Things That Matter

Mexican President AMLO Puts His Foot Down, Tells Trump No US Intervention In Fighting The Drug Cartels

There is no denying that the Mexican drug cartels are multinational criminal networks whose poisonous tentacles have reached far and deep into the social, financial and political structures of countries all around the world. The current US presidency has placed blame of many of the ailments of the country on the Southern neighbor, Mexico, from migration crisis to issues of national security. A new measure about to be taken by the Trump administration has the potential to forever change Mexico-US relations and the place of Washington in Latin America as a whole.

Trump has made moves towards declaring the cartels as terrorist organizations.

Credit: WUNC

Trump recently revealed in an interview that he is lobbying to declare drug cartels to be terrorist organizations, claiming that the drug-abuse epidemic that leads to more than 100,000 deaths per year is a mass murder and that the finger should be pointed at el vecinito del sur. Now, this change goes far beyond wording. It could actually lead to a situation in which the US Congress could approve military and covert operations in Mexico, much like has happened in terrorist-harboring countries such as Somalia, Pakistan and Yemen. This could have enormous repercussions for the bilateral relationship between the United States and Mexico, and in the geopolitics of the Americas at large.

Trump was damning during an interview with Fox News conservative commentator Bill O’Reilly. Marcelo Ebrard, Mexico’s Foreign Affairs secretary, released an statement saying: “the Ministry of Foreign Affairs reports that it has contacted U.S. authorities to understand the meaning and scope of the remarks”. We are sure that Trump’s words sent the diplomatic world scrambling for official positions. 

AMLO has said no thanks to Trump’s position for fighting the cartels. Of course, Mexico is wary of intervention so it is only offering cooperation.

Mexican president Andrés Manuel López Obrador has historically been very critical of United States interventionism not only in Mexico but Latin America at large. Donald Trump has been singing AMLO’s praises since the man from Tabasco got in power, but this might be a turning point in their relationship. Let us not forget that AMLO received the ousted Bolivian former president Evo Morales with open arms, and that Morales’ version of the events that rocked the balance of power in Bolivia points to US intervention in what he has sustained was a coup. During his daily morning press conference he told the press that he would rather send Thanksgiving hugs to Americans rather than confront them at this time. He also said this gesture would be: “Just to say cooperation yes, interventionism no” 

Remember the Plan Colombia in the 1990s? Well, it didn’t end too well for the South American nation.

There are of course precedents to United States intervention in Latin America to fight the cartels. Ever since the Raegan era and the DEA’s first forays into cartel lands, US presence has been constant, both officially and unofficially. Bill Clinton launched the celebre and infamous Colombia Plan to give military aid to the country to fight the post-Pablo Escobar mess left in the shape of guerrillas and new cartel bosses in Cali.

Critics to current US policy towards Mexico say that there is a move towards interference with domestic affairs. Of course, the strong cartel presence and evident power in cities like Culiacán and states such as Jalisco has made the notion of a total lack of government control get strength among security policy circles. There is no denying that some conservatives in Mexico would even welcome an increased intervention in local matters, but the vast amount of the population would be in opposition.

What would increased US military presence mean? 

It would be a seismic shift in Mexico, where the US is seen sometimes as a historical adversary. The myths surrounding the battle of El Alamo and the loss of a vast amount of territory to the US still resonate in the Mexican psyche and is seen as a blow to national pride. Further, US influence in national affairs would be a catastrophic development for the AMLO presidency. How would the cartels respond? The recent events in Culiacán are a good indication perhaps, as cartel bosses fear extradition more than death itself.

The call to name Mexican drug cartels terrorist organizations echoes the plight of the LeBaron family, a clan of Mormon Mexican-American dual citizens who recently suffered a massacre at the hands of organized crime. It is important to note that Mormons in the state of Chihuahua have blood ties with powerful Washington personalities including former presidential candidate Mitt Romney. 

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