Originally Published: May 3, 2013 10 p.m.
The United States and Mexico share a border and drug and gun trafficking - a relationship that sorely overshadows what should and could be a prosperous and respectful alliance.
Before he left Thursday on a trip to Mexico and Costa Rica, President Barack Obama gave departing remarks in the Rose Garden, looking forward to visiting our neighboring nation. He called Mexico "one of our largest economic partners."
Of his mission, he said, "I'm going to be working to deepen our economic and trade relationships across Latin America - relationships that create jobs and growth here at home, and offer our businesses growing markets where they can sell more American-made goods and services abroad."
When the president arrived in Mexico, he was greeted by top Mexican officials, an honor guard and a trumpeting bugle.
We wonder how long the revelry lasted, even though the president seemed to downplay a recent decision by Mexico's president, Enrique Pena Nieto, who took office this past December.
Pena Nieto's predecessor Felipe Calderon had allowed widespread access for U.S. security in his country to help fight drug trafficking and organized crime. Pena Nieto has moved to end this. He wants to limit American law enforcement access within Mexico's borders. We have to call this senseless.
Obama conceded a given - that most guns used to commit crimes in Mexico come from north of its border, and a primary cause for violence in Mexico is the demand for illegal drugs in the U.S. Obviously, the U.S. has to get a grip on this problem.
Obama urged moving past the stereotypes of Mexico as a nation beset by violence and the U.S. as the country with a big head that seeks to impose on another country's sovereignty.
The president's answer to this fractious relationship is to help Mexico bolster its economy and its democracy. In his pep talk, Obama said, "A new Mexico is emerging ... Mexico is also taking its rightful place in the world .... Mexico is standing up for democracy..."
Looking at the politics of Obama's visit to Mexico, a major reason is obvious - maintaining and augmenting the Hispanic support that he enjoyed in the last presidential election.
That's what politicians do. Pander. We live with that.
But, putting immigration and trafficking issues aside for the moment, where's the evidence that "a new Mexico is emerging"? Poverty rates in that country are still high. It posted just a 1 percent growth rate in its economy in the first quarter of 2013. And its failing at creating anywhere near the 1 million jobs a year it needs to get young Mexicans into the workplace.
We would all like to see a new Mexico emerge.
But that simply will not happen without strong leadership in Mexico.
We haven't seen it lately and it's doubtful we will anytime soon.