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Obama, Mexican President-Elect Meet

Mexican President-Elect Enrique Peña Nieto meets with President Obama in the Oval Office.  (Michael Coleman / Journal)

WASHINGTON — President Barack Obama met with Mexican President-elect Enrique Peña Nieto in the Oval Office on Tuesday and voiced a commitment to work with with him on border, trade and security issues.

Speaking to reporters in the Oval Office before his private meeting with Peña Nieto, Obama said he had “an excellent working relationship” with outgoing Mexican President Felipe Calderón and said he looks forward to a similar relationship with the president-elect, who he said has a reputation for “wanting to get things done.”

The leaders did not take questions from the media, which included a large contingent of Mexican reporters traveling with Peña Nieto.

During brief remarks, Obama praised “the incredible contribution Mexican-Americans make to our economy and our society.” He also said he and Peña Nieto planned to discuss “how we strengthen our economic ties, trade ties and coordination along the border … as well as common security.”

Obama noted that it is customary for the U.S. president to meet with Mexican presidents soon after they are elected.

“We meet early with the president of Mexico because it represents the close relationship between the U.S. and Mexico,” Obama said.

Peña Nieto praised Obama’s immigration reform position, which includes a pathway-to-citizenship plan for about 12 million illegal immigrants living in the U.S.

“We fully support your proposals,” Peña Nieto told Obama through a translator. “We want to contribute — we really want to participate … in the betterment and the well-being of so many millions of people who live in your country.”

Peña Nieto’s victory in July marked the first time the former ruling party, the Institutional Revolutionary Party, has been in power in Mexico in 12 years. Peña Nieto said his priorities include combating violence and focusing on crimes like extortion and kidnapping.

“In terms of security, that’s another major challenge that we all face,” Peña Nieto said. “My government is set out to reduce the violence situation in our country. I will do everything we can for this.”

Nieto also invited Obama for a “state visit” soon after he takes office in Mexico. Obama seemed to like the idea.

“Any excuse to go to Mexico, I’m always game,” Obama said.
— This article appeared on page A3 of the Albuquerque Journal