When President Barack Obama meets this week with President Enrique Peña Nieto in Mexico, he will be visiting a country that was much maligned throughout his first term.
Washington has viewed Mexico largely as a source of problems for the United States in the past six years. Many Mexicans, in a mirror image, consider the United States the origin of their troubles. They blame Mexico’s epidemic of violent crime on an insatiable appetite for drugs and loose control over gun and ammunition sales in the United States. In addition, the U.S. financial crisis left the Mexican economy reeling in 2009.
But in the past year, particularly since Peña Nieto’s election in July 2012, Mexico’s standing in the United States and internationally has increased dramatically — along with its national self-esteem.
Though organized crime and violence remain key concerns for Mexico, stories of economic and social reform are now among the headlines. A November Economist article about Mexico was titled “From Darkness, Dawn.” And that message has become a standard media refrain. Some in Washington talked about Mexico as a likely failed state, but that has been decisively debunked. Mexico is now viewed as on the rise, though its homicide rate has fallen only slightly and no one is sure that improvements can be sustained.
In fact, there are many Mexicos for Obama to deal with — the successful and prospering; the backward, corrupt and stagnant; and everything in between.