"Our government's approach to this issue will not come from simply a military outlook on how to deal with drugs," Congressman Xavier Becerra said in a one-on-one interview with me in Mexico City on Thursday. "I think you're going to see an effort to invest in the people of Mexico so that they will be able to work their way out of poverty, which will give them other alternatives than to turn to the easy course of helping the narco traffickers."
"But you gotta recognize and acknowledge," the L.A. Congressman added. "That part of this problem is ... violent."
Becerra spoke with me at the Marriott Hotel in Polanco before the gala dinner that Felipe Calderón hosted for his U.S. counterpart Barack Obama. He was among a small group of Congressmen whom the president invited on his trip to Mexico and Trinidad, serving as a surrogate face and voice for the White House as Obama prepares to push for immigration reform and a new and different relationship with Mexico.
Listen to my interview with Becerra on Friday's program of Free Speech Radio News on the Pacifica network. Among the questions I posed: What can Mexicans expect from the new immigration reform efforts? Is legalization of certain narcotics an answer? Should the U.S. bear responsibility for ensuring the human and economic rights of Mexicans and Mexican immigrants? The whole audio clip is linked after the jump
Yesterday's visit to Mexico by Obama was short on specific points of progress (the new ambassador was not named, for instance) but heavy on historic symbolism.
For starters, after the hope and hope deferred we saw in 2006, these are not words that I thought I'd hear from a sitting U.S. President on the topic of Mexico and its immigrants: "All across America, all across the United States, we have benefitted from the culture, the language, the food, the insights, the literature, the energy, the ambitions of people who have migrated from our southern neighbor."
Click to listen to the entire raw audio of my interview with Congressman Becerra, a totally smart and effective Mexican American Prince. My levels are a little low (radio ... we're learning), so you may need headphones to clearly hear the back-and-forth.
* Also, check out "Mexican-Americans count on Obama to connect," by Mandalit del Barco at NPR.
** Off till Monday.