Mexico City - US President Barack Obama told the Mexican
people on Friday that he sees a "new Mexico" emerging, with a
deepening democracy and growing economy, and that Mexico and the US should be
viewed as equal partners.
"I have come to Mexico because it is time to put old
mindsets aside," Obama said in a speech to university students. "It's
time to recognise new realities, including the impressive progress in today's
Obama tried out a little Spanish on his audience, saying
"Es un placer estar entre amigos" (It is a pleasure to be among
friends) and struck a deferential tone in speaking about the United States'
Drug-fuelled violence in Mexico is not entirely the fault
of the Mexican people, he said.
Instead, the US shares the blame because much of the
violence is centred on the Americans' demand for illegal drugs and the fact
that guns are smuggled into Mexico from the US.
"In this relationship there is no senior partner or
junior partner. We are two equal partners, two sovereign nations that must work
together in mutual interest and mutual respect," Obama said.
Obama's goal on a three-day trip to Mexico and Costa Rica
is to emphasise the need for stronger commercial ties and broaden relations
beyond the security partnerships that have dominated the past.
He is to meet Central American leaders in Costa Rica
later on Friday.
Growth in the US
Obama's effort is aimed at creating more jobs in the UA
and reigniting stronger growth.
The US jobless rate for April dropped slightly to 7.5%
but unemployment remains a problem.
The US would like to join forces with Mexico to compete
for the fast-growing markets for trade goods in the Asia-Pacific.
"Let's do more to expand the trade and commerce that
creates good jobs for our people," Obama said.
Obama's speech served to bolster Mexican President
Enrique Peña Nieto, who last year took over from close US ally Felipe Calderon.
The new government has embarked on ambitious reforms to
make the economy more competitive and institutions more accountable to the
people, he said.
Cheers of approval
It is clear that a "new Mexico is emerging,"
"I see a Mexico that is deepening your democracy,
citizens who are standing up and saying that violence and impunity is not acceptable,
a courageous press working to hold leaders accountable," he said.
Obama, whose second term got off to a ragged start amid
struggles with the US Congress, heard cheers of approval when he said he hoped
to gain congressional passage of an overhaul of US immigration laws.
Many of the 11 million illegal immigrants in the US are
from Mexico, and Mexico remains an important jumping-off point for Central
American migrants heading for the US border.
Obama stands the best chance in years to see new laws
that would create a pathway to citizenship for illegal immigrants.
"I'm optimistic that, after years of trying, we're
finally going to get this done," he said.