San Jose: President Barack Obama, concluding a three-day visit to Mexico and Costa Rica, is cheering Mexican economic advances and pressing other Central American leaders to deal with poverty and security while reaching out to a politically powerful Latino audience back home.
Boosted by reassuring jobs numbers, Obama is calling for greater trade and economic cooperation with the U.S.`s southern neighbors, arguing that economic prosperity is the best antidote to drug and gang violence and, by extension, to the illegal immigration that the U.S. Is seeking to control.
During the trip Obama has tried to modulate the exercise of US influence. He has refused to insert himself in Mexico`s strategy for confronting narcotrafficking, even if it means more limited access by U.S. Security officials to Mexican law enforcement. In Costa Rica, he urged Central American leaders to integrate their economies, reduce their high energy costs and confront the violence in the region.
"As governments, our job is to make sure that we`re doing everything we can to provide security and opportunity and ladders for success and prosperity for our people," he told the regional leaders at the start of a dinner Friday.
"Economic growth that creates jobs, security for people so that they can be safe in their own neighborhoods, and development that allows people to live in dignity."
Today, Obama was scheduled to speak and takes questions at a meeting at a forum in San Jose on economic growth and development.
In addition to its economic aims, the trip served as a nod by Obama to the vast Hispanic population in the United States, which heavily supported him in the 2012 election and which retains strong family and cultural ties to Latin America.
"In fact," he said Friday in a speech aimed at young people in Mexico City, "without the strong support of Latinos, including so many Mexican Americans, I would not be standing today as president of the United States. That`s the truth."
An inescapable theme during the trip was the U.S. Effort to overhaul the nation`s immigration laws an issue of intense interest among Latinos in the United States and in Mexico and Central America. The vast majority of the 11 million immigrants illegally in the United States are from Latin America, 6 million of them from Mexico alone. Obama supports legislation that would give those immigrants a path to U.S. citizenship.
As Congress debates immigration legislation, Obama`s bullish even overly rosy — depiction of Mexico`s economic prospects were meant to convince the U.S. Public and lawmakers that Mexico no longer poses the illegal immigration threat it once did.