President Obama’s speech in Mexico City Friday was slammed by Mexican observers who wondered which country Obama was describing with his soaring, optimistic rhetoric.
Obama’s speech at the National Museum of Anthropology in Mexico City Friday afternoon, in which he said that Mexico is “creating new prosperity,” was sharply criticized by those in attendance.
“[That was] a really good speech by President Obama, but what Mexico was he talking about?” said 24-year old graduate student Jose Carlos Cruz, according to the Los Angeles Times.
Though White House officials said that Obama’s trip to Mexico and Costa Rica is intended to emphasize the “benefits of closer cooperation” between the United States and Obama’s host countries, at least one senior White House national security adviser acknowledged that the administration hopes to partner with Mexican president Enrique Pena Nieto on its second-term immigration reform push.
Obama arrived in Mexico Thursday to conduct a private meeting with Nieto, after which Obama and Nieto held an hour-long press conference in which they reportedly focused on economic issues rather than border security concerns.
But the president’s lofty language, in the face of Mexico’s awful conditions, raises concern about the effectiveness of his three-day Latin American trip.
“Obama is a great speaker — its really impossible not to feel excited. However, the reality is different in Mexico. We need more action and fewer speeches,” said 26-year old economics student Alberto Rios Lara.
“Unfortunately in our country, the situation is terrible: There’s poverty, unemployment, and even worse, the future is anything but promising,” the unhappy graduate student Cruz said. “How nice that he came to give inspiring speeches, but what’s happening in Mexico is far from what he talked about today.”
White House deputy national security adviser for strategic communications Ben Rhodes suggested that Obama’s visit to Mexico was motivated by his desire to pass sweeping immigration reform in his second term.
“Mexico is an important partner in immigration reform given that we work with them every day to secure our border,” Rhodes said.
“Economic development in Mexico will also ultimately get at the root cause of illegal immigration to the United States, so that’s another benefit of the economic growth underway in Mexico,” Rhodes added.
Obama’s recent rhetoric on Mexico has been criticized as well. In his 2013 State of the Union address, Obama only mentioned Mexico once, to state, “Ford is bringing jobs back from Mexico.”
Pena Nieto, 46, a member of the Institutional Revolutionary Party, was elected president of Mexico in 2012 with 38 percent of the vote.