Washington – President Barack Obama is hailing the close relationship between the United States and Mexico as he meets with President-elect Enrique Peña Nieto four days before the new Mexican leader takes office.
Obama praised Peña Nieto's "ambitious reform agenda" and said he was confident the two countries will be able to strengthen longstanding economic and trade ties and increase security along their common border.
Obama joked that he was "jealous" of Vice President Joe Biden, who is leading a U.S. delegation to attend Peña Nieto's inauguration on Dec. 1.
Peña Nieto congratulated Obama on winning a second term and said he was looking forward to strengthening already close relations between the countries.
The two men spoke to reporters before meeting Tuesday in the Oval Office.
Peña Nieto's election heralded back into power the Institutional Revolutionary Party, which it held power without interruption from 1929 to 2000. In past decades, the party engaged in widespread coercion of its opponents, monopolizing virtually every institution in the country. The party says it has reformed and handed control to a new generation of democratically minded young technocrats with a vision of modernizing Mexico.
One of the biggest issues facing the incoming president and his interactions with the U.S.is security, especially regarding Mexico's drug war.
Mexico's current administration has targeted the top ranks of the country's drug cartels, deploying thousands of troops to capture crime kingpins and seize their drugs and weapons, often in close coordination with the U.S. It is not uncommon for President Felipe Calderón's administration to boast of its success in arresting many of the country's most-wanted men.
Peña Nieto says his top security priority will not be arresting the leaders of the organizations that move hundreds of millions of dollars of narcotics each year into the United States. Instead, he and his advisers say, they will focus the government's resources on reducing homicide, kidnapping and extortion — the crimes that do the most damage to the greatest number of Mexicans — by flooding police and troops into towns and cities with the highest rates of violent crime.
"This doesn't mean that we don't pay attention to other crimes, or that we don't fight drug trafficking, but the central theme at this time is diminishing violence in the country," Pena Nieto told The Associated Press in a recent interview.
Based on reporting by the Associated Press.