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During her one-day visit to Guanajuato Monday, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton praised Mexican president Felipe Calderon and other government leaders for their "courageous" efforts in battling cartel violence. The positive tone of the visit stood in sharp contrast to Clinton's September characterization of Mexican drug cartels as an "insurgency," and a series of diplomatic cables leaked last month in which American officials expressed frustration over the Mexican government's lack of progress in the war on drugs. Does Clinton's visit mark the beginning of a new phase in U.S.-Mexico relations? A sampling of opinions from around the Web:

  • New Approach  The Christian Science Monitor's Nacha Cattan writes that Clinton's remarks yesterday suggest the State Department has shifted its focus to "reforming Mexico's judicial system, a policy matter that has been overshadowed by talk of how to coordinate security strategies." This represents a concession of sorts to "policy experts who have been fighting for years to overhaul inadequate investigation, trial, and detention systems known to encourage torture and allow hardened criminals to walk free." Clinton's acknowledgment that such internal reforms are a "key to success in the drug war" represents a "shift in focus for the Obama administration, which has allocated scant funds to promote structural reforms in Mexico compared with military aid through the $1.6 billion Merida Initiative."
  • With Caveats  Clinton's "strong support" for the efforts of the Calderon-led government was tempered by her admission that Mexico "needed to do more to build democratic institutions and defend human rights," reports The Washington Post's Mary Beth Sheridan. Particularly noteworthy was Clinton's statement that the Mexican government must pass legislation guaranteeing military members who commit crimes against civilians are tried in a civilian court. According to a Human Rights Watch report issued Monday, the Mexican military "continues to commit serious abuses in public security operations, yet those responsible are virtually never held accountable."
  • Shared Burden  The New York Times' Randal Archibold notes Clinton's public remarks yesterday "took pains to concede the United States’ role in providing guns and money to Mexico’s gangs, calling them transnational." It was both a "nod to [local sensitivities in [Guanajuato]" and an attempt at diplomatic fence-mending after the disclosure of U.S. diplomatic cables blasting Mexico's government for "squabbling and mistrust among agencies, intelligence missteps, and a less than complete dedication to the rule of law."
  • In It Together  The visit was the latest indication of the "growing bilateral cooperation [between the United States and Mexico] in the fight against organized crime," says The Wall Street Journal's Nicholas Casey. Casey notes this increased solidarity in fighting the war on drugs does not reflect the larger direction of relations between the two countries, which have been "strained by a raft of proposed U.S. immigration laws that aim to identify, prosecute and deport illegal immigrants," as well as a "costly spat that has restricted Mexican truck drivers in the U.S."

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