President López Obrador declined an offer from United States President Donald Trump to help Mexico combat organized crime after Monday’s attack on a Mormon family near the Sonora-Chihuahua border, but federal lawmakers are more open to the idea.
After three women and six children were murdered in an ambush, Trump said on Twitter that the United States was prepared to offer assistance to combat Mexico’s notorious cartels.
“If Mexico needs or requests help in cleaning out these monsters, the United States stands ready, willing & able to get involved and do the job quickly and effectively. The great new president of Mexico has made this a big issue, but the cartels have become so large and powerful that you sometimes need an army to defeat an army!” he wrote.
“This is the time for Mexico, with the help of the United States, to wage WAR on the drug cartels and wipe them off the face of the Earth. We merely await a call from your great new president!” Trump said.
López Obrador spoke to the U.S. president Tuesday about the attack on members of the LeBarón family but, according to Foreign Secretary Marcelo Ebrard, Trump’s proposal to “wage war” on cartels was not discussed.
López Obrador told reporters earlier Tuesday that his response to Trump’s offer was a “categorical no,” explaining “we have to act independently in accordance with our constitution.”
“. . . We don’t need the intervention of a foreign government to attend to these cases . . . We are a free and sovereign country, another government cannot intervene in our territory if there isn’t a cooperation agreement and of course, without an express request on our part . . .” he said.
The president reiterated his commitment to pacifying the country not by going down “the well-worn path” of fighting fire with fire but by pursuing policies and programs of development and well-being, a strategy he refers to as “abrazos, no balazos” (hugs, not bullets).
“We’re already getting results and we’re going to get more,” López Obrador said, adding that the actions of criminal groups “will not derail us.”
However, the government’s non-confrontational security strategy has come under intense pressure in the wake of a cartel ambush in Michoacán that killed 13 state police on October 14, a botched attempt to arrest one of Joaquín “El Chapo” Guzmán’s sons that triggered a wave of cartel attacks in Culiacán, Sinaloa, later the same week and Monday’s attack on the LeBarón family.
Advocating for the United States government to do more to combat crime in Mexico, The Wall Street Journal said in an editorial published Tuesday that “drug gangs control huge swathes of the country.”
It suggested that if Mexico cannot control the violence generated by narco-traffickers the U.S. should intervene to protect its citizens in both countries.
The Drug Enforcement Administration should be capable of identifying and locating those responsible for the attack and would be a sign that U.S. justice “has a great reach,” the newspaper said.
It also stated “a U.S. military operation cannot be ruled out.”
In light of the security situation – Mexico is on track to record its most violent year in recent history – opposition lawmakers as well as those with the ruling Morena party believe that accepting some assistance from the United States to combat criminal organizations and investigate Monday’s attack is the right thing to do.
“We mustn’t look at it [the United States offer] dogmatically . . . If they can provide information to capture the culprits, it’s welcome,” said Ricardo Monreal, Morena’s leader in the Senate.
“I would not completely disagree with collaboration,” Monreal said, adding that he believed that the United States could assist the investigation into Monday’s attack “without compromising national sovereignty.”
“I believe that as long as it’s a respectful collaboration, without damaging [our] sovereignty, without harming the national state, it’s the right thing to do,” he said.
Jorge Carlos Ramírez Marín, a senator with the Institutional Revolutionary Party, said that security cooperation with the United States is normal and that considering that the victims of Monday’s attacks were citizens of that country, collaboration on the case is logical.
National Action Party Senator Julen Rementería said that “any assistance on security matters is good” although he added that he wasn’t supportive of Trump’s proposal to “wage war on the drug cartels.”
Instead, U.S. assistance should could come mainly in the form of intelligence sharing, he said.
Miguel Ángel Mancera of the Democratic Revolution Party said that Mexico should accept assistance from the United States to stop the illegal trafficking of arms into the country.
The U.S. “can help Mexico with technology, with resources, to avoid the entry of firearms,” the senator said.
Security Secretary Alfonso Durazo said on Wednesday that the weapons used in the attack on the LeBarón family were made in the United States.
The governments of both countries reached an agreement in October to “seal the borders” against the illegal trafficking of firearms three months after the Secretariat of Foreign Affairs said that firearms from the United States are used in seven out of every 10 high-impact crimes committed in Mexico.
Julian LeBarón, a relative of Monday’s victims and an anti-crime activist, is also supportive of collaborating with the United States on the investigation into the ambush, which federal authorities believe could have been perpetrated by La Línea, a gang with links to the Juárez Cartel.
“We will accept help from the United States and wherever it comes from until we know the truth about what happened,” he told the newspaper Reforma.
The government’s security strategy is “not working,” he said. “We have terrible violence in the whole country, a lot of murders every day and justice is never served.”
Asked whether members of the Mormon community in northern Mexico could form their own self-defense force, LeBarón responded:
“I think that every individual has the right to defend himself if he doesn’t get defense elsewhere but we’re civilized people and we understand that due process is necessary . . . We don’t want to move into [carrying out] any kind of lynchings but we obviously believe that . . . we have the right at all times to defend our lives and our freedom.”
Leaving Mexico is not an option, he added.
“We were born in Mexico, we’re Mexicans and for nothing will we give into evil and the criminals, we’re going to defend what we’ve inherited and we’re going to defend what is ours.”