The War on Drugs: The Narco States of North America
Too many Americans are dying from trafficked illegal drugs, and too many Mexicans are dying from violence related to the criminal gangs that traffic drugs. That is the unfortunate summary of a shared problem: Mexican organized crime groups help feed U.S. demand for illegal drugs, and in turn, many billions of U.S. dollars feed the violence and corruption which the criminal groups spawn in Mexico.
More than ever, we need to break this pattern by working together more closely with our southern neighbor. Unfortunately, the harsh words and tone often used regarding Mexico, the lack of appreciation for the strategic importance of having a stronger and more prosperous southern neighbor, and the hardline approach the United States is taking to the renegotiation of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) are undermining the ability of Mexican officials to maintain, let alone deepen, U.S.-Mexico cooperation against transnational criminal groups.
President Donald Trump is to be praised for highlighting opioid addiction crisis in the United States and promising steps to address it. Regarding Mexico, however, he highlighted that an estimated 90 percent of heroin used in the United States is from Mexico (correct) and added that his proposed border wall would help deal with that. The assertion about the wall is dubious since most hard drugs are believed to enter the United States through legal ports of entry. Strikingly, the president also neglected to mention that his current chief of staff earlier this year had made it a priority to forge agreement with the Mexican government to enhance cooperation against the criminal groups trafficking drugs.
In May 2017, then Secretary of Homeland Security John Kelly, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and other U.S. officials agreed with Mexican counterparts on an overall strategy for strengthening the common effort against the entire chain of illegal drug production, trafficking, sales, etc. That agreement included a promise of action on addiction/drug demand in the United States. Mexican and U.S. officials have been working to implement that strategy since, including going after heroin production.
About the Author
The Mexico Institute seeks to improve understanding, communication, and cooperation between Mexico and the United States by promoting original research, encouraging public discussion, and proposing policy options for enhancing the bilateral relationship. A binational Advisory Board, chaired by Luis Téllez and Earl Anthony Wayne, oversees the work of the Mexico Institute. Read more