* Obama speaks to Mexico City university students
* Time to set aside "old mindsets"
* Meets Central American leaders in Costa Rica later
By Steve Holland and Mark Felsenthal
MEXICO CITY, May 3 U.S. President Barack Obama
told the Mexican people on Friday that he sees a "new Mexico"
emerging, with a deepening democracy and growing economy, and
that Mexico and the United States should be viewed as equal
"I have come to Mexico because it is time to put old
mindsets aside," Obama said in a speech to university students.
"It's time to recognize new realities, including the impressive
progress in today's Mexico."
Obama tried out a little Spanish on his audience, saying "Es
un placer estar entre amigos" (It is a pleasure to be among
friends) and struck a deferential tone in speaking about the
United States' southern neighbor.
Drug-fueled violence in Mexico is not entirely the fault of
the Mexican people, he said. Instead, the United States shares
the blame because much of the violence is centered around the
Americans' demand for illegal drugs and the fact that guns are
smuggled into Mexico from the United States.
"In this relationship there is no senior partner or junior
partner. We are two equal partners, two sovereign nations that
must work together in mutual interest and mutual respect," Obama
Obama's goal on a three-day trip to Mexico and Costa Rica is
to emphasize the need for stronger commercial ties and broaden
relations beyond the security partnerships that have dominated
the past. He is to meet Central American leaders in Costa Rica
later on Friday.
Obama's effort is aimed at creating more jobs in the United
States and reigniting stronger growth. The U.S. jobless rate for
April dropped slightly to 7.5 percent but unemployment remains a
The United States would like to join forces with Mexico to
compete for the fast-growing markets for trade goods in the
"Let's do more to expand the trade and commerce that creates
good jobs for our people," Obama said.
Obama's speech served to bolster Mexican President Enrique
Pena Nieto, who last year took over from close U.S. ally Felipe
Calderon. The new government has embarked on ambitious reforms
to make the economy more competitive and institutions more
accountable to the people, he said.
It is clear that a "new Mexico is emerging," said Obama.
"I see a Mexico that is deepening your democracy, citizens
who are standing up and saying that violence and impunity is not
acceptable, a courageous press working to hold leaders
accountable," he said.
Obama, whose second term got off to a ragged start amid
struggles with the U.S. Congress, heard cheers of approval when
he said he hoped to gain congressional passage of an overhaul of
U.S. immigration laws.
Many of the 11 million illegal immigrants in the United
States are from Mexico, and Mexico remains an important
jumping-off point for Central American migrants heading for the
Obama stands the best chance in years to see new laws that
would create a pathway to citizenship for illegal immigrants.
"I'm optimistic that, after years of trying, we're finally
going to get this done," he said.
(Editing by Doina Chiacu)