Binational Crime

President Enrique Peña Nieto arrived in Washington on Tuesday, Jan. 6 to talk about security — among many other topics — with Barack Obama. It was inevitable, since even though Mexico would have liked to prioritize the economy as the axis of their bilateral relationship over the past two years, the disappearance of the Ayotzinapa students caused the world to look again at the unresolved problem of organized crime in this country.

In the context of this visit, important civil society organizations such as Human Rights Watch have asked President Barack Obama to put pressure on his colleague to deliver justice over the Iguala events and to respect the human rights of the population. A pertinent request.

But at the same time we must demand that both governments take joint action on a problem that cannot be resolved completely in just one country. The U.S. provides firearms and Mexico runs organized crime. Two sides of the same coin and both must be addressed.

Throughout the continent, the cartels — which are no longer solely dedicated to drugs — have shown true coordination: They supply the U.S., from which they import firearms; grow drugs in South America; buy chemical precursors in China; launder money in the Caribbean; and extract rents from Mexican society. They operate like any other transnational company, while the U.S. and Latin American governments barely discuss topics to be addressed at joint summits.

Joint operations in which more than two governments of the hemisphere take part at the same time are practically nonexistent. Perhaps it is only mentioned that Drug Enforcement Agency agents provided information to help capture a drug kingpin. Nothing else. Are those the limits on cooperation in security matters between Mexico and the U.S.?

The northern power cannot use the closure of the multiple conduits it had at its disposal during the administration of Felipe Calderón as an excuse. Reducing communications to a single conduit — the government secretariat — did not change the mere exchange of intelligence information.

American institutions distrust the reliability of the Mexican ones. This is understandable, especially after witnessing the terrible collusion exposed by the events in Iguala last year. However, the U.S. must understand that it won’t be until it collaborates with its southern neighbor around equality of circumstances that the fight against organized crime will be truly effective, like the criminal operations in both countries.

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