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US-Mexico tensions darken visit of President Felipe Calderón

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Compared to the last state visit by a Mexican president – when “Jorge” Bush received Vicente Fox in 2001 – the atmosphere today is considerably darker, many experts say.

“In 2001 there was real optimism, you had this sense of democracy blooming in Mexico and a sense in Washington that the post-cold-war adjustments were allowing the US to focus on the hemisphere, and both developments were encouraging people to think big thoughts about the relationship,” says Eric Farnsworth, vice president of the Americas Society/Council of the Americas in Washington.

'Difficult and vexing issues'

“But today there’s an absence of big ideas, and instead we’re focused on managing some very difficult and vexing issues,” he adds. “There’s a more somber, pragmatic tone to relations.”

One of the “big ideas” that Mr. Fox brought north with him in September 2001 was that of a North American community that would eventually include the free movement of people. Those days seem especially distant after years of border fence construction and now Arizona’s law tasking local police with questioning and detaining suspected illegal immigrants.

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