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THE SITUATION ROOM
New Government Eavesdropping Revealed; Afghan Law Allows Spousal Rape; Palin Back in the Spotlight; President Obama and President Calderon News Conference
Aired April 16, 2009 - 17:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: And, to our viewers, you're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
Happening now: The president of the United States, President Obama, is in Mexico. He's talking drug violence, immigration, a lot more with that country's president. They're getting ready to take questions from reporters. That's supposed to start any minute now. We will go there for live coverage.
Our political contributor Bill Bennett, by the way, he is standing by live for his take.
And no less than the governor of Texas himself -- get this -- hinting his state may want to secede from the United States.
Can he really be serious?
What is going on?
And just a week ago, she was virtually unknown. Now, she's a star in her native Britain and a global Internet sensation. Susan Boyle talks to CNN about the performance that's touched millions of people around the world and dramatically changed her life.
I'm Wolf Blitzer.
You're in THE SITUATION ROOM
We'll get to the president shortly, as soon as he and the president of Mexico walk into that room. Stand by for the news conference.
Meanwhile, here in Washington, the speaker of the House calls it disturbing. The head of the Senate Intelligence Committee is demanding the facts. They and other lawmakers are expressing deep concern right now over brand new revelations that the government's National Security Agency has once again been improperly spying on Americans.
Our homeland security correspondent, Jeanne Meserve, is joining us with the latest -- Jeanne.
JEANNE MESERVE, HOMELAND SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, it seems like deja vu -- the National Security Agency collecting information about the domestic communications of Americans. But is it something nefarious or just a mistake?
Does it show current law works or that it doesn't?
MESERVE (voice-over): Intelligence officials say the National Security Agency collected information about Americans' communications that it should not have. The nation's top intelligence official, Dennis Blair, says the numbers of these mistakes are very small. One official says the agency was not reading domestic e-mail or eavesdropping on domestic telephone calls and that the collection was done inadvertently -- the result of a technical problem.
That explanation does not satisfy privacy advocates.
MARC ROTENBERG, ELECTRONIC PRIVACY INFORMATION CENTER: The agencies have very clear legal guidelines. And it's their responsibility to comply with the legal rules when they do surveillance within the United States. So they can't say, you know, oops.
MESERVE: The law governing NSA eavesdropping was revamped last summer after politically explosive revelations of warrantless wiretapping of Americans. The current law requires regular audits. And the Justice Department says the present problem was discovered during routine oversight. Congress and the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance court were notified and corrective steps were taken. A former intelligence official said: "This is how it's supposed to work."
But critics could hardly disagree more. They say the current system gives the NSA too much leeway and too little oversight. They say there must be better safeguards on Americans' information.
JIM BAMFORD, AUTHOR, "BODY OF SECRET": Otherwise, you're going to have millions of Americans' communications or private phone calls or private e-mails sitting in enormous NSA databases, which isn't a very good solution.
MESERVE: Current and former officials say NSA's authority to monitor certain targeted communications is absolutely critical to the protection of the United States. But revelations that the program has again operated outside its boundaries have disturbed some members of Congress. And they are promising to investigate -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Jeanne, thank you.
There's a significant new development in a story that's making headlines and causing outrage around the world -- outrage over a new Afghan law that permits spousal rape. President Obama has spoken sharply about it. Protesters have marched in the streets of Kabul. And now the Afghan president, Hamid Karzai, says he's demanding change. Listen to what Karzai told CNN's Fareed Zakaria in an exclusive interview.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
FAREED ZAKARIA, HOST, "FAREED ZAKARIA GPS: So let me ask you. You signed a law recently that put into place a kind of Muslim personal law for the Shia of Afghanistan. This is a law that many regard as quite reactionary. It requires that a woman take permission from her husband before she leaves the house. It allows the husband to have sex forcibly with the woman -- with his wife, if she -- even if she says no.
President Obama has called this law abhorrent. You said you didn't want Westerners interfering in this. But now you have Afghan women marching in opposition to this.
Why did you sign this law?
PRES. HAMID KARZAI, AFGHANISTAN: Nobody knew that -- that the law also included these -- these details and neither the minister of justice nor even some people who worked on this law did not find this articles in the law when they were working on it. And once I came to know of this -- this law and the details of it, I asked the minister of justice to -- to come and inform me in details as to what it is and what should be done about it.
Now we have instructed, in consultation with the clergy of the country, that the law be reversed and that any article that's not in -- in keeping with the Afghan constitution and with -- with Islamic Sharia must be removed from this -- from this law.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: All right. You can see the full interview with the Afghan president, Hamid Karzai, on "FAREED ZAKARIA GPS," Sunday afternoon at 1:00 p.m. Eastern and 500 p.m. Eastern only on CNN.
Let's check in with Jack Cafferty right now.
He's got The Cafferty File -- Jack.
CAFFERTY: Wolf, obese passengers might soon have to buy two tickets in order to fly on United Airlines. The company says -- quoting here -- (ph) "For the comfort and well-being of all of their customers, they have a new policy for passengers who, A, can't fit into a single seat, can't properly buckle the seat belt using an extender or cannot put the seat's armrest down when seated."
If there are extra seats available, that passenger would be moved next to an empty seat, no charge. But if the flight is full, they either have to buy an upgrade to business or first class, where the seats are a little bigger, or change to a later flight and buy a second ticket.
United says they decided to adopt the policy after getting more than 700 complaints last year from passengers who did not have a comfortable flight because the person next to them: "infringed on their seat."
Some wonder how the airline can enforce these things fairly. The spokesman for the Obesity Action Coalition says the policy: "perpetuates the negative stigma that's already associated with obesity." And that airline seats could use a few extra inches of room on all sides.
But United isn't the first airline to do this -- charge extra for overweight passengers -- obese passengers. In fact, they are on the same page now as the other five biggest U.S. air carriers. It's something that presumably could affect millions of people when you consider that about one third of Americans -- one third are obese. And that's double the number of us that are obese from 30 years ago.
Here's the question: Should obese passengers have to pay for two seats when they fly?
Go to CNN.com/caffertyfile and you can post a comment on my blog.
This question went up on CNN.com a little while ago. We are getting tons of e-mail on this -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Obese -- tons.
CAFFERTY: Excuse me. Terrible.
BLITZER: You're trying to be...
CAFFERTY: I just...
BLITZER: You're trying to be...
CAFFERTY: I'm very sorry.
CAFFERTY: I apologize.
BLITZER: Get to work.
CAFFERTY: It's awful.
BLITZER: Jack, thanks.
BLITZER: All right, now we're getting tons of e-mail.
Thanks, Jack. Coming -- coming up, we're standing by for the president of the United States and the president of Mexico. They're getting ready for a joint news conference in Mexico City. We're going there live to hear the questions and answers. Stand by.
Also, coming from anyone else, it would seem like a fringe idea. But now the governor of Texas is openly discussing the possibility of his state seceding from the United States.
Is he really serious?
Why would he even say such a thing?
Plus, she famously confessed she's never been kissed. Now, this unlikely star is feeling the love from around the world.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SALLY BOYLE, SINGER: I was nervous.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: Just a reminder, we're getting ready to hear from the president of the United States and the president of Mexico at that joint news conference in Mexico City. Once it starts, we'll go there live. We're told it should be soon.
In the meantime, let's check in with Fredricka Whitfield.
She's monitoring some other important stories incoming into THE SITUATION ROOM right now -- Fred, what's going on?
FREDRICKA WHITFIELD, CNN ANCHOR: Hi, Wolf.
A suicide bomber disguised in an Army uniform detonated an explosive belt today while standing among Iraqi soldiers waiting for lunch. The bombing happened on a base shared by Iraqi and U.S. troops. Iraqi officials say the attack killed 16 soldiers and wounded dozens more. But the Associated Press is reporting that an Iraqi defense spokesman says only the bomber died.
A late rally on Wall Street pushed stocks to their highest level in more than two months. The Dow finished the day up more than 95 points. Surprisingly, good earnings reports from tech companies like Google fueled the late day surge. Analysts say investors are showing more confidence that the economy is healing.
And take a look at this. Those slivers on the ground are thousands of dead sardines. Scientists say they washed up on the shore of a town in Chile, in the same area where 1,500 penguins were found dead two weeks ago. The cause of the fish kill is unclear, but wildlife experts say a sudden cooling of the water temperature is one possibility. And Hulk Hogan now says his comment that he could: "totally understand O.J." Was taken out of context. Hogan made the comment while talking to "Rolling Stone" magazine about his bitter divorce. The pro-wrestling legend was referring to O.J. Simpson, who was found liable in the death of his wife. Hogan explained yesterday that he took the high road and: "didn't do the O.J. thing" -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Thanks very much, Fred.
We're going to get back to you.
The Alaska governor, Sarah Palin, is speaking tonight at a right to life dinner in Indiana.
Let's go to our senior political correspondent, Candy Crowley.
She's in Evansville, Indiana for us.
The first major event in the lower 48, I take it, this year since the inauguration for the governor of Alaska -- Candy?
CANDY CROWLEY, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: It is. And it says a lot; first of all, where she has come. This is Vanderburgh County. This is a very, very pro-life -- that is, anti-abortion area of the country. And we are told by the organizers that this dinner tonight that Sarah Palin is attending is the largest pro-life banquet in the country. They expect about 2,000 people here.
When they learned, a number of them, that Sarah Palin was coming, it was immediately sold out, we are told.
Now, also what's interesting is she's really putting in a cameo appearance, Wolf. The main speaker, the keynote speaker is Michael Steele, the head of the Republican National Committee. But obviously, all the buzz is around Sarah Palin. We've talked to several people here. This is certainly her group, her people, since they -- her conservative values. They certainly are attracted to that and, in particular, her very well-known and very staunch anti-abortion views.
So we only expect to hear her for about five or 10 minutes, but that was certainly enough to fill this room and, in fact, have an overflow room -- Wolf.
BLITZER: So explain why -- she's obviously the big draw -- why she wasn't the keynote speak. Michael Steele, the chairman of the party, is the keynote speaker.
CROWLEY: Well, they asked him a long time ago. And the way it was described to me by the organizer, they sort of asked Governor Palin on a whim. Somebody on the board said, well, we should invite Governor Palin to come. And they all went, oh, yes, OK, fine. And they ended up sending her an e-mail and got a response back that said she doesn't really book anything before four to six weeks out, so we'll let you know. So earlier than that, they had invited Michael Steele. They're delighted to have Sarah Palin here. And, again, they're going to give her five to 10 minutes. And it's a long way to come for five to 10 minutes, but this is, as you know, a very important group at the core of the Republican Party.
BLITZER: It certainly is.
All right. Thanks very much, Candy.
We'll get back to you.
Candy is in Evansville, Indiana.
The president of the United States and the president of Mexico -- they're in Mexico City getting ready for a news conference. We're going to go there live as soon as it begins.
And Bill Bennett, our contributor, is standing by. We're going to pick his brain. I'll ask him about Sarah Palin and Michael Steele, as well. Stand by for that.
Also, it's the performance that changed her life and went viral on the Internet -- how did this unlikely new star floor a global audience?
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BOYLE: And it worked.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: Let's get right to our CNN political contributor, Bill Bennett, the host of the conservative national radio show, "Morning in America," a fellow at Claremont Institute and, as many of our viewers recall, a drug czar -- a czar.
I keep asking this question -- why -- why do you have to be called a czar?
WILLIAM BENNETT, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: I heard you yesterday. You said there were too many czars.
Wolf, the problem is not too many czars or too many lambs. It's too many wolves.
BENNETT: And anyway, there may be too many czars. I'm not sure -- to be serious, I'm not sure we need a border czar. What you need, though, the drug position. I was the first director of national drug control policy. That just became the nickname. Actually, I think Joe Biden was one of the people who gave it that nickname. He was chairman of the Judiciary Committee. BLITZER: So you started that whole czar thing, right?
BENNETT: No, there was czars before me.
BLITZER: Oh, there were czars.
BENNETT: Energy czars and so on. But...
BLITZER: And there were a few Russian czars, too.
BENNETT: There certainly were. But I didn't have the helmet with the spike. But...
BLITZER: Let me just remind our viewers that we're -- we're getting ready to hear the two presidents of the United States. And drugs clearly a major issue involving the United States and Mexico. President Obama, President Felipe Calderon, they're getting ready to answer reporters' questions on this sensitive subject of the drug war -- what's going on along the border between the United States and Mexico.
What's the most important thing you would like to hear these two presidents say in the coming minutes -- Bill?
BENNETT: Well, that they're -- obviously, that they're in sync, that they're going to cooperate, they're going to do more, they're going to possibly use more of the military in Mexico. I don't think that President Obama should be reluctant to use the military on our side of the border. I hope -- and not the biggest thing, but not the smallest -- in this omnibus legislation, you know, we killed this business of the Mexican trucks coming up into the United States. That was the mistake.
Mexicans have retaliated with a tariff on goods coming in. NAFTA means NAFTA. It doesn't mean more drugs will come in. You can inspect these trucks.
Calderon, let me just say this -- has been, I think, very impressive. I have never been a big Mexico fan in the drug war. When I was drug czar, I thought they were not great partners. But this man is very serious. He is praised on all sides, Wolf...
BLITZER: Yes. I think...
BENNETT: And that's a very good start.
BLITZER: And Bush administration officials -- you heard just Ed Gillespie here in THE SITUATION ROOM...
BLITZER: ...he praised him. Obama administration officials praised him.
BENNETT: Yes. BLITZER: They like him. And one of the major reasons why President Obama decided to go to Mexico City, which is a very dangerous place right now and it's been at least a dozen years since an American president has been in Mexico City, as opposed to other cities in Mexico, is because of the security concerns.
But I think they're trying to elevate Calderon's status a little bit and help him. He's got his own political problems.
BENNETT: Yes. I asked President Bush to go to Colombia -- you probably remember this, when we went and saw President Barco. And it was a big deal and a lot of people were critical of his going to Colombia at the time of -- but it was very important that he went and I think important that President Obama goes.
This guy is under very tough circumstances. There's a siege going on. He's got incredible corruption in the military and in the police forces and, of course, these cartels. We cannot let Mexico become a narcocracy (ph). I don't think it's close to that, but it could get close to it if things don't -- don't improve.
BLITZER: One of the things the Mexicans complain about -- and you know this -- is the flow of arms, including assault weapons, coming into Mexico from the United States.
So what can we do about that?
BENNETT: Well, it's clear -- I've read the -- the papers on this. Most of the arms do not come from the United States. Someone said 90 percent. What happened was they sent a bunch of arms back to the U.S. that they thought were U.S. arms. And, indeed, a number of them were.
But -- a high percentage of them were. But in terms of the total percentage, it's probably less than 10 percent.
Why -- why set up straw dealers in the U.S. and have the problem of sending the drugs down when you can buy them freely in South America, Latin America and China?
There's a ton of -- of weapons available...
BLITZER: On this...
BENNETT: ...to Mexico.
BLITZER: On this, you totally disagree with the Mexican ambassador to the United States.
BENNETT: I totally disagree.
BLITZER: He was on TV over the weekend and he said 70 percent -- by their estimates...
BENNETT: Wrong. BLITZER: ...70 percent of the -- of the weapons, including the assault weapons, that the drug cartels guide -- the gangs are using along the border come in from the United States.
BENNETT: I do totally disagree. I know what he's basing it on. He's basing it on a study which looked at what percentage of the guns that they captured and sent back here -- because they had tracing numbers on them -- were American. And a high percentage of those were. But that was a tiny percentage of all the guns.
Most of the guns they get don't have these tracing numbers on them because they get them from other places. In the U.S. you have to have numbers. Seventy to 80 -- to 85 percent of the guns they get are from -- are from elsewhere.
But, if you want to look at the United States, look the United States square in the eye in terms of the drug use, which I'm glad Secretary Clinton is talking about now, because that is certainly having a lot to do with fueling this -- these horrible (INAUDIBLE).
BLITZER: Yes. It certainly does fuel them.
All right, Bill.
Thanks very much.
BENNETT: You bet.
BLITZER: Bill Bennett is our CNN contributor.
Coming up, the news conference -- the president of the United States and the president of Mexico. We're going to go to Mexico City once they come before the microphones and start answering reporters' questions.
Here's a question -- would Texas -- the State of Texas -- really secede from the United States?
The governor, Rick Perry, says don't rule it out.
What's he talking about?
Is he serious?
And she became an instant superstar with her surprise performance on a British talent show.
What's in Susan Boyle's future?
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BOYLE: I would love to perform in front of the queen and it would be really -- it would really be something. It would be very humbling. It would be very -- (INAUDIBLE).
(END VIDEO CLIP) BLITZER: All right. There -- we're going to hear and see her shortly.
But right now, we see the president of the United States and the president of Mexico. They're getting ready to walk into the room over at the news conference. They're getting ready to meet with reporters and start answering questions on a whole range of subjects, we're told.
Bill Bennett is still with us, as we get ready to hear and see these two presidents getting ready to answer questions from reporters.
I assume they're going to start with a little opening statement and then get right to the questions. We were told originally there would be two questions from U.S. reporters, two questions from Mexican reporters. We'll see if they stick to that or broaden it.
Bill Bennett is still with me as we get ready to hear from these two presidents.
Illegal immigration; drug wars; what's going on in the trade issue, NAFTA, which was a huge success over the years, at least in terms of expanding trade between the U.S. and Mexico. There's not shortage of items on the agenda -- Bill.
BENNETT: Hot button issues, all of them, Wolf -- very important issues and issues about which a lot of the American people have very strong feelings. We know there are issues in the world that are important which the American people say we'll let the experts handle this.
If you talk about immigration, you talk about drugs, you talk about trade, these are ones Americans weigh in on. I noticed in the Cafferty report there, the e-mails coming in on this stuff were very intense and very strong. And people are right to -- to care about them.
So the president -- the two presidents have several hornets nests on their hands. It's a hot place, that border. I do think it can be controlled. But these -- you're right, these are very, very big issues.
BLITZER: And, as you know, from Mexico City, tomorrow he'll be in to Trinidad and Tobago for the Summit of the Americas.
BLITZER: Hugo Chavez is going to be there, the president of Venezuela. The president of Cuba won't be there -- Raul Castro, certainly not Fidel Castro, the former leader of Cuba.
But what do you think about these recent overtures that the Obama administration has been making toward Cuba and trying to establish some sort of improvement in that relationship?
BENNETT: Well, I'm -- I'm not very happy about them. But this is what they campaigned for. I remember in one of the debates he said no preconditions, you know, with Ahmadinejad and I think we should have these conversations with Cuba and even Chavez. And so he's going about and doing it.
I hope that the passion that this administration has, you know, to separate itself from the Bush administration and to always -- now I think they're almost coming to the end of it. I hope they're coming to the end of it, of saying, you know, we're not the Bushes -- doesn't extend so far so that they -- they are too polite to a sworn enemy of the United States, Hugo Chavez.
The president has shown that he can -- has shown that he can have some steel in him. He did, I think, the right thing I think on that pirate business and some other things. But he...
BLITZER: I think...
BENNETT: He needs to be really careful with Chavez.
BLITZER: I think one thing I've noticed, at least approaching the first 100 days of this new presidency -- and correct me if you think I'm wrong, Bill. What he said he would do on many of these foreign policy issues as a candidate, he's actually doing, in terms of trying to reach out to not only Cuba, but Iran, in terms of his policies toward Afghanistan, Pakistan, Iraq. He seems to be doing what he -- what he said he would do.
BENNETT: Yes. Except interesting -- in some places. I think he went further in Iran, frankly, Wolf. He said no preconditions and then he said go ahead and keep enriching. "The New York Times" had a big story on that two days ago.
But on some of the other issues, interesting, isn't it?
Afghanistan -- are we going to bring -- well, Afghanistan, he's -- you know, he sent more troops right away, which, frankly, kind of surprised me and pleased me. And he is sticking in Iraq. And it looks like he may be sticking in Iraq longer than people thought.
He's got a complicated world to deal with, that's for sure. And let's give him some grace there.
But, look, this was the guy who was elected and he is doing a lot of what he said he would do.
BLITZER: There's no doubt that, you know, he made specific statements on all these issues as a candidate and now he's the president of the United States -- and we see these live pictures. He's walking into the news conference right now. They're approaching the microphones.
We'll see if they make some opening statements, President Felipe Calderon of Mexico and President Barack Obama of the United States.
(BEGIN LIVE FEED IN PROGRESS)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: President Felipe Calderon Hinojosa, president of Mexico, will now take the floor.
FELIPE CALDERON, PRESIDENT OF MEXICO (through translator): Ladies and gentlemen of the press, of the media, I would like to give the warmest welcome to Mexico to President Barack Obama and to the delegation accompanying him. This is an historic event that will inaugurate a new era -- a new relationship between our two countries.
Today, in the meetings that we have held, we have confirmed the determination of both governments to consolidate the very, very close contacted links that join and bring together Mexico and the United States.
We have new projects in important affairs such as security, migration, cooperativeness and global affairs.
As never before, we have decided that the fight against multinational organized crimes must be based on cooperation, shared responsibility and trust -- and mutual trust.
Both governments recognize that the Merida Initiative is a very good starting point in order to strengthen cooperation and security. But we want to go beyond. We want to go further in order to liberate, to free our societies from the criminal activities that affect the lives of millions of people.
We have also agreed to expedite the times so that we can have available the resources for this Merida Initiative. And we have also decided to launch other activities that are in the hands of our government. For example, we can adopt new measures for preventing illicit flows at the border, particularly the flow of weapons and of cash. We will also be strengthening our cooperation in information intelligence in order to more efficiently fight against money laundering. On the other hand, we have also agreed that both governments should produce a proposition, proposal, for our cooperation so that we can eventually have reform in the United States with full respect to the sovereign decisions of both congresses, of both nations, that is. Our governments will work in the sense to make migration, migration, an orderly, respectful process of human rights.
A process in which human rights will be respected. In energy and climate change, we have agreed to work together in order to guarantee a legal framework of certainty, transparency for the future better use of cross border resources such as gas and energy. I have given to President Obama, concrete proposals on climate change. One of them has to do with the integration of a bilateral market of carbon emissions which coincides with proposals that he has made to his west audience. And other ways of cooperation in climate change such as something that Mexico has proposed called the green fund.
We have also said that in addition to discussing our goals for carbon emissions that are linked in the fight against climate change globally, we must also act very soon in the design of new instruments, of new tools, in order to fight against climate change. That is really the central proposal of the green fund. And in a gesture of recognition of acknowledgment on this topic, we know that President Obama and his government have made considerable efforts to provide new arguments to the discussion of this topic.
We would also like to thank, to welcome the possibility that Mexico might be the seat of the 16th U.N. conference on climate change that will be taking place in 2010. We have recognized and acknowledged, ladies and gentlemen, that Mexico and the United States do not have to compete among themselves, but rather they must be able to take advantage of the complimentary nature of their economies, in order to compete as partners with regard to other parts of the world. We have the chance to make our region more competitive and to have greater, more agile productions. We will be working in three areas, first on the strengthening of the border infrastructure.
I have also given to President Obama, a proposal to facilitate the economic flows between both countries, to improve the quality of life of the residents in the border areas and to foster the development of our two nations, two very specific projects on infrastructure at the Mexico-U.S. border. Secondly, we believe it is essential to increase our cooperation in customs so that we can have a more efficient trade and thirdly, we have also proposed to improve our cooperation in regulatory matters regarding tariffs or non-tariff issues that very often make difficult our trade between two countries.
We have agreed with President Obama that we seek agreements to truly improve the economic situation, not only of the United States, but of the entire region and the world. We have stated our cooperation to strengthen the democracy of the market and of regional security. In relation to President Obama's recent security to lift the restrictions for people from the U.S. to travel to Cuba and to be able to send remittances, Mexico acknowledges that this is a very constructive positive step for the hemispheric relations, particularly for the region.
And finally my friends, ladies and gentlemen, I want to tell you that I am absolutely convinced that President Obama's visit is just an initial step, the beginning of a relationship between two countries that are friends, neighbors and must also be partners and allies. Thank you so much, thank you so much, President Obama, for your visit. The President Barack Obama now has the floor.
BARACK OBAMA, PRESDIENT OF THE UNITED STATES: This is my first trip to Mexico as president. And I see this visit as, I know President Calderon does, as an opportunity to launch a new era of cooperation and partnership between our two countries. An era built on an even firmer foundation of mutual responsibility and mutual respect and mutual interest. We had a productive and wide-ranging conversation and I think we have taken some very important steps down that path. It's difficult to overstate the depth of the ties between our two nations or the extraordinary importance of our relationship.
It's obviously a simple fact of geography that we share a border and we've always been bound together because of that geography. But it's not just that shared border that links us together. It's not only geography, but it's also culture. It's also that migration patterns that have taken place that have become so important. Our deep, economic ties mean that whatever steps that we're going to take moving forward, have to be taken together. That's why we've worked hard, hand in hand at the G-20 summit and that's what we will continue to do at the summit of the Americas and beyond. So that we can jump- start job creation, promote free and fair trade and develop a coordinated response to this economic crisis.
We also discussed our shared interest in meeting an immigration challenge that has serious implications for both the United States and for Mexico. My country has been greatly enriched by migration from Mexico. Mexican Americans form a critical and enduring link between our nations and I am committed to fixing our broken immigration system in a way that upholds our traditions as a nation of laws but also as a nation of immigrants. I'm committed to working with President Calderon to promote the kind of bottom up economic growth here in Mexico that will allow people to live out their dreams here and as a consequence will relieve some of the pressures that we've seen along the borders.
We also discussed what our nations can do to help bring a clean energy future to both countries. This is a priority for the United States, I know it's a priority for President Calderon and I want to commend him for the work that he's already done in cutting greenhouse gas emissions, the commitment that he's made even though Mexico's not required to do so under the Quito protocol. Together, we're establishing a new, bilateral framework on clean energy that will focus on creating green jobs, promoting renewable energy and enhancing energy efficiency. I look forward to strengthening our partnership in the upcoming major economies forum on energy and climate and in next year's U.N. climate negotiations, which I hope will be held here in Mexico.
Now, as essential as it is that we work together to overcome each of these common challenges, there's one particular area that requires our urgent coordinated action and that is the battle that's taking place with respect to the drug cartels that are fuelling kidnappings, ensuing chaos in our communities and robbing so many of a future both here in Mexico and the United States. I have said this before I will repeat it, I have the greatest admiration and courage for President Calderon and his entire cabinet, his rank and file police officers and soldiers as they take on these cartels.
I commend Mexico for the successes that have already been achieved, but I will not pretend that this is Mexico's responsibility alone. A demand for these drugs in the United States is what is helping to keep these cartels in business. This war is being waged with guns purchased not here, but in the United States. More than 90 percent of the guns recovered in Mexico come from the United States. Many from gun shops that line our shared border. So we have responsibilities as well. We have to do our part. We have to crack down on drug use in our cities and towns. We have to stem the southbound flow of guns and cash.
And we are absolutely committed to working in a partnership with Mexico to make sure that we are dealing with this scourge on both sides of the border. That's why we're ramping up the number of law enforcement personnel on our border. That's why for the first time we are inspecting trains leaving our country, not just those entering. That's why the department of homeland security is making up to $59 million available to defend our common border from this threat to both of our countries.
Now as we discussed in our meeting, destroying and disrupting the cartels will require more than aggressive efforts from each of our nations. And that's why the United States is taking the following steps. We've begun to accelerate efforts to implement the (INAUDIBLE) initiative, so we can provide Mexico with the military aircraft and inspection equipment they need when they need it. Yesterday, I designated three cartels as significant foreign narcotics drug traffickers under U.S. law, clearing the way for our treasury department working together with Mexico, to freeze their assets and subject them to sanctions. My national homeland security adviser who is here, General Jim Jones, as well as my homeland security secretary Janet Napolitano and my top adviser on homeland security and counterterrorism, John Brennan, are all meeting with their Mexican counterparts to develop new ways to cooperate and coordinate their efforts more effectively.
In addition, as President Calderon and I discussed, I'm urging the senate in the United States to ratify an inter American treaty known as SIFTA, to curb small arms tracking that is a source of so many of the weapons used in this drug war. There are some common challenges that President Calderon and I discussed in our meeting and that we're going to be working on to overcome in the months and years ahead. It will not be easy, but I am confident that if we continue to act as we have today in the spirit of mutual responsibility and friendship. We will prevail on behalf of our common security and our common prosperity, so I think that this is building on previous meetings that we've had. In each interaction, the bond between our governments is growing stronger. I am confident that we're going to make tremendous progress in the future. Thank you.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Thank you, Mr. President. Thank you, Mr. President as well. President Obama, as a candidate for your office, you said that you wanted to see the ban on assault weapons reinstated. Your attorney general has spoken in favor of this. Mexican officials have also spoken in favor of it, but we haven't heard you say that since you took office. Do you plan to keep your promise and if not, how do you explain that to the American people? President Calderon, sorry if I may, would you like to see this ban reinstated and have you raised that today with President Obama? Thank you.
OBAMA: First of all, we did discuss this extensively in our meetings. I have not backed off at all from my belief that the assault weapons ban made sense and I continue to believe that we can respect and honor the second amendment rights in our constitution, the rights of sportsmen and hunters and homeowners who want to keep their families safe, to lawfully bear arms, while dealing with assault weapons that as we now know here in Mexico, are helping to fuel extraordinary violence. Violence in our own country as well.
Now, having said that, I think none of us are under any illusion that reinstating that ban would be easy, so what we've focused on is how we can improve our enforcement of existing laws. Because even under current law, trafficking, illegal firearms, sending them across the border, is illegal. That's something that we can stop. So our focus is to work with Secretary Napolitano, Attorney General Holder, our entire homeland security team, ATF, border security, everybody who's involved in this, to coordinate with our counterparts in Mexico to significantly ramp up our enforcement of existing laws.
In fact, I've asked Eric Holder to do a complete review of how our enforcement operations are currently working and make sure that we're cutting down on the loopholes that are resulting in some of these drug trafficking problems. Last point I would make is that there are going to be some opportunities where I think we can build some strong consensus. I'll give you one example and that is the issue of gun tracing. The tracing of bullets and ballistics and gun information that have been used in major crimes.
That's information that we are still not giving to law enforcement as a consequence of provisions that have been blocked in the United States congress and those are the areas where I think that we can make some significant progress early. That doesn't mean that we're steering away from the issue of the assault guns ban, but it does mean that we want to act with urgency, promptly, now. And I think we can make significant progress.
CALDERON (through translator): I want to say that in effect on this topic, not only on this topic but on many other thorny topics of relations between the U.S. and Mexico, we have had an open, frank, trusting conversation between President Obama and myself we have spoken of assault weapons. He is well aware of our problems and we have described it as it is from the moment that the prohibition on the sell of assault weapons a few years ago, we have seen an increase in the power of organized crime in Mexico. Only in my administration, in the two years and four months, we have been able to see, or rather, we have seized more than 16,000 assault weapons.
And in the efforts we have made to track their origin and President Obama has referred to that, we have seen that nearly 90 percent of those arms come from the United States. Those weapons come from the United States are about 10,000 sales points in the U.S.- Mexico border. Only at the border. On the other hand, I do believe that our relationship, the new era we must build in our relationship between Mexico and the United States must be one with trust and respect. And we definitely respect the decision of the U.S. congress and of the U.S. people in this regard because they are very well aware of President Obama and his government's willingness to move forward on these issues. We know that it is a politically delicate topic because Americans truly appreciate their constitutional rights and particularly those that are part of the second amendment.
I personally believe that as long as we are able to explain clearly what our problems in Mexico are, then we might also be able to seek a solution that -- respecting the constitutional rights of the Americans, at the same time will prevent or rather avoid that organized crimes become better armed in our country. But we have to work on it, we have to work on it. But we fully respect the opinion of the U.S. congress and we know that there's a great deal of sensitivity regarding this topic, but there are many, many things that we can definitely move forward. For example, in armament, it is not only a matter of seeing whether you can change the legislation on assault weapons. We have already said what our position is, but we might also be able to see whether they can apply existing legislation in Mexico and the United States on armament.
For example, in Mexico, it's a matter of enforcement with the export control act for example, this is in the United States, I'm sorry, prohibits the export of weapons to those countries where those weapons are prohibited. That is the case of Mexico. If we actually comply with the U.S. law or rather if everybody complies with the U.S. law that prohibits the sale of these weapons and their export to Mexico, we can move a great deal forward. President Obama has made recent decisions in the last few weeks and we value them and appreciate them. For example, to reinforce the operational capability of U.S. border agencies in order to comply with this legislation and with other laws, in order to review the flows of entry, not only into the United States, but also, the outgoing flows, outgoing from the U.S. to make sure that there is no illicit money and strict compliance with U.S. legislation. I think these are very important steps.
But there is a problem and only as we build on these trusts and we've clearly explained to citizens of both countries how we must find a solution, we will be able to achieve. When we do so, respectfully, presenting our position, knowing full well how the U.S. people feel about this and being fully respectful of the sovereign positions that the United States might make, or that any other country might make. One more thing, one more thing I forgot to mention. One other thing we can do is to track the weapons that we have in Mexico.
If we manage to detect weapons sold illegally in the United States, in violation of this law on the control of weapons exports or if in the United States they can have -- probably move forward on a good registry of armament or on the prohibition of certain massive sales of weapons, for example, to a hunter or to a common citizen, we know that these people do not usually buy hundreds of rifles or assault weapons or of grenades, if we can move forward in those areas, I do believe that security, both of Mexico and -- both of the United States and Mexico will improve, because those weapons are pointing against Mexican people and Mexican officials today.
But crime is not only acting in Mexico. It is also acting in the United States, organized crime is acting in both countries. And I do hope that those weapons that are sold today in the United States and are being used in Mexico, I hope the day will never come in which they will also be used against the north American society or against U.S. officials, just like they are now being used in Mexico.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (through translator): Good afternoon, presidents. You are going to share four years of an administration, and there can be an in-depth change in this fight against organized crime in these four years. As of today, how can we establish the concrete objectives that in 2012 will allow us to say, fine, a new era began between Mexico and the United States back then, particularly I'm addressing this to you, President Obama? In addition to the chance that you will invest your political capital in being able to stop the flow of these weapons to Mexico, what can we hope for? How can we expect to see in terms of arresting the drug lords, the kingpins in the U.S.? Because there are laws against corruption, but this is enabling now -- in other words, the U.S. market is now the biggest for drugs. And a former president of Mexico, ex-president Fox, said that in the past they have only gotten little pats on the back from his predecessors. Can we hope for more from your administration? And to you, President Calderon, with this new era, how can you measure the detention, the arrest of drug lords in the United States and also putting a stop to the flow of weapons? How can you measure this?
OBAMA: I think that we can measure this in terms of the reduction in violence, in the interdiction of drugs, in the interdiction of weapons coming south, in the dismantling of the financial structures that facilitate these drug cartels, in the arrests of major drug kingpins. So, I think we know how to measure progress. You know, the challenge is maintaining a sustained effort. And as I said, something that President Calderon and myself absolutely recognize is that you can't fight this war with just one hand. You can't just have Mexico making an effort, but the United States not making an effort. And the same is true on the other side.
I think both our efforts have to be coordinated. Both of our efforts have to be strengthened. I've made some very concrete commitments already sending additional resources, already making additional investments. These are measurable in millions, and ultimately billions of dollars over several years. And I believe that President Calderon has used enormous political capital to deal with this issue. Obviously the Mexican people, particularly along the borders, have suffered great hardship. And as a consequence, if we partner effectively -- and that's why I brought many of my top officials on this trip, to interact with their counterparts -- I'm confident that we're going to make progress.
Now, are we going to eliminate all drug flows? Are we going to eliminate all guns coming over the border? That's not a realistic objective. What is a realistic objective is to reduce it so significantly, so drastically, that it becomes, once again, a localized criminal problem as opposed to a major structural problem that threatens stability in communities along those borders. And that increases corruption and threatens the rule of law. That's the kind of progress that I think can be made. And so we're going to work as hard as we can and as diligently as we can on these issues. Always mindful, though, that the relationship between Mexico and the United States cannot just be defined by drugs.
You know, sometimes there's a tendency for the media to only report on drug interdiction or immigration when it comes to U.S./Mexican relations. And one of the things that we talked about is the extraordinary opportunities for us to work together on our commercial ties, on strengthening border infrastructure to improve the flow of goods, on working on clean energy, which can produce jobs on both sides of the border. So, we're going to stay very focused on this. We're going to make this a top priority. But we just always want to remember that our relationship is not simply defined by these problems. It's also defined by opportunities and that's what we want to take advantage of as well.
CALDERON (through translator): Thank you, president. I agree a great deal with you, and I fully thank you for your support and understanding in this very difficult topic. I think the question is very relevant. I see a big opportunity for President Obama and myself, since we are going to be sharing the next four years as heads of our administrations, I see a big opportunity here. And on this issue, what I hope to see at the end of my administration is actually many things. One is a reduction in the levels of criminal activities in our countries, related to organized crime, which is also related to drug trafficking. They go hand in hand. We have a strategy with short, mid-term, and long-term objectives.
In the short term, for example, we have set out to recuperate the security and tranquility of our citizens, particularly in those areas that have been harder hit by the crime. And this is where we have the joint operations, we're mobilizing not only our federal police but also the army. And it's regardless of the fact that it is not an easy matter. And it hasn't been, and it can change in the course of time but at least we begin to see fruitful results in some areas. For example, in the last quarter -- or rather, compared to the last quarter of last year, our first quarter of this year, there is already a drop of 27 percent in criminal activities. That is as an average for the entire country. Only in Ciudad Juarez, as of the joint operation that we launched in February, between February and March, violent deaths in Ciudad Juarez, crime related -- violence- related crime dropped by 80 percent.
Of course I understand that the spectacular nature of some of these operations has really attracted worldwide attention. But with a very difficult crime rate that we had last year, despite them, crime in Mexico was 10.7 deaths because of crime for every 100,000 inhabitants. It is less than what it is in Guatemala, El Salvador, Colombia, Venezuela or Brazil in Latin America. It is also a lower number than the crime rates of many U.S. cities. I believe one issue has to be, of course, that we have to cut down our crime in Mexico for sure, but number two, I hope in the course of time to be a safer border and a more efficient border.
As long as -- if we are able to stop the flow of drugs in this money and weapons, we will have greater progress, both in the United States and Mexico. And one way to measure this is by appreciating and valuing the technological capabilities, particularly of non intrusive detection at the border. So that for those who do want to make business and do want to trade, that the border is open. And those who want to commit crime, the border will be a closed area. One way to measure this -- and here U.S. cooperation is essential -- is to have the right technology, particularly non intrusive technology that will enable us to have safe borders. And the initiative, the Merida initiative is very much focused on this.
Now in the midterm, we would like a renewal of our police forces in Mexico. At the end of my administration, I would like to be able to have a new federal police that will be worthy of the citizens' trust and that will be efficient. And here U.S. cooperation is also fundamental. Why? Well, because on our side, we are cleaning our house. We are sweeping everything from top to bottom so that all the police officers from the top --