Obama has a prime opportunity to call attention to the systematic violations of fundamental worker rights in Mexico. Calderon’s intent to dismantle independent democratic unions contradicts his calls for Mexicans’ human rights in the U.S.

While he is correct in speaking out against the Arizona immigration law, workers’ rights in Mexico are being violated. Proof of that is the hunger strike by 93 workers protesting Calderón’s decision to bust their jobs. Migration to the U.S. is rooted in unfair economic policies and insufficient job creation. Therefore the renegotiation of NAFTA should also be discussed, as Obama pledged during his campaign, because so far it has worked only for big business.

When Obama and Calderón talk about security and the so called “war on drugs” they should appraise the impact of U.S. military assistance to Mexico under the Merida Initiative and the ensuing increment of human rights violations by the Mexican military. During Calderón’s presidency, complaints have increased sixfold, while the number of drug war-related killings has risen to more than 20.000.

They should acknowledge that the strategy of attacking drug lords with helicopters and putting soldiers in the streets has failed and should therefore agree to put a halt to the Merida Initiative. The presidents should seek to strengthen Mexican judicial and civilian institutions while creating jobs and education opportunities for the millions of those without decent jobs.

Manuel Pérez-Rocha is an associate fellow at the Institute for Policy Studies.

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