bill or spoken to Congress with respect to the possibility of allowing U.S. agents to bear arms in our country — President Calderón has already answered this to a certain extent, but he’s also said that he will be searching for mechanisms. What types of mechanisms can be found so as to keep them safe? And the people who murdered Zapata — well, in Mexican terms — who was the alleged murderer of Zapata, the extradition of this man, of this alleged perpetrator has been requested. Madam Napolitano has mentioned this. President Calderón, how far are you going to go in those efforts? And there you would have my questions.

PRESIDENT OBAMA: Well, the Second Amendment in this country is part of our Constitution and the President of the United States is bound by our Constitution. So I believe in the Second Amendment. It does provide for Americans the right to bear arms for their protection, for their safety, for hunting, for a wide range of uses. That does not mean that we cannot constrain gunrunners from shipping guns into Mexico. And so we believe that we can shape an enforcement strategy that slows the flow of guns into Mexico, while at the same time preserving our Constitution.

You asked whether I have veto power over a particular bill. I think that the challenge that we have right now is not a particular bill, but rather that we are trying to work our way through more effective enforcement mechanisms to prevent straw purchasers from buying caches of weapons, transporting them across the border.

We’ve made progress on that front, given the authority and administrative power that we already possess. We have seen a significant increase in the number of weapons that have been confiscated. We have put more and more people behind bars for the transfer of weapons across the border into Mexico. We recognize that it’s not enough and that we’ve got to do more.

Part of that job is to enforce the laws that are already on the books more effectively. Part of it may be to provide additional tools to law enforcement so that we can prevent the shipment of these weapons across the border.

But I do want to emphasize — and I emphasized this privately with President Calderón — we are very mindful that the battle President Calderón is fighting inside of Mexico is not just his battle; it’s also ours. We have to take responsibility just as he’s taking responsibility. And that’s true with respect to guns flowing from north to south; it’s true about cash flowing north to south. And so we’ve stepped up our enforcement and monitoring of bulk cash transfers across the borders that oftentimes finance these cartels.

So we’re putting more and more resources into this. One of the things that I think that President Calderón and I have discussed is how we can strengthen border security on both sides, so that drugs flowing north or guns and cash flowing south, that we are able at all these points to intervene, interdict in a way that doesn’t, on the other hand, slow the commerce and trade that is so important between our two countries.

It’s a challenging task. We have a big border. We have a lot of people going back and forth. It’s very important economically. But it is something that we have to continue to work on.

And I just want to say to all the people in the Mexican press that I have nothing but admiration for President Calderón and his willingness to take this on. The easy thing to do would be for him to ignore the corrosive, corrupting influence of these drug cartels within Mexico. That would be the easy thing to do. He’s taking the hard path. And he’s shown great courage and great risk in doing so.

And the United States will support him in any ways that we can in order to help him achieve his goals, because his goals are our goals, as well. And they should be the goals of the Mexican people — because the notion that you would want these drug cartels to become more and more powerful and have greater and greater influence in the political life and the economic life and the cultural life of your country I think is something that nobody would want.

With respect to arming our agents, I think President Calderón was very clear. There are laws in place in Mexico that say that our agents should not be armed. The relationship that we have is, as President Calderón, described it: When it comes to our partnership, our cooperation in battling the drug cartels, our job is to help with information, it’s to help with equipment, it’s to help in coordination. We are in an advisory capacity; we do not carry out law enforcement activities inside of Mexico.

What we can do is to make sure that our cooperation is strengthened and deepened and becomes more effective over time. And we’re constantly refining how we do that in a way that is respectful of Mexico’s sovereignty. And obviously I’m concerned about our own agents who are down there. And so I assure you that we will be examining all our procedures and protocols in terms of how our agents travel throughout Mexico. And we’ll be working in close contact with Mexican law enforcement who I’m sure will have important advice in terms of how we operate in that region.

But this cooperation has made great progress. We expect it to continue to make more progress in the future.

PRESIDENT CALDERÓN: (As translated.) I’d like to thank President Obama for this wonderful support in terms of weapons. Others have made similar efforts before his administration in terms of deterring the flow of weapons to Mexico, but we know that what has to do with internal homeland security and the Attorney General are making important efforts and we know that even more weapons traffickers, gunrunners, have been caught than ever before.

There’s a great deal that has to be improved in terms of how to share information, how to trace the weapons. And I also recognize, as I said, the efforts, knowing the large restrictions that President Obama and his administration have at a political level. They’re making great efforts internally so that through administrative measures we can broach this matter.

One of the things that I suggested during our conversation — and I think we still have to look at this very carefully — is if we can find a means of sealing ports of entry along the border. As the President said and as I said, through the use of non-intrusive mechanisms for detection, we could assuredly have the safe and secure border that both nations want, that both peoples want. We all want to have a safe border. I believe it’s possible, although it will require huge technological and financial resources to achieve it. But I think it’s a way of ensuring security without affecting the Second Amendment rights of U.S. citizens, and at the same time stop the flow of drugs northbound, monies and guns southbound.

I would insist upon the legal restrictions that exist in Mexico as in other countries with respect to intervention and the bearing of arms by U.S. agents. But on this subject, I’ll have to speak to members of Congress, particularly the Senate, to explore different alternatives. And I think we have to look at all alternatives that are enabled to us by the Constitution and the law, mechanisms of protection — special mechanisms of protection, clear delineation of the areas where we can collaborate, for instance.

The criminals themselves, they tell us that they didn’t know that they were attacking U.S. agents in their attack, so it’s not that that’s what they wanted to do. But I think at any rate this is still a very important sign — a warning sign to all of us where we have to be — indicating that we have to be very careful about how we care for all of our agents — not just Mexican, American — all agents. We have to have a specific policy that’s much more daring in this sense.

And I think that here, not just in terms of weapons, guns, we have to think in a much more open manner and seek much more creative solutions. It seems to me that we are experiencing extraordinary circumstances that call for extraordinary actions by our governments.

Now, with respect to the extradition of this criminal, it’s something that we hadn’t really discussed. I don’t know if President Obama wanted to discuss this. We still have not finished our meetings yet. Although we have to review what the law stipulates in terms of the extradition for each case of it, I’m, in truth, very convinced that these cases have to be brought to trial. There is the political will, full political will, that this individual be brought to justice with the full weight of the law, whether that be in the United States or in Mexico, if the law allows it. In terms of a request for extradition, I’d have to reserve my opinion in this sense because it will depend on what the law stipulates in this sense. Of course there is a political will to cooperate in this matter as well as on many others.

PRESIDENT OBAMA: I didn’t comment on the extradition issue. Let me just emphasize [***that] we have made a request for extradition [***intend to seek the extradition of those involved]. I think beyond that it’s probably not appropriate to comment. Okay? But we expect the full weight of the law to be brought against this perpetrator.

Thank you very much, everybody.

END
2:03 P.M. EST

 


Secretary Clinton: Remarks (with interpretation) Mexican Foreign Secretary Patricia Espinosa

MODERATOR: (Via interpreter) Good afternoon to all of you. I would like to thank you so much for being at this press conference. Now the foreign affairs minister of Mexico is arriving and the Secretary of State Hillary Clinton are arriving here. Thank you. Now we shall hear the messages of both secretaries, and then we’re going to have a brief question-and-answer period. You have the floor, Madam Secretary of Foreign Affairs.

FOREIGN SECRETARY ESPINOSA: (Via interpreter) Good afternoon, friends. Good afternoon. I would like to welcome all of you here, first of all everyone here in the media. First of all, I would like to very sincerely thank the people from Guanajuato. Thank you so much for your great hospitality.

And I would also like to thank governor of Guanajuato for his willingness in this position to help us so that we can hold this very important visit here in this beautiful city of Guanajuato, this wonderful framework in this city. It is truly a great pleasure to be visiting this beautiful city. And we feel so proud to be able to show Secretary Clinton and also the U.S. commission, everyone, and for the media also, to be able to show the world a little bit of what Mexico has to offer. The warmth and cultural wealth of the city makes this city one of our best tourist destinations. And the state is also an excellent destination for investment. The support of the state and also of the state government has been quite valuable for the success of this meeting today.

I had wanted to meet with Secretary Clinton in Guanajuato for many reasons, first of all, because I know that she is a true friend and is someone who really knows Mexico, a true friend of Mexico, in spite of our enormous diversity. It is not easy to surprise her with new elements of our new identity, of our identity, our tradition and roots. I hope that I’ve been able to surprise you today, Mrs. Clinton. I hope – I thank you so much for having accepted this invitation, and I trust that you feel you’re so welcome in Mexico today, in Guanajuato especially.

On the other hand, we also wanted to meet in this wonderful environment to do a very broad review of the different actions that both governments have been promoting and identify the different priorities that will be identifying our joint work. We have with us members of our very close teams to ensure the coordination of our work today. President Felipe Calderon and President Barack Obama have a shared vision on the importance and potential of the bilateral relationship. Under their leadership, we’ve been able to open a stage of collaboration based on the shared responsibility and mutual respect. We have now an authentic strategic partnership between Mexico and the United States. Our relationship is even stronger than the political junctural challenges that might arise in our path.

The societies of our countries are part of a single space of prosperity. Mexico and the United States need to expand their international marketplaces to improve efficiency and generate more and better employment, more and better jobs. We have to work together. We have to do joint work. Only thus are we going to be able to turn into reality the enormous potential in our relationship. Joining efforts, we are going to be able to improve the living standard of our societies, strengthen our communities, and adopt sustainable production methods.

Today, we have reasserted the political commitment of both governments with a very ambitious economic agenda, which includes the regulatory coordination, facilitation of legitimate flows of people and goods, and the development of border infrastructure, and the joint work of renewable energies and the resolution of existing disputes, for instance, the trans-border motor transportation situation.

Security topics are of central importance for both countries. Organized crime at the transnational level is a common enemy we face because they threaten the security of our two nations. We are fully aware of our respective responsibilities and we know that we should support each other mutually. Our agenda, based on the principle of shared responsibility, includes actions of interdiction and disarticulation of criminal groups, and also the fight against arms trafficking and money laundering, social development issues, and also issues related to reducing the consumption of drugs.

We’ve also held a dialogue under these perspectives – the debate on migration and different issues related to Mexican communities in the United States. I’ve expressed to Secretary Clinton the concern of the Mexican Government for the proliferation of local initiatives with discriminatory elements towards Mexican and Mexican American communities. Because we cannot understand the fact that there are people who are seeking to go back to law enforcement based on stereotypes or on the physical appearance of people or their culture or origin. It would be quite an alarming precedent, contrary to the principles of tolerance and inclusion that we share in North America.

In the face of the cases of violence we have had along the borderline, we are especially worried about great cases affecting Mexican citizens, as well as aggressions of criminal groups against U.S. authorities, and we reiterate our commitment of implementing the joint declaration adopted last December. Secretary Clinton is a tireless promoter of contacts among societies. It is a great pleasure for me to share with you that just recently we renewed for ten more years the agreement based on the Cultural, Educational Exchange Mexico U.S. Commission, COMEXUS, which is the main bi-national organization devoted to promoting academic exchanges.

Mexico and the United States – we’ve been able to develop an intense dialogue on regional and global issues this afternoon. We have been able to exchange impressions on many of those issues. The success of the COP 16 meeting that took place just a few months ago shows what we can accomplish together throughout our participation. In the UN Security Council we were able to see as well once more how we were both benefited through a multilateral dialogue, which is a closer type of dialogue today amongst many other actions. We’ve been able to agree the promotion of increasingly ambitious agreements in the climate and also green growth environment.

I would like to thank Secretary Clinton for her frankness and her willingness and her very clear commitment with the bilateral relationship and for making all this efforts to come all the way from Washington today to be here with us. Thank you so much Secretary Clinton. We know you have to go back to Washington this afternoon, tonight rather. This – you’re showing your friendship, and we greatly appreciate this show of friendship. And I would like to wish that in some other opportunity you may come back to the city of Guanajuato, to this beautiful city with more time, so that you can get to see the city.

Secretary Clinton, I give you the floor.

SECRETARY CLINTON: Thank you very, very much, Secretary Espinosa. And it is a great pleasure and an honor to be here for this bilateral meeting. I very much looked forward to this visit and I learned that you, yourself, personally, have a connection to Guanajuato in a way that makes it even more special to me. So thank you for inviting me and our delegation to have this important meeting here, and I want to also thank the governor and the mayor who welcomed me at the airport.

Before I begin, I want to express a very strong condemnation of today’s terrorist attacks at the Moscow Airport. We stand with the people of Russia in this moment of sorrow and grief, and we offer both our condolences and our very strong solidarity as they continue the struggle that so many of us face in combating and eliminating this international terror threat.

Closer to Mexico, and especially here, I just learned that Bishop Samuel Ruiz, a native son, has passed away. And I was told by my colleagues that he was a tireless mediator who sought reconciliation and justice through dialogue, and that is exactly the legacy that should be honored and the example that should be followed.

We have just had a very productive meeting, as we always do. I have to publicly thank the secretary for the excellent cooperation, partnership, and friendship that she and I have developed during my two years as Secretary of State. I think it reflects the commitment by our two presidents. Both President Obama and President Calderon, are very committed to this relationship, which we consider one of the most important in the world. And both President Obama and I have been very impressed by President Calderon’s courage and leadership, and we are very heartened by his commitment to a stronger U.S.-Mexico relationship and partnership. And it is because of our commitment at the highest levels of our government that we are here today discussing in a very open way all of the issues between us and working on enhancing our cooperation to produce results that will benefit both the people of Mexico and the people of the United States.

Mexico is not only an important bilateral partner. Mexico is a regional and global leader. We see that every single day. We saw it most especially at the recent Cancun climate talks. Our two nations worked together not only as neighbors but as partners in meeting the global climate challenge. And thanks in large part to President Calderon’s leadership and Secretary Espinosa’s chairmanship, Mexico played the central role in achieving a consensus agreement that proved the skeptics wrong and broke important new ground on the path toward a cleaner, more secure energy future.

Mexico is also playing an important role here in the region. We spoke at length about Haiti. We are jointly urging the Haitian Government to honor the recommendations of the Organization of American States as Haiti prepares to hold a second round of elections. We also spoke about how we can do more bilaterally to enhance clean energy and deal with climate change. We are working to extend our efforts against transnational crime into Central America to give the people of Central America more support and security.

We are deepening our economic ties. We are enhancing the global competitiveness of our two countries. Now, I know it doesn’t make the headlines, but in the last two years we’ve had so many positive developments between the United States and Mexico: three new border crossings – two in Texas, one in Arizona – that are enhancing the more than $1 billion worth of trade that cross our border every day. We are working to make sure that we are going to be positioned to play a very big role in North America in the 21st century economy. Mexico will be hosting the G-20 in 2012. Mexico played a very important role, under President Calderon’s leadership, in helping to guide the global economy through very difficult times over the last two years.

We are committed to this relationship on every single level. And we are following through on the declaration by both of our presidents on 21st century border management. We’re exploring ways to inspect and clear legitimate goods away from border stations. We are trying to do more on our side of the border to prevent money laundering and illegal arms coming in to Mexico. We are working with our counterparts in each of our governments to create trucking policies that reduce transit costs and enhance safety on our roads. We discussed ways to use the $1 billion in available financing from Ex-Im Bank to Banobras to build Mexican infrastructure and create jobs in both countries. We also have new ideas, using both of our governments to create more small businesses, to work on projects together in high tech, green jobs, and clean energy technology.

Now, we also cooperate not only in the economic realm, but in the education realm, the health realm, and so much else. And certainly, when it comes to security, we have shared interests. We are taking decisive steps to address our common security challenges. President Obama and I, from my very first visit to Mexico, have been frank about the fact that our countries share responsibility. The United States has been willing, under President Obama, to admit that we have a responsibility for some of the very difficult transnational organized crime challenges that Mexico is dealing with. That is why it is important for us to work closely together to halt the stream of illegal weapons and cash coming in one direction and drugs going in the other direction.

Beginning with the Merida Initiative, moving into the beyond Merida phase, our two countries have redoubled our efforts to stop drug trafficking and organized crime. This year, we have committed to deliver $500 million in equipment and capacity building to the Government of Mexico. That includes $60 million for nonintrusive inspection equipment that will help law enforcement and customs agents to detect illegal arms and money moving into and within Mexico. Through Merida, we are working to help Mexico strengthen court systems, build resilient communities, and offer constructive alternatives for young people.

And we are seeing real results on both sides of the border. On the Mexican side, thanks to improved intelligence and targeting, nearly two dozen high-level traffickers have been captured or killed just in the past year. On the U.S. side, the FBI just arrested the largest number of mafia members in history this month. And our Treasury has designated nearly 800 businesses and individuals associated with drug kingpins. In both countries, we continue to confront organized crime within our borders and across them. We still have work to do. I’m not going to deny that. But we are making progress. And President Calderon’s very courageous leadership is one of the reasons why we are making some gains that are important.

Now, all of these efforts are grounded in the strong personal ties between our people. We have agreed to extend, as the secretary said, the Fulbright-Garcia program, which brings scholarship students, researchers, and teachers of both countries together. More than 4,000 Mexicans and Americans have benefited from this program, including Mexico’s current ambassador to the United States and my friend, Arizona Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords, who is making such a remarkable healing from the terrible violent crime that she and other innocent people suffered from.

Madam Secretary, the contributions that Mexicans and Mexican Americans are a fundamental part of the fabric of the United States. Across the United States, we join with you in celebrating 200 years of Mexican independence and 100 years since the Mexican Revolution. And when the Mexican national team played New Zealand in a friendly soccer game in Los Angeles last summer, the Rose Bowl filled to capacity 90,000 strong with a sea of green shirts and tricolored flags.

As I said when I came to Mexico in 2009, we are part of the same family; we share the same land as our common home, and our children will inherit a common future. No other country-to-country relationship has such a direct and daily bearing on our people. And I look forward to continuing our work together to make sure that that future is as strong and peaceful and prosperous as our children deserve.

Thank you very much, Madam Secretary.

 


President Obama: Statement on World Press Freedom Day

The White House
Office of the Press Secretary

World Press Freedom Day is observed every year on May 3 to remind us of the critical importance of this core freedom. It is a day in which we celebrate the invaluable role played by the media in challenging abuses of power, identifying corruption, and informing all citizens about the important issues that shape our world. It is also a day for us to sound the alarm about restrictions on the media as well as the threats, violence or imprisonment of many of its members and their families because of their work.

Last year was a bad one for the freedom of the press worldwide. While people gained greater access than ever before to information through the Internet, cell phones and other forms of connective technologies, governments like China, Ethiopia, Iran, and Venezuela curtailed freedom of expression by limiting full access to and use of these technologies.

Moreover, more media workers were killed for their work last year than any year in recent history. The high toll was driven in large part by the election-related killings of more than 30 journalists in the Philippine province of Maguindanao, the deadliest single event for the press in history, along with murders of journalists in Russia, Somalia, Mexico and Honduras. In this year, like in other years, nearly three out of four of the journalists killed were local news-gatherers who were murdered in their own nations.

Chauncey Bailey was one such local journalist. A tireless reporter who covered his own city of Oakland, California, Bailey was widely respected for his many exposés of abuse and corruption. He was gunned down 3 years ago, near his office, while taking a homeless man to breakfast. A trial of the alleged perpetrator is scheduled to begin this summer. Such accountability is critical to deterring further attacks. I note with concern that the murderers of journalists succeed in avoiding responsibility for their crimes in nearly nine out of ten cases, and urge fellow governments to address this problem.

Even more journalists and bloggers find themselves imprisoned in nations around the world. Iran, following its crackdown on dissent after the last elections, now has more journalists behind bars than any other nation. Governments in Belarus, Burma, China, Cuba, Eritrea, North Korea, Tunisia, Uzbekistan, and Venezuela imprisoned journalists who wrote articles critical of government leaders and their policies.

But for every media worker who has been targeted there are countless more who continue to inform their communities despite the risks of reprisal. On World Press Freedom Day, we honor those who carry out these vital tasks despite the many challenges and threats they face as well as the principle that a free and independent press is central to a vibrant and well-functioning democracy.

 


Department of State Partners with the International Business Leaders Forum on Human Trafficking

Ambassador-at-Large to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons, Luis CdeBaca announced today that the Department of State will partner with the International Business Leaders Forum (IBLF) on an initiative to provide job and life-skills training to trafficking survivors in at least 13 hotel sites in Brazil, Vietnam, and Mexico. The initiative will integrate human trafficking survivors into the Youth Career Initiative (YCI), a six-month educational program encompassing participating hotels that include Marriott, Sheraton, and the InterContinental.

The goal of the initiative is to ensure that trafficking survivors have the skills and confidence to enter the formal job market, as well as provide one-to-one mentoring support throughout the training and for up to 6 months after graduation from the program to assist in their securing employment. Thanks to a unique partnership model with the international hotel industry, students gain relevant work skills in at least 15 hospitality specialties that span operational and administrative departments. The innovative program will not only empower trafficking survivors by providing the necessary support to rebuild their lives, but also has the potential to serve as a catalyst for other public-private partnerships to protect and serve victims of trafficking.

Ambassador CdeBaca was appointed by President Obama to direct the Office to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons at the Department of State, where he serves as a Senior Advisor to Secretary Clinton and leads the United States’ global fight against contemporary forms of slavery. The Office to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons (G/TIP) develops and implements the State Department’s policy for the protection of trafficking victims, prosecution of traffickers, and prevention of trafficking.

For more information, please contact:

Alberto Canovas, Programme Manager, Youth Career Initiative at alberto.canovas@iblf.org or +44 207 467 3643.

Shivvy Jervis, Press Liaison, International Business Leaders Forum at shivangini.jervis@iblf.org or +44 207 467 3650.

G/TIP Programs Jane Sigmon at SigmonJN@state.gov or (202) 312-9887.

 
 

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