Versión en ingles de la entrevista que la periodista María Elena Salinas le hizo al presidente Barack Obama en México
María Elena Salinas: Thank you very much Mr. President. To begin with, Mexico has a new administration and a new party and a different approach towards the war against drugs. Protecting more its citizens, worried more about the safety of their citizens and less towards capturing drug lords or preventing the flow of drugs into the U.S. How does that change the cooperation between the two countries?
Presidente Barack Obama: Well, first of all it’s been a wonderful visit. A great opportunity to have deeper consultations with President Peña Nieto. He is embarking on a whole range of reforms here in Mexico that I believe will help to make Mexico more competitive. And I complimented both publically and privately for the reforms that he’s making. But what I think President Peña Nieto said, even yesterday in our press conference, is that he remains committed to making sure that drug traffickers, criminals are apprehended. And that violence is not tolerated. And obviously it’s a long term struggle. What we’ve said is that it’s not our job, it’s not our place in the United States to dictate how his administration is going to organize their efforts. But we’ll partner with them in any ways that they think are appropriate. And so far at least there have been excellent consultations between our law enforcement and our intelligence teams. And we expect to continue to work with them cooperatively. Obviously, our main concern is making sure that the violence doesn’t spill over the border. But we’re also concerned generally about how we can reduce violence in Mexico. Because this is such an important commercial and trading partner for us. We want to make sure that Mexico prospers.
María Elena Salinas: Right. The two countries have been working together for a long time on this issue. But now Mexican officials say that they no longer want U.S. agencies to work directly with their Mexican counterparts. How will that, or will that hinder the war against drugs?
Presidente Barack Obama: I actually think in the discussions that we’ve had with President Peña Nieto and his administration that really what they’re looking at is how do they reorganize themselves internally? How do they streamline their processes? How do they make sure that there’s a single point of contact? And those are really organizational issues for the Mexican government to determine. Whether we are talking to five agencies or we’re talking to one agency our message will be the same. Which is we can provide assistance where it’s been requested for, you know, best practices. How to continue to improve law enforcement. How to make sure that the law enforcement process is just. And that, you know, if there are additional areas where we can be helpful we will do so. But, you know, it’s just like in the United States, if we decided after 9/11 that we were going to reform a number of our agencies so that they’re working better together. I think you’re seeing a similar effort here to try to figure out how they can improve the actual outcomes, when it comes to tackling the violence that obviously is of such deep concern. The last point I’ll make, and I emphasized this at the press conference yesterday is we continue to recognize we’ve got responsibilities. The flow of guns and cash south from the United States into Mexico makes the problem worse. And even as I’m going to continue to fight on the issue of common sense gun safety measures, background checks, anti-trafficking legislation. There is some things that we’re continuing to do administratively to make sure that we are reducing the flow south. And that’s also going to require significant cooperation between our two countries.
María Elena Salinas: Border security has come up as one of the make or break issues for immigration reform. What kind of commitment did you get from President Peña Nieto to helping you make the border more secure?
Presidete Barack Obama: Well, part of the reason for this trip Maria Elena, I know you’re aware of this is we wanted to highlight how important the trading relationship between our two countries are and our commercial relationships. I mean you know, you’re looking at half a trillion dollars a year or trade between our two countries.
María Elena Salinas: And a lot of activity on the border, of course, a lot of that I know.
Presidente Barack Obama: Enormous activity at the border. Exactly. And so, you know, we tend to think of border only as an issue with respect…
María Elena Salinas: Security.
Presidete Barack Obama: …security and undocumented workers. But we also have to think about borders as this enormous opportunity. Because with all this flow of goods and services we want to make sure that it’s safe. While making sure that everything that’s happening on the border is legal. But we also want to make sure that it’s efficient and smooth so that, you know, whether it’s people or services or goods coming into the United States and going into Mexico. That it’s efficient.
María Elena Salinas: But on the security aspect did he commit to helping you?
Presidete Barack Obama: Well, you know, what we are committed to doing is to work together to make sure that we are building infrastructure and the systems that allow for a well regulated border. And if we do that, that’s going to be for our economy and it’s also going to be good for stemming illegal immigration and it’s also going to be good for us catching and apprehending criminals. Whether they’re smuggling people or smuggling drugs or they’re smuggling weapons. So there’s a whole bunch of work that we’ve already done. That’s part of the reason why the border has more assets on it and is, you know, continuing to improve in terms of security. It’s part of the reason why we’ve seen an enormous drop in the number of people who are illegally crossing the border. And you know, what I’ve said to Congress and President Peña Nieto agrees with me on is that we can continue to improve it as long as we don’t lose sight of the fact that there’s a lot of good stuff going on at the border as well. It’s not just a negative, it’s a positive. And we want to make sure that we’re, you know, both through immigration reform and improved border security and improved the infrastructure that we we’re accentuating the positives of our border. And we’re eliminating some of the negatives.
María Elena Salinas: Right. You just said that you were concerned about the spill over into the U.S. There’s a cartel presence in about a 1,000 cities in the U.S. Where’s the U.S. war against drugs?
Presidente Barack Obama: Well, you know, the truth of the matter is actually along the border we haven’t seen huge spikes of violence of the sort that we see on the Mexican side. So obviously you can’t compare those two things. You know, do the drug cartels operate transnationally, including in the United States? Absolutely. Our policy was…
María Elena Salinas: Are you going after them?
Presidente Barack Obama: Oh absolutely. Yeah, and our policy going after drug lords and drug traffickers has not changed whatsoever. We’re continuing to press hard on them. Now what we also recognize is that an effective policy when it comes to drugs is not just law enforcement, it’s also reducing demand. Which means that we’ve got to put a lot more effort and smarter effort into intervention, prevention, education. We’ve put about $30 billion dollars into, you know, the kind of public health efforts that will reduce the use of drugs, which in turn reduces demand. That means that, you know, criminals aren’t making as much money on it, and they’re not as disruptive.
María Elena Salinas: Back to immigration reform. I know that you’ve said you’re very optimistic about the Senate Bill. And that you’re not going to get everything you want or that immigration activists are pressing for. So what would you accept? Would you sign a bill that did not include a path to citizenship?
Presidente Barack Obama: No.
María Elena Salinas: Would you sign a… Go ahead.
Presidente Barack Obama: You know, what I’ve said is that there are core principles that can solve the problem. Number one, continued improvement on border security that builds on the work that we’ve already done. Number two, that we are better regulating employers so that they are not purposely hiring people illegally, and in some cases taking advantage of them. Number three, making sure that we’ve got the best legal immigration system possible. Because part of the problem is that our legal immigration system is so broken. Sometimes the waits are so long that it actually pushes people into the illegal system. And number four, for the 11 million or so undocumented persons who are in the United States right now give them a pathway to earn their citizenship. It’ll take a long time, it’ll be tough. They’ll have to pay a fine. They’ll pay back taxes. They’ll have to learn English. But that path will be available. And it will give people certainty in terms of, okay that’s the vision that I can pursue.
María Elena Salinas: Right. But instead of your optimism, I know you have your comprehensive about something. What is that you think you’re not going to get in this bill? And as you know, Marco Rubio has already said that the Senate Bill would not pass in the House. So what compromises are going to have to be made in order to get this going?
Presidente Barack Obama: Yet, you know, it wouldn’t be very smart for me to say right away what I know I’m not going to get. You know, what we’ll do is continue to work with Senators from both parties to try to get the Senate Bill passed. I think that the bill that was presented by the so-called Gang of 8 was a good piece of work that met my core requirements for comprehensive immigration reform. There were details in it that I didn’t like. There were details in it that I liked. I know that’s true for Senator Rubio and for Senator Schumer and Senator McCain and everybody who was involved that was why it was a tough negotiation. Now the process is going through committees. It’s going to go to the floor. There will be amendments. So, you know, let’s see what emerges before we start judging the actual product. But what I’ll be watching for is do those four things that I mentioned. You know, a pathway to citizenship, making sure that we’re fixing the legal immigration system, dealing with borders and dealing with employers. If those components are there then I would expect that not only will I be supportive, but also I think we can get it through the House. It’s the right thing to do. It’s the smart thing to do.
María Elena Salinas: I know that I’ve asked you this before. But the question persists. The deportations. People don’t understand why you continue to deport people that would qualify for an immigration bill that you are now so passionately working toward. When you arrived in Mexico there were protests of women, of mothers of kids that were born in the U.S. that were deported. You know, what do you tell them?
Presidente Barack Obama: Maria Elena, it’s like everything else. The, if I pass a law then the situation changes. Until the law is changed you enforce the laws that are on the books. So what I’ve said is, I want to change this law. It’s the right thing to do. And you know, Congress may go back and look and say, look all these people have qualified under this new law, let’s see if we can provide some relief.
María Elena Salinas: I have two more questions on other issues.
Presidente Barack Obama: But you know, but I think it’s very important to emphasize that, you know, given all the work we’ve done to refocus our attention on criminals as opposed to families when it comes to enforcement. Given the work that we’ve done administratively to give relief to Dreamers, so that they’re not concerned. I think I’ve shown that wherever I’ve got administrative flexibility to prioritize properly our enforcement I will do so. But ultimately this is going to change because the law changes. And that’s why we need to get this done and we need to get it done this year.
María Elena Salinas: I have two more questions. One is does the U.S. recognize Nicolás Maduro as the legitimate President of Venezuela?
Presidente Barack Obama: Well, you know, I think it’s not what the U.S. alone is concerned about. But I think that the entire hemisphere has been watching the violence, the protests, the crackdowns on the opposition. I think our general view has been that it’s up to the people of Venezuela to choose their leaders in legitimate elections. And that our approach to the entire hemisphere is not ideological. It’s not rooted back in the Cold War. It’s based on the notion of our basic principles of human rights and democracy and freedom of press and freedom of assembly. Are those being observed? There are reports that they have not been fully observed post-election. And you know, I think our only interest at this point is making sure that the people of Venezuela are able to determine their own destiny free from the kinds of practices that the entire hemisphere generally has moved away from. And one of the great stories of Central and South America, one of the great stories of progress economically is rooted in the fact that we’ve seen this enormous shift towards democracy, towards freedom. You’re seeing it here in Mexico where we just had a peaceful transition between parties after an election. You‘re seeing it in Colombia, in Chile, in Peru. And you know, I think that what the Venezuelan people want is basically that same approach.
María Elena Salinas: And I wanted to end with something that you brought up a couple of minutes ago and that was the fact that after 9/11 agencies began to work together. However, we now found out that the Tsarnaev brothers were planning a suicide bombing on the 4th of July. So, their planning was going on for a long time. What steps can be taken so that agencies can work better together and not drop the ball and prevent potential terrorists from once again striking the U.S.?
Presidente Barack Obama: Well, you know, I think we can continue to improve and refine how we’re engaging and countering terrorist activity. As I said, we’re seeing a review of everything that happened. I will be making sure that we’re following up on any additional improvements that can be made. I don’t think it’s fair to say though that law enforcement “dropped the ball.” I think that this is a very difficult challenge when you have individuals who are self-radicalizing, they’re not part of some massive conspiracy or a network.
María Elena Salinas: But there were some hints, some connections that the FBI had been informed. The CIA had been informed.
Presidente Barack Obama: Right, and the…
María Elena Salinas: At separate times.
Presidente Barack Obama: Well, and the FBI followed up on them. But the FBI can’t arrest somebody just based on a rumor. And you know, that’s part of our system of laws. I mean one of the challenges if we’re going to be an open society, one that respects the law, is that there are going to be times where individuals decide they want to cause harm to people for crazy reasons, for no good reason, for ideological reasons. And if they’re not communicating with a lot of people about their plots, it’s very difficult for law enforcement to find them. We’re doing everything we can to continue to improve that process. Obviously we’ve been very effective in dismantling Al-Qaeda core and some of these global networks that have the capacity to carry out large scale attacks like 9/11. But we have to remain vigilant. My administration is going to continue to make sure that we’re improving what we do. That we learn from what’s happened in the past. But this is something that most important from my perspective is that Americans and the people of Boston displayed after the marathon attacks, and that is just a sense of resilience and we’re not going to be intimidated. And this kind of senseless violence just like the senseless violence that happened in the mass shootings at Newtown or in Aurora, are heartbreaking, they’re tragic. But you know, life goes, for all of us as Americans, you know, we’re not going to be allowing ourselves to somehow change our way of life because of these actions. What we have to do is to find ways where we can fix it. But we’re going to keep on living.
María Elena Salinas: Gracias, Mr. President.
Presidente Barack Obama: Muchas Gracias.