La Visitadora: What Michelle Obama's Visit Means for Mexico

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MEXICO CITY -- In an op-ed titled "La Visitadora" (The Visitor) in Mexican newspaper La Jornada, Soledad Loaeza writes that there is more than meets the eye to First Lady Michelle Obama's visit to Mexico. The visit, Loaeza notes, came just a few hours after the press announced that foreigners who require a visa to enter Mexico can now enter the country if they have a U.S. visa. This provision, she writes, implies that U.S. authorities see Mexico as an initial filter, an immigration stopover for travelers on their way to the United States. But do U.S. authorities accept Mexican visas as valid documentation to enter the country north of the border? The presence of Michelle Obama has widely been interpreted as a sign of support for Mexican President Felipe Calderon's battle against organized crime. But if viewed in light of the visa announcement, Loaeza writes, it can be seen as an extended shadow of Washington's power over the Mexican territory, and with it, Mexico's dependence on decisions made at the White House.

Since the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks, the issue of security has been the priority in U.S.-Mexico relations, Loaeza writes. The impact of this shift on Mexican sovereignty wouldn't be so great if the imbalance between the two countries weren't so disproportionate. But security issues are the Achilles' heel of Mexico, and the only way to reinforce it is through U.S. support. Is a state that takes its strength from abroad really a sovereign state? Loaeza asks. "The presence of the friendly visitor makes us think about all of this," Loaeza writes. "It also makes us wonder if we can be democratic without being sovereign, as [former Mexican President] Vicente Fox claimed; and, furthermore to reflect on whether such close cooperation with the world's premier democracy, has made us more democratic."