- The Washington Times - Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Successful trip

Despite protests at every stop and conservative complaints over his immigration pledges, President Bush’s Latin America trip was a stunning success, according to the U.S. ambassador to Mexico.

“The purpose of President Bush’s visit to Latin America was to highlight the commitment of the United States to advancing freedom, democracy and prosperity throughout the region,” Ambassador Antonio O. Garza Jr. wrote on the U.S. Embassy’s Web site (www.usembassy-mexico.gov).

Mr. Garza said Mr. Bush’s meetings with Mexican President Felipe Calderon were “extremely positive, constructive and focused.”

“President Bush also expressed to President Calderon his personal commitment to press our Congress to pass urgently needed comprehensive immigration reform in the United States this year,” the ambassador said.

Many conservative commentators criticized Mr. Bush for proposing what they call an “amnesty” program that would allow the estimated 12 million illegal aliens to gain U.S. citizenship.

“President Bush has nearly doubled aid to Latin America, and his administration has promoted expanded trade and aid for social justice programs to assist the people of the Western Hemisphere who live in poverty,” Mr. Garza wrote.

U.S. exports to Mexico last year amounted to $134.2 billion, and U.S. imports from Mexico topped $198 billion. More than 18,000 Mexican companies benefit from U.S. investment, and Americans made up about 90 percent of the tourists who visited Mexico over the past 10 years.

Earlier this week, the ambassador announced the success of a raid on a Mexico City mansion that contained $206 million in drug money stacked in suitcases and closets. Police arrested seven persons. The raid was the result of cooperation between Mexican police and the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration.

“The seizure and arrests underscored our two countries’ deep commitment to fighting the drug kingpins who bring corruption and violence to communities on both sides of the border,” Mr. Garza told reporters.

Missile defense

A top U.S. diplomat held talks yesterday with senior Polish officials to discuss plans to install a missile defense system in Central Europe to protect those nations as well as the United States from attack from rogue states like Iran.

“We want this system to also protect Europe,” said Daniel Fried, assistant secretary of state for European affairs, in an interview with the Polish newspaper, Gazeta Wyborcza. “A situation in which NATO countries have different levels of security is unacceptable to us.”

Mr. Fried, a former ambassador to Poland, met yesterday with Prime Minister Jaroslaw Kaczynski, Foreign Minister Anna Fotyga and Defense Minister Aleksander Szczyglo.

The plan is to install 10 unarmed interceptor missiles in Poland and a radar shield in the Czech Republic as part of a missile defense that will include Britain, Greenland and the United States.

Swaziland update

The ambassador of Swaziland yesterday inaugurated a new Web site to provide more information on the tiny southern African kingdom and easy access to visa applications.

“In the 21st century, information that is not readily available on the World Wide Web might simply not exist at all,” Ambassador Ephraim M. Hlophe said in announcing the updated site www.swazilandembassyus.com).

The monarchy of 1.1 million subjects is ruled by King Mswati III, who often makes international news when he takes a new wife. So far, he has 13. The king rules in conjunction with a partially elected parliament under a new constitution that provides for an independent judiciary.

Swaziland also suffers from a poor human rights record, according to the State Department, and one of the world’s highest per capita infection rates from the AIDS virus. About 38 percent of the population is infected, according to the United Nations.

• Call Embassy Row at 202/636-3297, fax 202/832-7278 or e-mail [email protected] washingtontimes.com.

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