Thursday, March 26, 2009

Mexico: Day Two, Santa Hilaria

Looking fresh in a kick-ass bright red pantsuit, the Secretary began her day at Mexico City's Basilica of our Lady of Guadalupe, a vast circular church built in the 1970s near the site where the Virgin Mary is believed to have appeared before an indigenous peasant, Juan Diego Cuauhtlatoatzin, in the 16th century.

She placed a bouquet of white roses near the altar where Juan Diego's apron is displayed in the church, which has a moving sidewalk to help the millions of faithful who visit each year.

The Rector of the Basilica, Diego Monroy Ponce, accompanied Clinton, and prayed alongside with her. On their way out, she waved to the press and people who were watching her visit the famous Mexican sanctuary.

View the video below:

Not long after, she did a 180 and toured the high-tech federal police base in Mexico City, accompanied by the nation's public safety chief, Genaro Garcia Luna. The facility, boasting a command center linked by live video to police stations around Mexico, is a centerpiece of the Calderon administration's effort to revamp the police forces, part of his 2-year-old campaign against drug traffickers.

She rode with Genaro Garcia Luna in the back of a police truck, watched police storm an airplane in a mock hostage rescue and viewed Black Hawk helicopters. According to Hillary, the Obama administration plans to provide more than $80 million to buy Black Hawk helicopters to go after drug traffickers.

Then, the Secretary flew to Monterrey, Mexico's bustling financial capital. Drug-related violence has soared in the city and the surrounding state of Nuevo Leon. Just as an aside, in recent months, attackers have thrown grenades at the U.S. Consulate and a Mexican television station in Monterrey, though no one was injured. Also, this week, Mexican officials announced the arrest of Monterrey-based Hector Huerta Rios, one of the country's 37 most-wanted drug suspects.

Obviously commenting on the stark contrast of her activities and experiences in Mexico she said this in a press conference today: "These two days have cast in sharp relief the breadth and depth of the U.S.-Mexico relationship."

Also, while speaking with reporters in Monterrey, the subject of Iran came up. Hillary says Iran has a role to play in the region that includes neighboring Afghanistan and she hopes it will be constructive. She said that the United States will continue to reach out to Iran, even though earlier efforts were unsuccessful.

President Barack Obama's outreach to Iran in a video message recently was rebuffed by Iranian leaders. Iran has accepted an invitation to a conference on Afghanistan next week at The Hague, Netherlands, that also will be attended by the U.S. Hillary said there are going to be difficult obstacles to engaging with Iran in the short run, but the U.S. will keep trying.

Today Hillary also visited a a prosperous manufacturing and services city close to the U.S. border that has seen a spike in drug violence over the past six months. She attended a ceremony at the SEMIPRODE biogas plant. During the ceremony a cooperation agreement was signed between the University of Austin, Texas, the Tecnologico of Monterrey University, The University of Nuevo Leon state and the Institute of Technology Transference of Nuevo Leon state.

Hillary then arrived with and CEMEX chairman Lorenzo Zambrano to a meeting with students at TecMilenio University. Speaking to the students, Clinton said the United States would work with Mexico to address the drug trafficking that has terrorized Mexican communities, especially those along the border.

"This situation is intolerable... We have to have better surveillance along our border going both ways. We should worry about what is coming north but the Mexican people are worried about what's coming south: assault weapons, bazookas, grenades," said Clinton during her speech.

She's compared the 7,000-plus deaths in drug violence over the past 15 months to the crime wave that hit the U.S. in the 1980s and '90s. "There are problems in any country. I spend my time thinking about the problems in my country as well."

It seems that Hillary's overall tone is part of a conscious public diplomacy effort by the Obama administration to change world opinion of the U.S., which sank deeply under Bush, and it seemed to be going very well.

Mexico, like many other countries in the hemisphere, has often bristled at what it sees as arrogance and hypocrisy from its larger, richer and more populous neighbor and Mexicans have objected to U.S. news coverage of Mexico that's focused solely on the drug problem.

Mexican President Felipe Calderon and the Mexican government applauded an Obama administration plan, announced Tuesday, that will target the cartels by placing more U.S. agents and other personnel along the border.

Also the news media and Mexican politicians spoke of Hillary's frank declaration of blame as "long overdue."

6 comments:

Nancy in Cali said...

cute as a bug's ear she is....

PYW said...

I love the pantsuit, too. Red is my favorite color, and it looks great on Hillary!

Still4Hill said...

I am trying to imagine Fr. Monroy being this excited with a visit from Obama or Michelle. Doubt it!

John Brown said...

thanks for the great pixes!

Hillary Clinton Army said...

Great post! I too, love the pantsuit!

Sarah said...

yes, what a great color on our Secretary.

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