January 6, 2015 / 6:49 PM / in 3 years

Obama, Mexican president discuss Cuba and drug cartels

U.S. President Barack Obama meets with Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto at the White House in Washington January 6, 2015. REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - U.S. President Barack Obama said on Tuesday the United States would insist that human rights in Cuba be discussed at a Summit of the Americas later this year and that Washington would help crack down on drug cartels in Mexico.

Obama, in a White House meeting with Mexico’s President Enrique Pena Nieto, said the two men had discussed the shift in relations between the United States and Cuba, long a sore spot in Latin America.

“I described my initiative to end the 50-year policy with relation to Cuba, to move towards what we hope will be a more constructive policy but one that continues to emphasize human rights and democracy and political freedom,” Obama said.

“And at the Summit of the Americas, one of the things I informed (President) Pena Nieto is we will participate but we’ll insist that those topics are on the agenda.”

The Mexican president’s standing has been battered by massive street protests following the abduction and likely murder of 43 students in September by a drug gang working with corrupt police in the southwestern city of Iguala.

Obama said the United States was committed to helping eliminate drug cartels in Mexico but that it would be up to the Mexican government and law enforcement to implement measures to crack down on them.

“Obviously we’ve been following here in the United States some of the tragic events surrounding the students whose lives were lost,” Obama said.

“Our commitment is to be a friend and supporter of Mexico in its efforts to eliminate the scourge of violence and the drug cartels that are responsible for so much tragedy inside of Mexico.”

The two men also discussed Obama’s recent executive order removing the threat of deportation faced by millions of illegal immigrants in the United States.

Pena Nieto pledged his government’s support for the people of Mexican origin in the United States who could seek relief under the order, which was opposed by Republicans but welcomed by Obama’s fellow Democrats.

Additional reporting by Dave Graham; Editing by Steve Orlofsky

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