Mexican President Felipe Calderón will be delivering a commencement address at Stanford University on Sunday, and his visit is not without controversy.

Since Calderón deployed federal troops to areas high in drug trafficking in 2006, more than 34,000 people in Mexico have died in drug trafficking-related incidents. His strategy has drawn criticism
from some who say his war on drugs has only led to more violence.

El Mensajero editor María Mejía in February called Stanford’s decision to invite the Mexican head of state “the wrong choice”. But Mejía reports for this week’s edition of El Mensajero that some Stanford students are looking forward to Calderón’s visit.

El Mensajero spoke with several students who approved of the school’s invitation to the president. Cristina, who is from Monterrey, Mexico, told El Mensajero, “As a Mexican, I’m very proud that he’s coming.”

When asked about Calderón’s war on drugs, her friend Laura added, “There are always going to be people who will criticize and judge, but there came a point when something had to be done that wasn’t going to be very popular or well received, but I hope it’s for the best. We won’t know for a few years if [Calderón’s strategy] worked.”

At El Centro Chicano, Stanford’s Latino community center, students were similarly upbeat about Calderón’s upcoming address. “I think it’s a good thing,” said Victoria Robles about Calderón’s invitation.

Robles hopes that Calderón will speak on immigration and Mexico’s drug war. “I know that Calderón’s politics are controversial, especially when it comes to the drug war. But I think it’s important, and is
something that needs to be addressed, and if no one addresses it, even in a controversial way, it will never be fixed.”

Jim Ponce, another student at El Centro Chicano, called himself “neutral” about Calderón’s visit. “I really don’t understand why people are angry. I can understand why there are people who don’t agree with [Calderón’s] policies. But Stanford, as an educational institution, isn’t supposed to favor one side or the other. I think we should welcome people with different perspectives, whether we agree with them or not.”

El Mensajero also interviewed Mexican poet Javier Sicilia, was recently in San Francisco to receive a human rights prize. After his son was killed in drug-related violence, Sicilia has organized marches for peace across Mexico in protest of the government’s policies. When asked whether it angered him that Calderón would be speaking at Stanford, Sicilia responded, “It doesn’t make me angry, but it makes me sad.”


--Reported by Caitlin Fuller