The other agenda: Mexico-US disagreements

Mexico’s relationship with its northern neighbor has fundamentally changed. The personality of the presidents (AMLO, Trump and Biden) counts for a lot. The socio-political and economic evolution of each of the two nations, the international economic and financial environment, the new geopolitics in Europe, and the US with China, the multiplication and intensification of global migration phenomena and in North America, among others.

However, the essential issues on the bilateral agenda are the same, although with different emphasis and modalities. Neighborhood and history underlie the dialogue.

For the US, the essential objective is for Mexico to be politically stable and at peace, on which we agree. That purpose faces new and challenging threats today. Hence, one of the problems continues to be security, due to the accelerated development of cross-border organized crime during the last two decades. It is therefore not surprising that the security issue appears explicitly (8 of 17) or veiled (12 of 17) in all high-level bilateral meetings.

However, good by good it is not known what has been agreed. Frequent bilateral meetings have been characterized by a lack of transparency about agendas and agreements. The details are insufficient for both nations to understand what has actually been negotiated.

Some of these agreements cannot be hidden. For example, Mexico’s concession on immigration control through its southern border, since the Trump presidency. What is not known is how many immigrants the United States will accept and how Mexico will face the permanence of those who will not reach the United States and will remain in its territory. This has been covered with a discursive veil that focuses on “addressing the phenomenon at its origin”, that is, on the lack of economic and democratic development in Latin America and the Caribbean, especially the so-called Northern Triangle.

In 2020, the economic and social devastation of the pandemic was highlighted as the central cause, followed by the economic motive (lack of growth and endemic inequality). Soon this argument was untenable, given the frequency of asylum applications for political reasons, due to the violation of human rights. Neither the Government of Mexico nor that of the United States have communicated how they intend to handle the asylum problem. In this case the information is not opaque but deliberately misleading.

The underlying disagreements that are not reported are: the US interest in prolonging the Merida Initiative (see State Department and Ambassador Ken Salazar). Said program implies the capacity by law of the US Congress to verify the specific destination of the resources and their effective application; the situation of the DEA agents who are in Mexico, including their obligation to report their activities to the SRE by law, starting with the unilateral arrest and offending in the arrest of General Cienfuegos; the demand of the head of the Northern Command that the Sedena and Navy share detailed information on air and sea incursions; the sword of Damocles that represents for Mexico the express intention of Trump and the Governor of Texas that the US declare the Mexican cartels terrorist organizations, which would allow the US to use military force to combat them.

None of this is explained in the statements, which also differ between agencies and countries. The best example is the latest High Level Security Dialogue that produced an “understanding” based on the best diplomatic rhetorical capabilities of both countries. The downside is that such rhetoric did not fully highlight the results of the meeting, for example, the presence of Attorney General Garland and the absence of prosecutor Gertz-Manero, who has a long list of unresolved issues with the US. It is good that the Biden government pays attention to the relationship with Mexico at the highest level, especially to security and migration issues. Too bad I’m allowing cover-up news coverage.

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