Tuesday's announcement by US secretary of state, Hillary Clinton, that future US aid to Mexico will focus less on military support and more on institution building and community renewal is a step in the right direction. But this new approach is doomed to fail if it is not grounded in a more nuanced understanding of the situation south of the border. Instead of simply reacting to crises as they emerge, President Obama should develop a new forward-looking strategy of engagement.
Obama did not mention Mexico once in his state of the union address. He did visit Mexico twice last year, but both trips were brief and bureaucratic. In contrast to his visits to Europe and Africa, where he spoke before large crowds and held meetings with a wide variety of political and social leaders, he has only met behind closed doors with Mexico's president Felipe Calderón and his cabinet.
Tuesday's meeting in Mexico City was more of the same. The top-level team that accompanied Clinton did not deign to meet with anyone outside of Calderón's immediate circle and a cloud of opacity enveloped the discussions.
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