Why is Joseph Biden coming at precisely this moment? Why him? What does it mean? This trip, along with the meeting in Cartagena in April, are the last visits to be made to Mexico and Latin America concerning regional issues before the November elections. The reasons for such a high-profile visit are many. I'll speak of three: 1. American domestic politics; 2. The U.S.’s concern for Mexico; and 3. the Summit of the Americas meeting in Cartagena.
Being an election year, Barack Obama should not come at this moment to Mexico or Latin America on bilateral visits unless it were within the political framework of a regional meeting. However, the political considerations of a visit during the election year are clear: to send a message to the Hispanic community expressing interest in the region. Out of the 11.6 million Mexicans in the United States who have legal documentation, 10.7 are of voting age, making the release of such a message especially urgent, emphasizing the importance of the Mexico-U.S. relationship and to reopen the possibility of immigration reform during Obama's potential second term in office.
A proportionately similar situation is occurring in Honduras's case: There are 467,943 Hondurans able to vote in the U.S. Obama had to reestablish a message of closeness with Central American towns and their families, who at this time are suffering an enormous humiliation as a result of organized crime and the weakness of political institutions in their countries. Honduras has one of the highest homicide rates in the world. He had to pal around the Hispanic community, showing signs of hope regardless of criticisms from the Republicans. Who better to send than his right hand man, Joe Biden?
The U.S. currently faces a variety of challenges with Mexico, which is why it decided to send multiple messages. From February 20 to March 5, we've seen high-profile visits from U.S. officials but they discussed little more than quotidian affairs with Mexico, with Hillary Clinton, David Petraeus and Janet Napolitano coming. These visits weren't enough to deal with the U.S.' concern for stability, prosperity and peace with Mexico. Joe Biden is now coming, as the chemistry between Calderon and Clinton left much to be desired. The channels of communication between both governments have become marred due to the complexity of current bilateral issues. They would without a doubt maintain that the Mexican electoral process will be difficult. They had to open new channels, with Biden being one. Apart from being an expert in foreign policy and a specialist in gun and drug trafficking and in managing weak countries like Afghanistan, he was the chairman of the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations. He also has a clear energy proposal for North America. He's affable, firm and Catholic. He listens and, in his way, relays important messages regarding his country's interests. His presence in Mexico reduced the pressure for national aspirants in Mexico to visit the White House. That possibility was dismissed as Biden has visited and received them in their own country, eliminating the insistent calls heard in the U.S., in a year when Obama has met with no one in order to prevent the public’s perception from costing him votes.
Finally, we remember that in 2009, at the Trinidad and Tobago meeting, Biden went to Chile and Costa Rica beforehand to assure Obama's success in the meeting. As for the meeting in Cartagena, problems have arisen. Reviewing what Jorge Castaneda expressed: "President Correa of Ecuador and Chavez of Venezuela threaten not to attend the meeting unless Raul Castro is there. For Obama, in the middle of his campaign, taking a photograph with the Cuban president would be an insult to Latinos."* If that's the situation, Obama won't be attending Cartagena, either. To that end, they're now asking Calderon to influence and facilitate a strong link for the meeting to take place in April. The U.S. spoke to him about their regional concerns in addition to the issues of bilateral cooperation. Such concerns came just as Biden was making promises such as a pledge of $107 million but also to implement programs for cooperation, training and development. He looked to support the efforts of President Lobo of Honduras toward a peaceful national reconciliation. He also listened to Central American presidents who now have differing attitudes about the regional crisis. Biden knows that the U.S. is against legalizing drugs, but he's open to discussing the subject.
In the end, it is once again noticeable that there exists a foreign policy strategy for the U.S. and that Mexico is a key piece of the puzzle.
* Editor’s Note: This quotation, accurately translated, could not be verified.