“We will not allow any foreign government to intervene in our territory, much less with armed forces,” AMLO told US neocons.
Relations between US and Mexican lawmakers plumbed new lows this week, as a coterie of Republican senators, congressmen and a former attorney general called for direct US military intervention against Mexico’s drug cartels. They included Lindsey Graham, who has lent his support to every single US military intervention and regime change operation since becoming senator in 2003. Together with John McCain, he helped lay some of the ground work for the NATO-Russia proxy war in Ukraine, famously telling Ukrainian soldiers: “your fight is our fight”.
Setting the Stage for US Military Intervention
Now, Graham wants to introduce legislation to “set the stage” for U.S. military force in Mexico, saying it is time to “get tough” on the southern neighbour’s drug cartels and prevent them from bringing fentanyl across the border. The senator’s intervention came just days after four US citizens were kidnapped in the northern Mexican city of Matamoros, two of whom were killed. It is not yet clear why the kidnapping place, but all four of the victims had lengthy rap sheets for drug offences. Whether that has any bearing on the crime has not been confirmed.
Graham added he would “introduce legislation to make certain Mexican drug cartels foreign terrorist organizations under U.S. law and set the stage to use military force if necessary.” Graham escalated tensions on Thursday by describing Mexico as a “narcostate”. His words elicited a furious response from Mexico’s President Andrés Manuel Lopéz Obrador (AMLO for short), who said (translated by yours truly):
Once and for all, let’s set our position straight. We will not allow any foreign government to intervene in our territory, much less with armed forces. And from today we will begin an information campaign for Mexicans and Hispanics that live and work in the United States to inform them of what we are doing in Mexico and how this initiative of the Republicans, besides being irresponsible, is an insult to the Mexican people and a lack of respect to our independence and sovereignty. And if they do not change their attitude and continue using Mexico for electoral propaganda… we are going to recommend not voting for this party.
This would be no small matter, given that 34.5 million Hispanic Americans were eligible to vote in 2022’s mid-terms, making Latinos the fastest-growing racial and ethnic group in the U.S. electorate. According to Pew Research, the number of Hispanic eligible voters increased by 4.7 million between 2018 and 2022, accounting for 62% of the total growth in U.S. eligible voters during that time. And AMLO has significant influence over this demographic. But that is unlikely to have much of an effect on the Republican neocons pushing for direct US intervention against Mexican drug cartels.
They include, all too predictably, Senators Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio. Also on board are Reps. Dan Crenshaw and Stephen Walts, who in January presented a joint resolution in Congress seeking authorisation for the “use of United States Armed Forces against those responsible for trafficking fentanyl or a fentanyl-related substance into the United States or carrying out other related activities that cause regional destabilization in the Western Hemisphere.”
Also along for the ride is former Attorney General (under both George HW Bush and Donald Trump), whom the late New York Times columnist William Safire used to refer to as “Coverup-General Barr” for his role in burying evidence of then-President George H.W. Bush’s role in “Iraqgate” and “Iron-Contra.” In an op-ed for the Wall Street Journal, Barr likened Mexico’s “narco-terrorists” to Isis and calls Reps. Crenshaw and Waltz’s joint resolution a “necessary step”:
What will it take to defeat the Mexican cartels? First, a far more aggressive American effort inside Mexico than ever before, including a significant U.S. law-enforcement and intelligence presence, as well as select military capabilities. Optimally, the Mexican government will support and participate in this effort, and it is likely to do so once they understand that the U.S. is committed to do whatever is necessary to cripple the cartels, whether or not the Mexican government participates.
Barr called AMLO the cartel’s “chief enabler” for refusing to wage war against the cartels with quite the same zeal as his predecessors:
“In reality, AMLO is unwilling to take action that would seriously challenge the cartels. He shields them by consistently invoking Mexico’s sovereignty to block the U.S. from taking effective action.”
Bizarrely, Barr makes this claim even as the US and Mexico are quietly intensifying their military cooperation. As the investigative journalism website Contralinea reports, one of the millions of documents leaked in a massive cyberattack on the Mexican Secretariat of National Defense (Sedena), in October revealed the extent to which the US and Mexican armed forces are deepening their collaboration on “shared security challenges” such as combating organised crime, arms, drugs and people trafficking.
According to the leaked GANSEG document, the objective going forward of the Armed Forces of Mexico and the United States is to interact (emphasis my own) “closely, efficiently and in an orderly manner to strengthen bilateral military cooperation in matters of protection and regional security, evaluating existing bilateral mechanisms in order to work with a common strategic vision.”
The tactical-strategic bilateral military cooperation framework will also involve trilateral meetings between the defence ministers of Mexico, the United States and Canada. But that apparently isn’t enough for certain Republican neocons, who want the US government and military to take matters into their own hands…
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