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Obama Discusses Mutual Security Interests of U.S., Latin America

By John J. Kruzel
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, April 16, 2009 – President Barack Obama said it’s critical for the United States to support Mexico’s efforts to take on drug cartels that have “plagued both sides of the border.”

After a meeting with Mexican President Felipe Calderon in Los Pinos, Mexico, Obama discussed the security partnership between the neighboring countries and the broader interests of the region.

“At a time when the Mexican government has so courageously taken on the drug cartels that have plagued both sides of the borders, it is absolutely critical that the United States joins as a full partner in dealing with this issue, both through initiatives like the Merida Initiative, but also on our side of the border, in dealing with the flow of guns and cash south,” he said.

The Merida Initiative will provide equipment and training in support of law enforcement operations and technical assistance to promote the long-term reform, oversight and professionalization of Mexico’s security agencies, according to the State Department.

Navy Adm. Mike Mullen, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, recently said intelligence sharing, surveillance and reconnaissance capabilities are areas where the U.S. military can help Mexican forces, and added the military-to-military relationship with Mexico is in the best shape he has ever seen.

"There is a significant opportunity to continue to cooperate and to focus very heavily with respect to the needs on the border and the kinds of capabilities that they need from an intelligence and equipping piece," he said after meeting with Mexican leaders in Mexico City.

Obama called Mexico a global leader, and emphasized the importance of partnering on items of mutual interest, including terrorism and other security issues.

“These are issues in which the United States and Mexico will have to stand side by side in order to promote common security and common prosperity,” he said.

The president’s remarks come on the same day that he published an opinion article in more than a dozen U.S. and Latin American newspapers urging unity among regional partners.

“Just as we advance our common prosperity, we must advance our common security. Too many in our hemisphere are forced to live in fear,” Obama wrote. “That is why the United States will strongly support respect for the rule of law, better law enforcement, and stronger judicial institutions.”

Ahead of the fifth Summit of the Americas, which runs April 17 – 19 at Port of Spain, Trinidad and Tobago, Obama underscored the importance of advancing common security interests, highlighting the United States’ unique responsibility.

“Security for our citizens must be advanced through our commitment to partner with those who are courageously battling drug cartels, gangs and other criminal networks throughout the Americas,” he wrote, adding, “Our efforts start at home.

“By reducing demand for drugs and curtailing the illegal flow of weapons and bulk cash south across our border, we can advance security in the United States and beyond,” he continued. “And going forward, we will sustain a lasting dialogue in the hemisphere to ensure that we are building on best practices, adapting to new threats, and coordinating our efforts.”

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