MEXICO CITY (AFP) — Mexican president Felipe Calderon was to arrive in the United States Sunday for a working visit amid a fiery US election-year debate over illegal immigrants from Latin America, according to an official announcement.
Calderon will not be meeting with his US counterpart George W. Bush, despite it being his first visit since he became president in December 2006.
Nor will he meet with any of the leading candidates for the US presidency, whose campaign has highlighted the debate over the US handling of millions of illegal immigrants, including an estimated five million Mexicans, and efforts to build a wall along much of the two neighbors’ 3,000 kilometer (1,600 mile) border.
Instead, Calderon will travel to New York, Boston, Chicago, Sacramento and Los Angeles to meet with expatriate Mexican community leaders and academic and financial sector figures.
Calderon told the New York Times in an interview Thursday that the heightened furor over illegal immigrants was threatening the close relationship between Mexico and the United States.
“I’m very worried because this has generated an atmosphere full of prejudice, an anti-immigrant atmosphere with certain themes that are also anti-Mexican, that benefits no one,” he told the Times.
“It seems to me the worst thing the two countries could do is make our people think our enemy is our neighbor.”
He was also critical of the US approach to Latin America in general.
“What is clear to me is that in Latin America, and in the world, for some reason the United States has been losing friends, and it seems to me it should do everything possible to reach out to the few friends it has left.”
Calderon will be accompanied on the trip by his finance and economic ministers, Agustin Carstens and Eduardo Sojo, Foreign Minister Patricia Espinoza, and governors of three states which are the source of many of the Mexicans who have crossed illegally into the United States.
In New York their meetings will include financier David Rockefeller, New York Governor Eliot Spitzer, New York Federal Reserve president Timothy Geithner, and UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon.