US President Barack Obama expressed “strong support” for Mexico’s raging battle against drug cartels in talks with Mexican President Felipe Calderon in Mexico on Sunday, a US official said.
But Obama stressed the importance of upholding human rights in the crackdown against the murderous wave of narcotics-related violence, the senior official said on condition of anonymity.
The two leaders also discussed “at some length” joint preparations for the expected resurgence of the A(H1N1) virus, also known as the swine flu, in the coming months and a perennial trucking dispute between the US and its southern neighbor.
The talks came ahead of a North American summit yesterday grouping Canada, the US and Mexico that is also set to discuss combined efforts to extricate the three from the economic crisis.
The official said the talks, which took place shortly before a three-way private dinner that included Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper late on Sunday, were “cordial” and evidence of deeper cooperation between the US and Mexico.
Obama expressed “strong support for President Calderon’s efforts in combating the drugs cartels here in Mexico,” the official said, as well as stressed “the importance of human rights for him, for the United States and frankly for Mexico.”
Some rights groups and US lawmakers have voiced anxiety that the Mexican armed forces have committed human rights abuses, including rapes, killings and torture in the military crackdown on drugs cartels.
Calderon meanwhile brought up delays in delivering part of a US$1.4-billion aid and security package to boost Mexico’s fight against drugs gangs known as the Merida Initiative.
The counter-narcotics package has been held up in the US Congress because of human rights concerns, with US Democratic Senator Patrick Leahy, who chairs a Senate appropriations subcommittee on foreign operations, saying it was not clear the Mexican military was accountable to the rule of law.
“The president made clear his commitment to work with Congress to address legitimate safety concerns and to work with Mexico to fulfill our international obligations,” the US official said.
The two leaders also discussed a trucking dispute, which has seen the US deny permission for Mexican trucks to operate on its territory, and sparked retaliatory measures from Mexico.
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