Rice Visits Mexico As Relations Strained
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Rice Visits Mexico As Relations Strained

Associated Press | March 10, 2005

WASHINGTON - Condoleezza Rice's first visit to Mexico as secretary of state comes during a fragile period for relations with the United States' neighbor to the south.

Mexico already differed with the United States over President Bush's policy in Iraq and border issues. But politicians there now accuse the Bush administration of interfering with Mexico's internal affairs.

There's also frustration by Mexican leaders over Bush's stalled immigration proposals.

Rice was meeting Thursday in Mexico City with President Vicente Fox and Foreign Secretary Luis Ernesto Derbez.

The one-day trip comes a week after Rice put off a visit to Canada after it opted out of a U.S.-led anti-ballistic missile defense program.

Bush plans to meet with the leaders of Mexico and Canada on March 23 in Texas, in part to try to warm chilly relationships with both countries.

Politicians in Mexico have denounced U.S. warnings about border violence, human rights abuses, drug trafficking and possible election-related instability.

Mexico and the United States are also divided over the treatment of Mexicans convicted of capital crimes in the United States.

The Bush administration has instructed state courts to give 51 Mexicans facing the death penalty new hearings on claims that they were not allowed to see their diplomats. The International Court of Justice in The Hague ruled last year that the convictions violated the Vienna Convention — ratified by the United States in 1969 — by not providing the Mexicans with consular access.

Just this week the Bush administration pulled out of the specific part of the Vienna Convention that death penalty opponents have used to fight the capital sentences for foreigners, the Washington Post reported Thursday.

Since taking office in 2000, Fox has made migration in the United States a top foreign policy priority. Bush, too, has put immigration issues toward the top of his agenda, its centerpiece a guest worker program. But the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks derailed those plans. Congress, wary of doing favors for those in the United States illegally, focused instead on border security.

Last fall, it appeared the immigration proposals would move along when Secretary of State Colin Powell traveled to Mexico to reiterate Bush's commitment to them. But little has been said about them since then.

On Wednesday, Rice told Univision, a Spanish-language television network, that she hoped Bush's package of proposals to overhaul immigration laws would move forward soon. "But it's a very difficult issue," she said, "and we do need to make certain that it's done right."


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