In an appearance before the U.S. Senate, Secretary of State Antony Blinken responded to criticisms about efforts to combat drug trafficking. Pressed by Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham, Blinken said, “I think that’s fair to say, yes,” that there are areas of Mexico where the government does not have control over the cartels.
Graham, a close ally of former President Donald Trump, is one of the far-right legislators who are blackmailing the Biden administration into classifying narcotrafficking gangs based in Mexico as “foreign terrorist organizations.” This would open the doors to military intervention by Washington in Mexico. But also (and this reveals the imperialist intentions behind the Republican campaign in pursuit of this goal), it would criminalize and punish China simply because chemical precursors for the manufacture of fentanyl, the opioid that has wreaked havoc in the U.S., are produced there.
Blinken’s diplomatic ineptitude and Graham’s nefarious game are symptomatic of the long-standing practice by the U.S. political class of blaming Mexico and other countries for the scourge of drug abuse that is afflicting its cities. This position, which has served as justification for interventionist policies in the Western Hemisphere, overlooks the fact that our countries have achieved a high level of economic integration that has also led to integration in criminal activities; criminal enterprises are as transnational as any other industry. Furthermore, the argument exploits the xenophobia of a part of its population, enabling the authorities to evade responsibility and cover up the fact that the traffic in drugs originates in the U.S. The U.S. is not only where the demand for drugs is, but it is also the home of the arms industry that empowers the cartels, the financial institutions that facilitate and manage money laundering and even government agencies that work on behalf of organized crime. This has been proven in cases like that of ATF operations Wide Receiver and Fast and Furious, which supplied weapons, or in the DEA’s assistance in transferring and laundering millions of dollars of Michoacán Family cartel money. And we can’t forget the episode of former DEA agent José Irizarry, sentenced to 12 years in prison after admitting that he spent a decade colluding with Colombian cartels in money laundering. During this time, he traveled around the world, indulging in a life of luxury and excess, in the company of the people he was supposed to have been pursuing.
To make things worse, if the U.S. targets the Mexican government’s presumed loss of control over part of its territory, this is likely to backfire on Washington. Judging by the unchecked consumption of drugs and how easy it is to move them, it seems like the entire U.S. is under the control of the drug traffickers. Even worse still, the story that the cartels do not exist north of the Río Grande reinforces the intruders’ certainty that these criminal groups are now in the U.S. political and economic spheres. This leads to the absurd conclusion that the drugs are distributing themselves, without supporting structures or complicity that could explain how widespread they are.
In this way, the domestic political games produce these statements that undermine Mexican sovereignty. They put an unnecessary strain on a relationship that has required a lot of effort to stabilize and which is going through a period of transition. In addition to making the bilateral links function less smoothly, this kind of talk undermines the respectful collaboration that is indispensable for fighting the problems of crime and violence. Unfortunately, based on the dynamics of the U.S. election system, we can predict that this kind of craziness is going to keep happening in the near future.