ROBERT SIEGEL, Host:
Tomorrow, President Obama heads to the Summit of the Americas in Trinidad and Tobago. An editorial penned by Mr. Obama is running today in a dozen Latin American newspapers, plus The Miami Herald. In the article the president calls for a new relationship between the U.S. and Latin America. In Mexico City, NPR's Jason Beaubien reports that there is great optimism about the new president to the north.
JASON BEAUBIEN: President Obama arrives in this chaotic city of 20 million people amid extremely tight security.
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BEAUBIEN: All the sidewalks surrounding the Intercontinental Hotel, where he'll be staying, have been blocked off with barricades. Across Avenida Reforma from his hotel, birds are squawking in a stand of jacaranda trees next to a bus stop. Normally vendors sell tacos and cold drinks in makeshift stalls here, but all the street vendors have been chased away in the adjacent subway stop, closed for the presidential visit. Despite the inconveniences imposed by President Obama's arrival, people on the street are generally excited that he's chosen to visit the Mexican capital.
JESUS MARQUEZ: (Spanish spoken)
BEAUBIEN: This street vendor, Jesus Marquez, says Obama represents hope, not just for the United States, but for the entire world. He adds, we hope he will be the person to solve the global economic crisis. And we're all happy for him to visit Mexico. Marquez says the other big hope he has is that President Obama will improve conditions for Mexicans living and working in the United States.
MARQUEZ: (Spanish spoken)
BEAUBIEN: I have family there, Marquez says, and it's sad to hear about the way they are treated. I hope in this meeting that the two presidents will take up this issue.
President Bush wasn't very popular in Mexico. Initially there was hope here that a former governor from a border state such as Texas would engage with Mexico in a way that previous American presidents hadn't. But that hope went unfulfilled. Avenida Reforma today, in front of Mr. Obama's hotel, is lined with Mexican and American Flags. Everyone is aware of the visit. There's an almost giddy atmosphere surrounding the trip. Angelique Lugos(ph), a housewife, says it's good to have President Obama in Mexico.
ANGELIQUE LUGOS: (Spanish spoken)
BEAUBIEN: Let's see if they can solve the issue with drug trafficking and the weapons, she says. We expect with his visit here there could be a good understanding with our president. But outside the U.S. embassy, pockets of protestors have come out to push one cause or another. One group wants the North American Free Trade Agreement renegotiated. They say NAFTA has undermined small Mexican farmers and destroyed indigenous corn.
MARQUEZ: The migrant workers are not criminal terrorists.
MARIA GARCIA: (Spanish spoken)
BEAUBIEN: We want immigration reform that's fair, practical and will normalize the immigration status of the 12 to 15 million undocumented Mexicans in the United States, she says. Despite her protests and her complaints, she says Mr. Obama is far better for Mexico than Mr. Bush. President Obama spends a night here before heading on to the Summit of the Americas tomorrow in Trinidad and Tobago, where it's unclear if he'll get such a warm reception.
Jason Beaubien, NPR News, Mexico City.
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