MIAMI (AP) – Ron DeSantis wants to shoot to death suspected drug smugglers at the US-Mexico border. Nikki Haley has promised to send US special forces to the Latin American country. Vivek Ramaswamy has accused Mexico’s president of treating drug cartels as if he were his “sugar daddy” and said that if he is elected president, “there will be a new papa in attendance.”
Donald Trump — the favorite to win the Republican nomination in 2024, and long the man who has shaped his party’s rhetoric on the border — has often blamed Mexico for the United States’ problems, and promised new tools for of military force and covert actions when he returns. to the White House.
Many of the candidates for the Republican presidential nomination have said they will take possible actions of war against Mexico in response to the trafficking of fentanyl and other synthetic opioids. More than 75,000 people in the United States died last year from synthetic opioid overdoses, an annual number that is more than 20 times higher than a decade ago.
The candidates’ antagonism toward Mexico has been welcomed by some families who have lost loved ones to fentanyl, and who say Washington is not doing enough to address the worst drug crisis in the country’s history. US. But nonpartisan analysts and experts warn that military force is not the answer, but promotes racism and xenophobia that undermine efforts to stop drug trafficking.
“There is politics in this area. And on the Mexican side of the border, you have a president who is turning a blind eye to what is happening in Mexico, and who is completely destroying bilateral collaboration with the United States,” said Arturo Sarukhán, Mexico’s ambassador to Washington from from 2007 to 2013. “That’s a combustible mixture.”
Andrea Thomas’ daughter died at the age of 32 after taking half of a fake pill that contained fentanyl and looked exactly like the pills she was prescribed for her stomach ache. Thomas founded the Voices for Awareness Foundation in Grand Junction, Colorado, to raise the alarm about fentanyl.
Thomas said people he knows are interested in what the candidates are proposing and feel President Joe Biden’s administration is not responding adequately to the crisis. In a letter to presidential candidates, Thomas and a gathering of other groups urged politicians to do “everything possible” to stop drug production and trafficking.
“This drug is unlike any other we’ve seen before,” he said. “We need some strong measures. “We have no time to waste.”
Democrats also face a lot of political pressure on border issues ahead of next year’s election. The White House has funded national programs to reduce fentanyl overdoses and allowed Chinese companies accused of importing chemicals used to make the drug.
In a statement Sunday, the White House said the administration had imposed targeted sanctions — including last week — and blamed Republicans in Congress for blocking a request for an additional $800 million. to fight fentanyl trafficking, which includes money for the police.
Mexico has not addressed the problem of fentanyl production and trafficking. President Andrés Manuel López Obrador has repeatedly denied that his country produces synthetic opioids, despite overwhelming evidence to the contrary.
Border agents seized nearly 13 tons of fentanyl at the US-Mexico border from September 2022 to last August, according to US Customs and Border Protection (CBP).
In the second Republican primary debate last month, the candidates reiterated that they would use military forces to go after Mexican drug gangs.
“As commander in chief, I will use the American military to go after the drug cartels in Mexico,” said DeSantis, the Florida governor. He promised that people suspected of smuggling drugs across the southern border would be “stoned to death.” That raises the possibility that border agents could be authorized to shoot people before any investigation into whether the people are carrying drugs.
US government data undermines claims that asylum seekers and others crossing the Mexican border are responsible for drug trafficking. About 90% of fentanyl seizures are made at official land crossings, not at border areas where people enter illegally. In a hearing in July, CBP Deputy Assistant Commissioner James Mandryck said that 73% of fentanyl seizures at the border since October were smuggling attempts by Americans, and the rest by Mexicans.
A study by US law enforcement agencies released last year called Mexico the “main source” of fentanyl, with cartels producing the drug with chemical precursors that are largely smuggled from in China. But he noted that the crisis cannot be solved without curbing addiction in the United States, which creates a huge demand for illegal opioids.
“The supply of illicit fentanyl cannot be permanently stopped by police measures alone, but can only be temporarily disrupted before another cartel, trafficking scheme or something similar intervenes to supply the market made of addiction,” the statement of the Federal Commission to Combat Synthetic Opioid Trafficking in a report.
López Obrador took office in December 2018 after a campaign with the slogan “hugs, not bullets,” and for four years he has torn apart the follow-up provided by his predecessors in the war against drugs. Experts agree that large areas of Mexico are under the de facto control of drug cartels. López Obrador has been quick with what he considers “interference” from the United States in Mexico, and he has suggested that foreign agents are “spying” while preparing a fentanyl smuggling case against members of the Sinaloa cartel announced this year.
López Obrador has adopted a defensive attitude in the face of Washington’s criticism of his government’s failure to stem the flow of fentanyl.
“There is a kind of competition to see who says the most brutality, who is the boldest to threaten Mexico, to blame Mexico,” he said in a recent press conference. “Nonsense.”
Mexico will elect a new president next year, and Xóchitl Gálvez, the opposition candidate, recently told Univision that he would welcome more American agents and help. But when asked about military operations, Gálvez replied: “We must be serious, be wise with clear, forceful proposals, and not with electoral proposals.”
Currently, Mexico is also the main trading partner of the United States. It has agreed to host DEA agents and other federal agents, and to allow thousands of migrants turned away at the US border under the Trump and Biden administrations into its territory.
The United States invaded Mexican territory in the past and tried to overthrow Latin American governments to achieve its own political goals.
In 1846, in an attempt to expand America’s borders after supporting the annexation of Texas, President James K. Polk asked Congress to declare war on Mexico. The war ended when Mexico agreed to give up 55% of its territory, including the present-day states of California, Nevada, Utah, New Mexico, most of Arizona and Colorado, and parts of Oklahoma, Kansas and Wyoming.
In 1914, the United States attacked the port of Veracruz after capturing American soldiers. In 1916, President Woodrow Wilson deployed tens of thousands of soldiers into Mexican territory in response to revolutionary Pancho Villa’s attack on Columbus, New Mexico.
Recently, Trump promised to build a wall on the southern border to stop illegal immigration – and make Mexico pay for it. While he is still president, the United States will build or repair approximately 800 kilometers (500 miles) of wall along more than 3,200 kilometers (2,000 miles) of border.
Mexico never paid for any part of the wall. And border crossings have repeatedly reached record levels during Trump’s presidency and Biden’s term.
“We have to take seriously what they say,” Tony Payan, director of the Center for the United States and Mexico at Rice University’s Baker Institute for Public Policy, said of the Republican candidates. “But they got a little derailed. “They are involved in political theater, and for them Mexico is an easy target.”
Associated Press writers Elliot Spagat in San Diego and Mark Stevenson in Mexico City contributed to this report.