MEXICO CITY (CN) — Mexico’s president Tuesday launched another volley in his running tit-for-tat with Republican lawmakers who have called for the deployment of U.S. armed forces against drug cartels.
President Andrés Manuel López Obrador played a 10-minute video highlighting his administration’s drug enforcement efforts during his morning press conference in response to what he called an “avalanche of disinformation, of manipulation” coming from U.S. politicians.
“Mexico and the United States are nations that share a common history and border, which is the basis of a solid bilateral relationship that has prioritized their interest in addressing the problems that affect both countries,” begins the video’s narration.
However, political division, rather than unity, led to the video’s creation. López Obrador has become embroiled in a dispute with GOP lawmakers after recent calls to designate Mexican drug cartels as terrorist organizations and even to use U.S. armed forces to fight them.
Those calls intensified after the kidnapping of four U.S. citizens in the border city of Matamoros this month. In February, Republican attorneys general from 21 states sent a letter to President Joe Biden and U.S. Attorney General Antony Blinken urging them to declare Mexican drug cartels terrorist groups.
Some of the most vehement statements against López Obrador’s security strategy have come from Representative Dan Crenshaw, a Texas Republican who introduced a bill in January aiming to authorize the use of the U.S. armed forces to target Mexican drug cartels.
“The cartels are [at] war with us — poisoning more than 80,000 Americans with fentanyl every year, creating a crisis at our border, and turning Mexico into a failed narco-state,” Crenshaw said in a press release announcing the bill.
Crenshaw ramped up his attacks on López Obrador and other politicians in the ruling Morena party this month, asking Mexico Senate Majority Leader Ricardo Monreal if “the cartel leaders” wrote a tweet in which he denounced the proposed legislation.
“Who do you represent? The cartels or the people?” he asked López Obrador in another tweet.
The video played Tuesday underscores the current administration’s arrest of 22 drug trafficking leaders, most notably the arrest in January of Ovidio Guzmán, son of the notorious capo Joaquín “El Chapo” Guzmán.
It also claims that López Obrador has overseen “marked” increases in organized crime arrests compared to his rival predecessors Felipe Calderón and Enrique Peña Nieto.
The video was shown the day after Foreign Secretary Marcelo Ebrard visited Washington, where he instructed Mexico’s ambassador Esteban Moctezuma and its 52 consuls in the United States that they must carry out an information campaign to combat the “unacceptable attacks” from Republican politicians.
While quarreling politicians on both sides of the border claim to have the solution to the problem of drug trafficking, their words will likely stay in the realm of rhetoric and have little effect on public health or safety, according to security analyst David Saucedo.
“Each one is trying to get their political cut of the situation,” he said. “Both are a little right, both are a little wrong, but both — the Republicans and President López Obrador — are using the issue to win points.”
Both can score political goals without having to do much more than tweet or press play. López Obrador, for example, gets a boost by calling out the supposed attack on Mexico’s sovereignty.
“There’s nothing better for a Latin American president than to be able to accuse the North Americans of being interventionists, due to the history of the United States,” said Saucedo.
Republicans like Crenshaw can get a jab in at Biden as the United States gears up for the 2024 elections. Such statements also strengthen Crenshaw’s brand as a Second Amendment-protecting advocate for law and order.
While he has said that his goal is to “help the Mexican people rid themselves of violent cartels and the corrupt politicians who take their money,” Crenshaw has not spoken about curbing the illicit arms trade from the United States — the main purveyor of high-impact firearms to the cartels.
“Republicans are the ones who back the NRA and oppose any kind of restriction on sales of assault rifles within their own territory or to neighbor nations like Mexico,” Saucedo said.
Crenshaw did not respond to a request for comment by press time.
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