President Bush is visiting a hacienda
(plantation) in the Mexican state of Yucatan with his host, President
Felipe Calderon, where the two leaders are discussing immigration, the
fight against drug smugglers and other matters of mutual concern. As VOA's
Greg Flakus reports from Merida, there are low expectations on both sides
of the border for this meeting.
In his greeting to
President Bush Tuesday President Calderon emphasized the importance each
country has to the other.
He said President Bush had made that same point on a previous visit,
with then-president Vicente Fox in 2001. But the terrorist attacks in
Washington and New York later that same year derailed plans both Bush and
Fox had for comprehensive immigration reform.
In his greeting, President Calderon expressed support for Bush's effort
to create a guest worker program as part of any reform approved by the
But the Mexican leader criticized U.S. plans to build nearly 1,000
kilometers of fencing along the border, saying that spending such funds on
building roads in Mexico's interior would do more to curb the migration of
workers to the north.
He also underscored the limits of his power to discourage illegal
immigration, saying it could not be done by decree.
But U.S. advocates of greater border security and better enforcement of
U.S. immigration laws are campaigning against any immigration reform
package that would create what they believe would be an amnesty.
Illegal immigrants already use false documents and other measures to
avoid deportation and backlogged immigration officials are ill-equipped to
For this reason, critics of the Bush proposal say any guest worker
program, regardless of the rules and legalities it may contain, would be
quickly subverted by the illegal immigrants.
U.S. critics of the guest worker plan also complain that Mexico sends
its poor to the United States in order to avoid the difficult changes
needed to provide for them at home and because the immigrants send back
some $20 billion a year in remittances, second only to oil as a source
of national income in Mexico.
The reluctance of Mexico's elite to address the problem of poverty was
underscored last week when Forbes magazine revealed that Mexican
billionaire Carlos Slim Helu is ranked as the third richest person in the
In a nation where half the population is below the poverty line and
many people live on as little as half a dollar a day, the telephone
company Slim operates is a virtual monopoly and, according to a report by
the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, charges its
users exorbitant rates.
In a news conference Monday, Slim denied this and criticized the
He said telecommunications in a developing nation require heavy
investment. He said his companies have invested four billion dollars in
But, when asked about his own philanthropy, Slim mocked the other two top
men on the Forbes list, U.S. billionaires Bill Gates and Warren Buffet,
saying he did not plan on playing Santa Claus.
He said his idea was to do things and resolve problems rather than give
out money. He said his function is to build a strong business, not spread
Slim did say he will provide more money for a foundation he started
which supports better healthcare in Mexico and he suggested that the
United States send more of its elderly patients to hospitals in Mexico,
where costs are cheaper. Among Slim's many holdings is a company that
constructs hospitals in Mexico.