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Obama to visit Mexico, Costa Rica in May


President Barack Obama will travel in May to Mexico, where he will meet the country's new president, and Costa Rica on the second foreign trip of his second term, the White House said Wednesday.

The backdrop to Obama's May 2-4 travel will be his attempt to push through Congress comprehensive reforms that would give illegal immigrants, many of whom hail from Mexico, a path to citizenship.

News of Obama's trip broke after he spoke to Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto on the phone.

"I'm really looking forward to the opportunity to visit Mexico," Obama said, during an interview with Telemundo Spanish language television.

"Sometimes the relationship gets characterized just as being about borders or just as being about drug cartels.

"There's so much more to the relationship -- in terms of commerce, in terms of trade, in terms of energy," he said.

The Mexican foreign ministry said the two leaders would "reaffirm the strategic importance of the bilateral relationship" and would also discuss education, immigration, border issues, trade and security.

Pena Nieto held talks with Obama in Washington in November, before the elected Mexican leader was sworn in for a six-year term.

The two nations have massive trade ties within the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), which includes Canada.

The United States is also backing Mexico's effort to combat drug trafficking through the $1.9 billion Merida Initiative, an assistance program that has included law enforcement training and equipment such as Black Hawk helicopters.

Obama will also meet Costa Rican President Laura Chinchilla, who the White House said had also invited other Central American heads of state, as well as the Dominican Republic's Danilo Medina, to join talks.

"One of the most important things that we can do to continue to strengthen the hemisphere is to strengthen the cooperation between us and our Central American and Caribbean partners," Obama told Telemundo.

"There's enormous talent and enormous opportunity there that has not been tapped."