Acknowledging the uncertainty that lies ahead, President Barack Obama said Thursday that the U.S. will cooperate with Mexico in fighting drug-trafficking and organized crime in any way Mexico's government deems appropriate.
He recommitted the U.S. to fighting the demand for illegal drugs and the flow of illegal guns across the border with Mexico even as the southern neighbor rethinks how much access it gives to U.S. security agencies.
"I agreed to continue our close cooperation on security, even as the nature of that cooperation will evolve," Obama said at a joint news conference with Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto. "It is obviously up to the Mexican people to determine their security structures and how it engages with other nations — including the United States."
Obama's remarks come as Pena Nieto, in a dramatic shift from his predecessor, has moved to end the widespread access that U.S. security agencies have had in Mexico to help fight drug-trafficking and organized crime. The White House has been cautious in its public response to the changes, with the president and his advisers saying they need to hear directly from the Mexican leader before making a judgment about the new arrangement.
Pena Nieto, speaking at the news conference in Spanish, downplayed the notion that the new arrangement would mean less close cooperation with the United States. "There is no clash between these two goals," he said.
He said Obama had said the U.S. will "cooperate on the basis of mutual respect" to promote an efficient security strategy.
The two leaders met Thursday at Mexico's National Palace on the first day of Obama's three-day trip to Mexico and Costa Rica.