Obama Blames Drugs But Tones Down Rhetoric In Mexico, Costa Rica Visit

President Obama blamed drugs for violence in Mexico and the United States, but he mostly tried to focus on the positive side of an emerging Mexican economy. He spoke Friday in Mexico City at the National Museum of Anthropology — where he also acknowledged to the crowd that most of the guns used to commit violent crimes in Mexico come from the United States.

Before the trip, White House officials said that Obama wanted to expand talks with Mexico beyond a discussion of security and the drug trade. Mexican president Enrique Peña Nieto would like to downplay the ongoing battle with drug cartels and focus more on economic development.

Peña Nieto isn’t as open as former presidents Calderon and Fox were about US/Mexico joint security operations to fight the drug war. The new president belongs to Mexico’s Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI), which for political reasons prefers to claim independence from US influence.

In 2006, Mexican President Felipe Calderon more or less declared open war on the drug cartels. He succeeded in shutting down some of the top traffickers but at the cost of the undeclared civil war. More than 70,000 people have died, some in gruesome mass beheadings or shootings that have rocked entire towns.

After talks with the Mexican president on Thursday, Obama told his listeners on Friday that it was time to move beyond old ideas about Mexico. “In this relationship, there’s no senior partner or junior partner. We are two equal partners.”

Obama has now arrived in San Jose, Costa Rica, where he’s taking a stronger public position against the narco-trafficking that plagues Central America.

“The United States recognizes that we’ve got responsibilities, that much of the violence in the region is fueled by demand for illegal drugs, including in the United States,” the president admitted as he headed into a summit with several Central American leaders.

Costa Rica has no army and is resistant to the idea of military operations within their borders. While blaming drugs, Obama agreed that the US wasn’t interested in militarizing the struggle against them in Central America.

[President Obama photo courtesy US Navy via Wikipedia Commons]