Peace Corps Director Attends Binational Commission, Marks Historic Partnership Agreement with Mexico

WASHINGTON, D.C., November 9, 2004 – Peace Corps Director Gaddi H. Vasquez attended the U.S. – Mexico Binational Commission today, marking the one year anniversary of the historic partnership agreement between the two countries that led to the establishment of the first Peace Corps program in Mexico.

At the Binational Commission and during the week, Director Vasquez met with U.S. and Mexican counterparts to develop strategies and working goals for the upcoming year and to assess the progress already underway.

"These Binational Commission events demonstrate the desire on both sides to have a real and mutually beneficial partnership," said Director Vasquez. "The stronger the ties we can create with our closest neighbors, the better off the citizens across our great continent will be."

Director Vasquez points to the Peace Corps as one such successful partnership, which officially opened its first program in Mexico this year. Currently in the midst of their 12 weeks of training, the first 11 Peace Corps trainees are receiving instruction on culture, local customs, and technical skills necessary for their two-year assignments. Upon completion of their training in December, they will be sworn in as volunteers and assigned to various central Mexican communities working with the National Council on Science and Technology (CONACYT).

The American volunteers will share their skills in information technology, small business development, science, and water and environmental technology with Mexican citizens. In addition, the partnership will allow Mexican citizens to share their business skills, ideas and culture with the volunteers.

After two years of negotiations on ways to better exchange technology between the U.S. and Mexico, a partnership agreement was signed last November by Director Vasquez and Director Jaime Parada Avila of CONACYT in Mexico. The Peace Corps first began exploring the possibility of entering Mexico after U.S. President George W. Bush and Mexican President Vicente Fox announced the "Partnership for Prosperity" initiative during their summit in September 2001.

The Binational Commission was established in 1981 by Presidents Reagan and Lopez Portillo to serve as a forum for meetings between cabinet-level officials from both countries. The meeting has become an annual one-day conference chaired by the U.S. Secretary of State and the Mexican Secretary of Foreign Relations.

Since 1961, more than 171,000 volunteers have served in the Peace Corps, working in such diverse fields as education, health, HIV/AIDS education and prevention, information technology, business development, the environment, and agriculture. Peace Corps volunteers must be U.S. citizens and at least 18 years of age. Peace Corps service is a two-year commitment.

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