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Mexico's Foreign Minister Patricia Espinosa listens to questions from a journalist during a news conference in Mexico City March 24, 2011. Delegates from 40 nations tasked with designing a "green fund" to help poor countries cope with climate change will hold their first meeting in late April, U.N. officials said on Thursday.© Henry Romero / Reuters

With Mexico's presidential elections just one month away, Foreign Minister Patricia Espinosa talks to the Globe and Mail's Marina Jiménez about the relationship between Canada and Mexico; the legacy of outgoing President Felipe Calderon; and the case of Cynthia Vanier, the

Canadian imprisoned in Mexico on charges of attempting to smuggle a son of former Libyan leader, Moammar Gadhafi, to Mexico. Ms. Espinosa was in Ottawa for the publication of Canada and Mexico's Unfinished Agenda, the 26th Canada Among Nations anthology published by Carleton University and the Centre for Inter-national Governance Innovation.

What is the state of Mexico-Canada relations?

Mexico's democracy has strengthened enormously over the last decade. This brings us closer to Canada than ever before. Human rights and democracy are areas we can work on together, especially in international organization such as the Organization of American States.

How can we enhance the relationship?

We are each other's third largest trading partners. Our trade with Canada was 4.5 bigger than Canada's trade with Brazil. So many Canadian companies have continued to invest in Mexico, because they have good business there. But even if we have come a long way, we can still do a lot more. We need to develop North America as a region. We need to work on the competitiveness agenda. There are possibilities in nano-technology, the aerospace industry, forestry, renewable energy, and academic and scientific exchanges.

What is your assessment of the security strategy implemented to tackle organized crime involved in drug trafficking?

It was absolutely necessary to face the criminal organizations. Unfortunately, in the past this was not done. It is important to bear in mind that the strategy is not just to face the criminals, but also to guarantee security for all citizens and to strengthen the institutional capacity of law enforcement and the judiciary. There has been a lot of progress, thanks to the President's broad reforms introduced in Congress. However, this is an area where you won't see results from one day to the next.

What do you say to those whose family members have been forcibly disappeared or kidnapped? They are frustrated by the inability of authorities to investigate these cases.

The federal government has made a lot of efforts to address the situation of the victims of violent acts. The victims'-rights bill and the creation of a special prosecutor to address the needs of victims are two examples.

But this process requires building up our institutions, not only at the federal level but at the state level. President Calderon has laid the groundwork for strengthening our institutions. We can look forward to a country where the rule of law is adhered to at all levels of government, and the capacity of the state to control crime is stronger. But this is going to take a long time. We have to be careful not to raise expectations.

What can you tell Canadians about the case of Cynthia Vanier, accused of attempting to smuggle Moammar Gadhafi's son, Saadi, into Mexico?

She is accused of very, very serious crimes. We have been in close contact with Canadian authorities. As much as the Canadian side is interested in ensuring she has a prosecution according to the law with all the rights she is entitled to, we are as well. The federal government cannot intervene in the case. But we will ensure the case is dealt with according to the law, and will follow due process.

What will be the next government's most important challenge?

There are some reforms that have been presented in Congress and they have not gone through yet. I hope that the next legislature will address them: reform

in the labour and energy sectors. Mexico's economy also needs some structural reforms to remain globally competitive.

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