MEXICO CITY — Confronting a Mexican drug war that is "sowing chaos in our communities," President Barack Obama signaled Thursday he will not seek renewal of a U.S. assault weapons ban but instead will step up enforcement of laws banning the transfer of such guns across the border.
Obama met with Mexican President Felipe Calderon, who has been aggressive fighting against drug cartels and had hoped to persuade Obama to push for reinstatement of the gun ban. Obama arrived on the first stop of a trip that will take him to a weekend Summit of the Americas in Trinidad, bringing together the leaders of 34 Western Hemisphere democracies.
Allies in the fight against drugs, Obama and Calderon took different stands on U.S. sanctions against Cuba. Calderon said the 47-year-old U.S. trade embargo has not been successful in forcing Cuba to adopt democratic reforms.
Obama pointed to the announcement this week that the U.S. was softening sanctions, allowing Americans to make unlimited transfers of money and visits to relatives in Cuba. But he said Cuba needs to reciprocate with actions that are "grounded in respect for human rights."
Obama acknowledged that the United States shares responsibility for bloodshed and kidnappings in Mexico that have spilled across the border into the United States.
"I will not pretend this is Mexico's responsibility alone," Obama said. "We have a responsibility as well; we have to do our part." He said the United States must crack down on domestic drug use and the flow of weapons into Mexico.
Obama also said the United States and Mexico must work together to stem the problem of illegal immigration. He said he favors a more orderly process for immigrants who want to come to the United States and a pathway to legalization for those already in the U.S. illegally.
"My country has been greatly enriched by immigrants from Mexico," he said.
The two leaders also pledged to cooperate on combating global warming and the global recession.
The U.S. ban on military-style assault weapons became law during the Clinton administration in 1994 and contributed to the Democrats' loss of Congress that year. It expired under the Bush administration in 2004. When Attorney General Eric Holder raised the idea of reinstituting the ban this year, opposition from Democrats and Republicans emerged quickly.