MEXICO CITY -- Vice President George Bush arrived in Mexico Tuesday for a three-day visit that underlined the friendly state of U.S.-Mexican relations despite a pitched dispute over U.S. policy on El Salvador.
'President Reagan is deeply commited to strengthening the friendship and cooperation between our countries, a commitment that I know President Jose Lopez Portillo shares,' Bush said in his arrival statement.
Bush was serenaded by a mariachi band and greeted with a 19-gun salute as he stepped off Air Force Two at the Mexico City International Airport, and was quickly whisked away in a caravan of cars to his first meeting with Lopez Portillo.
Bush will spend three days in Mexico, the United States' third largest trading partner behind Canada and Japan and the world's fourth largest oil producer, to take part in Independence Day celebrations Tuesday and Wednesday.
Mexico normally does not invite foreign dignitaries to its Independence Day celebrations, and observers regarded the vice president's visit as a sign of the unusually friendly relations between Washington and Mexico City.
Reagan and Lopez Portillo are rugged outdoors types who appear to have hit it off during their two meetings, one in June in Washington and another in January at the twin border cities of Ciudad Juarez and El Paso, Texas.
Since Reagan was inaugurated, Mexican officials and especially presidential representatives have toned down the anti-U.S. rhetoric that has been a staple for Mexican politics almost from the time the United States annexed Texas.
Lopez Portillo himself has been guarded in his comments, and in his State of the Nation address Sept. 1 made no mention of the problems affecting bilateral relations such as illegal Mexican immigrants and trade imbalances.
But the Mexican president has spared no harsh words in criticizing the Reagan administration's decision to provide direct military assistance to the ruling junta in El Salvador for its battle against Marxist-led guerrillas.
Lopez Portillo has charged the 56 U.S. military advisers and $35 million in military hardware sent to El Salvador by Washington amounts to 'foreign interference of the worst kind - to help a nation kill its own people.'
Mexico and France last month officially recognized the Salvadoran guerrillas as 'a representative political force' and called for international mediation to end the virtual civil war that has claimed an estimated 24,000 lives.