THE U.S. GOVERNMENT BETTER FORGET ABOUT ANY KIND OF INTERVENTION IN MEXICO.
MIAMI — Mexico should not agree, under any circumstances, to host United States troops — or those from any other country — in its territory. It’s a matter of principle, sovereignty and history.
This issue arose in the aftermath of the brutal killing in Sonora state of nine members of a local Mormon family — six children and three women, all with dual Mexican-American citizenship. Shortly after the November massacre, the family asked President Trump to designate Mexican drug traffickers as terrorists; and Mr. Trump, in an interview, said he would.
Such a designation could have severe consequences, ranging from the imposition of tariffs and sanctions on Mexico to the increasing militarization of America’s southern border and more delays in the passage of the revised North American Free Trade Agreement.
However, Mexico’s main concern should be the stationing of American soldiers on its soil.
For millions of Mexicans, nothing could be more worrying than the United States military operating in Mexico on the orders of a president as unpredictable as Mr. Trump, someone who has made several racist remarks about their countrymen.
According to President Andrés Manuel López Obrador, Mr. Trump called him and offered to help. But it’s clear that President Trump doesn’t know Mr. López Obrador very well or the long history between the two countries. All Mexican schoolchildren are taught that their nation lost half its territory to the United States in 1848, and the pain of that loss remains fresh. The last time foreign troops were seen in Mexico was in 1914, when the Americans sieged the city of Veracruz — and Mexicans don’t want to see them again. President Trump better forget about sending soldiers or troops of any kind to Mexico.
If the United States really wants to help Mexico in its war against drug traffickers, there are two very important steps it needs to take: First, control the flow of weapons from the United States into Mexico, and second, lower the American demand for narcotics.
Of course, neither of these is an easy or politically viable task. Given that the United States failed to control the spread of firearms after the school shootings at Columbine in 1999 (13 killed), Sandy Hook in 2012 (26 killed) and Parkland in 2018 (17 killed), the government will be unlikely to do anything now to stop the huge flow of firearms into Mexico. Seventy percent of the 106,000 guns seized as part of criminal investigations in Mexico between 2011 and 2016 were legally bought in the United States, according to a recent report by the Center for American Progress. But Congress hasn’t done anything about the problem.
It would also help Mexico if Americans would use fewer drugs. It all comes down to the dynamics of supply and demand: Mexican cartels are simply filling the orders of American consumers. Over 11 million Americans misused opioids in 2017, according to a national health survey. That same year, 5.9 million people used cocaine, and nearly 41 million people smoked marijuana. Mexican drug dealers are exploiting a vast drug market that isn’t about to shrink anytime soon.
Drugs are smuggled into the United States mainly through its ports of entry. Mexican drug traffickers, particularly the Sinaloa and Jalisco New Generation cartels, quickly adapt to changes in consumer taste and represent “the greatest criminal drug threat to the United States,” a 2018 study conducted by the Department of Justice concluded.
In this distressing political landscape, how can Mexico and the United States work together to fight drug cartels?
Both countries must continue to share strategic and financial information on criminal groups, push for extradition (nothing scares Mexican drug dealers more than the thought of spending the rest of their lives in an American prison) and tone down the criticism on social media. President Trump tweeted that it was time “to wage WAR on the drug cartels and wipe them off the face of the earth.” But posting on Twitter is no way to rule.
President López Obrador — who has high approval rates after one year in power — has been very cautious when it comes to his relationship with Mr. Trump. However, Mr. López Obrador’s image as a leader would be seriously damaged if he were to accept the presence of American troops on Mexican land. His better bet is to stand firm, resist American pressure and hope for change with the 2020 election.
Unfortunately, a new president won’t solve the terrible problem of drug-related violence in Mexico. Mr. López Obrador must humbly accept that his strategy — summed up as “hugs, not bullets” — isn’t working and that urgent action is required. Instead of stopping Central American refugees from entering across Mexico’s southern border, the National Guard should focus on bringing peace back to Mexico.
This year may turn out to be the most violent in Mexico’s modern history. More than 33,000 homicides were recorded in 2018, with one person killed every 15 minutes. This year, 28,000 people were killed between January and October. If Mr. López Obrador doesn’t make adjustments to his crime-fighting strategy soon, his six-year term could end up covered in blood.
The evident pride Mexicans feel in their president strongly opposing any foreign intervention may be undermined if Mr. López Obrador fails to crack down on drug traffickers. Saying no to President Trump’s troops is a good first step. Now Mexico’s president needs to take on the other challenges confronting his country.
Mr. Trump will soon realize that he can’t rule with tweets alone. His digital ruses have no effect on drug traffickers or drug-related violence in Mexico. Even someone like him, who seems to have no knowledge of history, can’t take the United States back to a time when it invaded other countries whenever it wanted. As the situation in Mexico clearly shows, not everything can be solved by force or by tweet.