Migrants, Fentanyl, Cartel Violence: U.S. And Mexico Must Both Rethink The Border
Mexico and the United States must collaborate to tackle a dual problem of violence and drug use hurting their countries.But first, they must stop playing the blame game.
MEXICO CITY — An unstoppable force is about to smash into an immovable object. The fentanyl crisis in the United States has become, beyond the reach of any single election, a vital threat to its society. And while the key to the problem, as with all narcotics abuse, is around consumption, Mexico can hardly absolve itself of responsibility when the fentanyl is sourced here. Moreover, it is connected to our own, massive crime problem.
To receive Eyes on U.S. each week in your inbox, sign up here.
All of this means that there is yet another reason for authorities on both sides of the border to help each other.
I am reminded of Charles Dickens's A Tale of Two Cities, set in the French Revolution. Dickens mocks the French revolutionaries who claim to be fighting for liberty while decapitating all and sundry.
Likewise there's no squaring safe streets in Mexico with a drug epidemic next door: drugs like fentanyl finance the cartels that terrorize Mexican cities and neighborhoods. Or put another way: Drugs sold in the United States pay for the guns they fire at Mexicans!
Not surprisingly perhaps, given his irrepressible optimism, Mexico's president, Andrés Manuel López Obrador, rejects both components of the problem. He says no fentanyl is made in Mexico and crime here is under check, which would mean people are deluded in both countries.
But we know the crises are real and have consequences. And while each society deals with problems differently, depending on its political system, each side now has a problem that cannot be resolved entirely at home.
People take drugs not just because they are available, but as a result of a range of social problems. Those problems are at the root of demand for drugs, which is the United States' problem. Likewise crime hasn't taken off in Mexico simply because guns are available, but thanks, in part, for the pervasive absence of security forces. It makes criminals feel they have a free hand. So we would be hypocrites to blame their guns for our crimes.
It was back in the 1990s that crime in Mexico began to markedly degrade the state's security capabilities. Thefts and kidnappings suddenly increased. In the prior decades, Mexico had enjoyed a period of relative peace and harmony following the post-revolutionary turmoil of the 1920s and 1930s, thanks to the state's vigorous presence across the land.
As a centralizing polity, the Mexican republic did little to favor the rise of local powers, especially in justice and policing.
Not surprisingly then, as federal powers declined, insecurity flourished across the country. In many parts of Mexico, gangs have come to supplant the state, no doubt aided by the guns they could buy with criminal activities inside Mexico and through international trafficking.
But I insist, the problem ultimately was the absence of strong government in Mexico.
Migrants seeking asylum deterred after receiving instructions from members of the Texas National Guard and Texas Department of Public Safety along the U.S. Mexico border in El Paso, Texas.
Fentanyl and illegal migration are becoming two big bones of contention for Americans as they began to look toward the 2024 presidential elections. Mexico is an actor in both sagas, and should prepare for the impact of showing up repeatedly in campaigning and public declarations.
Will our government just sit there and watch?
That's the unstoppable force that is gaining speed and power, however offended we may be for being blamed for Americans wanting drugs or cheap labor. Rather we should ask ourselves: will our government just sit there and watch?
It's no use admonishing the Americans for our problems, when they are really part of a bigger problem with twin roots. The prosecution of high-profile Mexicans in the United States disproves the Mexican political narrative, and has fueled negative perceptions of us.
If we could just end our inertia, and they could stop blaming Mexicans, we might together curb the drugs-and-crime hydra. But first, we must put aside our pride, and the Americans, their prejudice.
- How Mexico’s Jalisco Drug Cartel Is Muscling Into U.S. Cities ›
- Trump, 'Terrorist' Cartels And The True Roots Of Mexico's Violence ›
- In Mexico, Drop In Life Expectancy Linked To Drug Cartel Violence ›