Mariano Abarca Roblero
Agence France-Presse reports that, “Mexican President Felipe Calderon will begin a three-day visit (later today) to Canada, amid strains in bilateral relations and perceptions that Ottawa is more preoccupied with ties to its superpower neighbor, the United States.”
ON THE AGENDA
“Calderon’s talks with Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper (on Thursday) are expected to focus on bilateral trade, in addition to curbing greenhouse gases and developing new sources of energy. The sore issue of visas is also expected to be raised, according to a Canadian official.”
It is also expected that the upcoming G20 summit (which Mexico attends) and Canada’s bid for a seat on the UN Security Council will also be on their agenda.
“Divisions between Canada and Mexico, economic partners with Washington in the North American Free Trade Agreement, hit a particularly low point last July when Ottawa imposed visa requirements on Mexicans visiting Canada, in a bid to stem a surge in refugee claims. Mexico bristled at the measure, and a chill has hung over bilateral ties…”
“(And while) Mexico is Canada’s fourth biggest trade partner, with bilateral trade last year reaching 21 billion dollars… Canada now places more importance on trade ties with the US and China.”
CANADIANS SHOULD BE CONCERNED
The Toronto Star says today that, “Scarcely a day goes by without more horror stories of Mexican gang violence, corruption, grisly beheadings and other murders. Even the Mexican army, which has been called in to battle the cartels, has been faulted for rights abuses including killings, torture and rape. …Prime Minister Stephen Harper should use the occasion of Calderon’s visit to voice serious concern about Mexico’s long-term stability, and the appalling lost of life and rights abuses.”
It should also be a time to raise concerns about the murder of Mariano Abarca Roblero, a critic of a Canadian mining company in Chiapas, which Roblero blamed for polluting local rivers. Two employees of the company have been charged with this crime.
The company, Blackfire Exploration Ltd., is now threatening an $800 million NAFTA challenge against Mexico for the state government’s closure of the barite mine due to environmental concerns.
It should be noted that Agence France-Presse also reports that, “Julian Castro-Rea, a political scientist of Mexican origin at the University of Alberta in Edmonton, said relations between Canada and Mexico were currently ‘paralysed.’ Castro-Rea pointed to last year’s decision by NAFTA partners to abandon without explanation ties under the Security and Prosperity Partnership of North America (SPP).”
“The SPP, launched in 2005, was originally lauded as a dialogue for greater cooperation on security and economic matters. But the agreement was later dismissed by the countries as having no legal status.”
“And as the Obama administration has shown no apparent interest in reviving the SPP, Ottawa, for its part, has appeared to distance itself from the ‘trilateralism’ of NAFTA.”