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Obama Turns Attention to Latin America

President travels to Mexico and Summit of the Americas in Trinidad and Tobago, after easing some restrictions on Cuba. Cuba reacts with an offer of talks. Transcript of radio broadcast:

This is IN THE NEWS in VOA Special English.

This week, President Obama made his first official visit to Latin America. He arrived Thursday in Mexico City and met with President Felipe Calderon. They discussed the drug war in Mexico, illegal immigration and the world recession. They also announced plans to cooperate in efforts to fight climate change and develop clean forms of energy.

Drug-related violence in Mexico has killed more than seven thousand people since the beginning of last year -- often with guns bought in the United States. The violence is now spreading over the border to American communities. This comes as American officials say Mexican organized crime groups are supplying drugs in a growing number of cities across the United States.

President Obama says the United States must reduce its demand for drugs and do its part to reduce the flow of guns and money to Mexico. Earlier this week, he used a law called the Foreign Narcotics Kingpin Designation Act to target three Mexican drug organizations. The action will let the Treasury Department block or seize any of their money within reach of United States laws.

Also this week, the Obama administration named a former Justice Department official as so-called border czar. Alan Bersin will supervise efforts to secure the border with Mexico and to slow illegal immigration. He also had that job under Bill Clinton.

President Obama made a campaign promise to begin efforts for immigration reform in his first year in office. He has already met with Hispanic members of Congress and promised to work with them to try to shape a plan.

A new report says Mexicans now represent one-third of all immigrants in the United States -- by far the largest nationality group. The Pew Hispanic Center says more than half of Mexican immigrants are undocumented. They represent about sixty percent of the estimated twelve million illegal immigrants in the United States.

From Mexico, President Obama traveled Friday to the Caribbean nation of Trinidad and Tobago for the Fifth Summit of the Americas. The meetings bring together leaders of thirty-four countries. The only country not invited was Cuba. But earlier this week, President Obama lifted some restrictions on Cuba.

The actions do not end the nearly fifty year old trade embargo against the island. But Americans with family in Cuba will now be more free to visit and send money to family members. Critics say the money will only help Cuba's communist leaders.

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton welcomed Cuba's reaction. President Raul Castro said Cuba is willing to discuss "everything" with the United States, including human rights, press freedoms and political prisoners. But he also said Cuba must be treated as an equal.

And that's IN THE NEWS in VOA Special English, written by Brianna Blake. I'm Steve Ember.