Remarks by Secretary of State Clinton With Mexican Foreign Secretary Patricia Espinosa

Guanajuato, Mexico–(ENEWSPF)–January 24, 2011. 

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.

MODERATOR: (In Spanish.)

QUESTION: (In Spanish.)

SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, as a matter of policy, the Department of State and the United States Government does not comment on any alleged leaked documents. I can tell you that the bilateral relationship between the United States and Mexico has never been stronger. We have never been working more closely together on so many issues that will make a difference to our people.

We are working everything from a bi-national park to a furthering of education exchanges to a modern 21st century border, and so much else. In fact, the secretary and I decided today we needed to create a master list, because there are so many ongoing dialogues and working groups that we’re going to have to try to keep track of. Our countries have a tremendous amount in common, and we want to enhance and improve our relationship.

And the United States remains committed to helping the Mexican Government go after the cartels and organized crime and the corruption they generate. And we know how difficult that is. We are trying to be a helpful partner. And we cannot, in any way, put ourselves into the shoes of those who are on the front lines here in Mexico doing the hard work. So what our goal is is to provide support and help to enable our Mexican friends and partners to be as successful as they are seeking to be. And we will continue, through the Merida Initiative, to provide significant support.

Now, at the same time, we are aware from the work we’ve done all over the world that what the Mexican Government is doing to improve the judicial system, the detention and corrections system, is essential to the ultimate success of the war against the drug cartels. So we support those efforts. And included in our dialogues is a dialogue on human rights, because we believe that it is important and there are also legislative requirements in our laws that we see very clear adherence to human rights norms and to the careful protection of the rights of citizens.

And we think that the Mexican Government is also making progress here as well. We do know that they are working more that needs to be done. There needs to be more legislation passed, which the Calderon government is hoping to achieve. We need to make sure that any human rights violators committed by the military against civilians are tried in civilian courts. And we know that the Mexican Government is working on that. We also know that a well-equipped, well-trained judicial system is essential.

So there is a lot of work going on, and we stand ready to assist in that work. But I would just close by saying that this is very hard. And what President Calderon has done is absolutely necessary. If it were easy, it would have been done before. It is not easy. It is hard. It carries all kinds of costs. But there is no alternative. And the United States knows that because we have worked with countries around the world as they have struggled against organized crimes or other threats to their security. And I think that what Mexican law enforcement is doing to both reform at the same time that they take on the drug traffickers is essential and a commitment that we stand ready to help them carry out. And I also believe that the very successful efforts by the Mexican military deserve support as well, and we have offered any support that they would be interested in pursuing.

But this is hard. And it’s easy for us in this beautiful setting to come up with all kinds of reasons and criticisms, but we know how hard this is. I mean, I’ve represented the State of New York, and a lot of people remember there was a time 20 or 30 years ago when people thought New York was going to be lost to gangs and drugs and crime. And innocent people couldn’t walk down the street. They couldn’t take their children to a park. And through hard work by law enforcement and a lot of support and a lot of reform, we’ve seen a real change. And what we want is for the people of Mexico to have the same level of security throughout the country that they have in most of the country.

MODERATOR: (In Spanish.)

QUESTION: Thank you. Secretary Clinton, the ATF is seeking emergency authority to require gun dealers near the border to report multiple purchases of semiautomatic rifles with detachable magazines. The ATF had asked to have this permission by January 5th. Do you – is that something the Administration is pushing for? Is there any sign they’re going to get that?

And as a second question, I was just wondering if you could talk a little more about the challenges. As you mentioned, the Mexican Government has been doing a big reform of their judicial system, but there seems to be a lot of difficulties in terms of getting convictions – the jails and so on. What’s your message to the authorities on that? Thank you.

SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, the second question is an easy one. Just stay with it. It is hard. And they’re changing they’re system. They’re going from an inquisitorial system to an open system, and that’s a sea change. And that takes a lot of training and a lot of effort. But there’s no alternative. And the Mexican Government recognizes that and is moving forward.

With respect to the ATF’s request, the Administration is working that request and is very committed to doing what can be done in an appropriate regulatory framework so that it isn’t challenged and it is sustainable. And we hope that we’ll have some available additional tools for the ATF in a short period of time.

MODERATOR: (In Spanish.)

QUESTION: (In Spanish.)

FOREIGN SECRETARY ESPINOSA: Did you get all those questions?

SECRETARY CLINTON: All they all for me? (Laughter.)

FOREIGN SECRETARY ESPINOSA: Yes. I think so. (Laughter.)

SECRETARY CLINTON: First, let me emphasize how important we think the struggle against the drug traffickers is for Mexico and the Mexican people, first and foremost. If you are the leader of any country or you’re the leader of a state or a city, your first obligation is to the security of your people. And I would go back to my New York example. You had a series of mayors and presidents, because it’s something my husband my worked on when he was president, who said what we’re doing is not working. So they changed the way we policed. They moved toward something called community policing. They did a lot of examination of what would actually get people to feel safer in reporting crime. So I come to this from the position that security has to be the highest priority of any leader.

And I know Mexico’s this big, wonderful country and there are many parts of it that are not feeling the intensity of the struggle against the drug traffickers, and some places which are really right in the guns sights, if you will, of the drug traffickers. Well, it would be easy if you lived in one of the beautiful places where that wasn’t happening to say, “Why is President Calderon spending so much time and effort trying to capture and kill these drug traffickers?” Well, if you lived where they were operating and providing so much death and destruction, you wouldn’t ask that question. So I think it really is important to emphasize that President Calderon is doing what a leader should do. And that is why President Obama and I and our government and country support him.

Secondly, in the two years that I have been working with Secretary Espinosa and our two presidents have been working together, we have seen significant steps taken. Now, the drug traffickers are not going to give up without a terrible fight. And when they do things that are just barbaric, like beheading people, it is meant to intimidate. It is meant to have the public say, “Oh, just leave them alone and they won’t bother me.” But a president cannot do that. And what President Calderon has done is to tackle not just the drug traffickers but some of the systemic issues that will strengthen Mexico’s institutions to be able to take on the threats posed by the drug traffickers.

So I am – I mean, I think you can gather, I’m a fan. I believe and greatly admire what President Calderon is doing. And I used to be in politics so I know how hard it is. I know that what he is doing cannot be, is not universally popular, because it is messy. And it causes lots of terrible things to be on the news. And so you wonder, well, what more could be done? But there’s a plan. President Calderon is following through on his plan. We are providing help as best we can to carry through on that plan. And it’s just a question of staying the course, staying after those who are trying to intimidate innocent people into letting them make enormous amounts of money from sending drugs north or trying to enlist more Mexican young people in these crimes, turn more Mexican people into drug addicts. I mean, these are horrible things that they do, and therefore they cannot be left unaddressed. And that’s what the president is trying to do.

MODERATOR: (In Spanish.)

QUESTION: Madam Secretary, (inaudible) reports are showing the Palestinians made significant concessions in peace talks with Israelis in 2008. A couple of questions about that: Having refused the negotiating record of previous administrations, so you think that these reports are accurate? Will they, if they are accurate, change the U.S. approach to brokering the talks?

And finally, given Israel’s continued settlements building, do you feel that one major problem of the peace talks has been their stubbornness about continuing that building?

SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, these reports about documents are ones that I cannot comment on. They are not even, so far as has been reported, U.S. documents. We don’t comment on our own documents; I can’t comment on somebody else’s documents. I don’t know anything about their authenticity or their accuracy. So put that to one side. I will not and cannot comment on whatever is being dumped into the internet.

But what I can say is I don’t see it comes as any surprise what the issues are between the Palestinians and the Israelis. They have been well known for 20 years or more. They are difficult issues. They do not lend themselves easily to compromise because both sides have very strong interests and concerns at work. But just because, again, it’s hard doesn’t mean you stop trying. And the United States continues, along with international partners, to urge the parties to engage on each of these difficult issues, with the full knowledge that neither party is going to be happy with whatever the outcome is because you can’t get there unless you compromise in some area.

And as I’ve said many times, the settlements in this context are not helpful, and we have made very clear our position on them. But I don’t think anyone believes that by walking away or throwing one’s hands in the air, you can create a better situation. That is not going to happen. So therefore, we will continue to work hard. We will work hard with both parties. We will work hard with international partners who care about achieving a sustainable peace that produces a two-state solution. And I think that it is in everyone’s interest that we keep our eye on what we’re trying to achieve, which is that goal.