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Strange bedfellows for Mexico's Calderon

May 21, 2010 |  3:20 pm

You know things are topsy-turvy when Mexico’s right-wing president is lauded by leftists here and in the U.S. — and attacked by conservative Republicans with whom he ought to be ideological brethren.

But for President Felipe Calderon, two issues — gun control and immigration, at least as they apply in the neighbor to the north — escape ideological pigeonholing. And so he went before a joint session of the U.S. Congress, urged immigration reform and demanded a ban on the U.S. assault weapons that have been flooding his country, arming brutal drug cartels.

Republicans were livid. How dare this foreign leader scold us, they said, when his own house is in such disorder. His remarks were "inappropriate," said Utah's Republican senator, Orrin Hatch. Never mind that Calderon, a conservative, pro-business devout Catholic, is closer to the Hatches and other Republicans of the world.

In Mexico City, El Universal newspaper, in its lead editorial (link in Spanish), praised Calderon's speech as "patriotic" but added: "It is worth imagining what we Mexicans would say if Barack Obama were to take the microphone in the highest gallery of our nation to reprimand us for our errors and blunders."

Meanwhile, Calderon's natural and often-contentious political enemies, like Beatriz Paredes, head of Mexico's opposition Institutional Revolutionary Party (likely to rout Calderon's allies in upcoming elections), and Carlos Navarrete, leftist president of the Mexican senate, lavished enthusiastic praise on the beleaguered Mexican leader.

 — Tracy Wilkinson in Mexico City

Photo: President Felipe Calderon greets congressional pages on Capitol Hill. Credit: Reuters.