Thursday, June 13, 2024

Mexico-U.S. security talks focus on weapons and fentanyl trafficking

Combating the smuggling of weapons and fentanyl will remain a priority for Mexico and the United States over the coming year, Foreign Affairs Minister Marcelo Ebrard said Friday after attending high-level security talks in Washington a day earlier.

Speaking at President López Obrador’s morning press conference, Ebrard said that the year-old security agreement between Mexico and the U.S. – the Bicentennial Framework for Security, Public Health and Safe Communities – is already yielding results, but acknowledged that more needs to be done to stop the southward flow of weapons and the northward flow of fentanyl and other drugs.

He said that Mexico and the United States are working together to combat the production of fentanyl, an activity in which powerful Mexican criminal organizations such as the Jalisco New Generation Cartel and the Sinaloa Cartel are engaged.

“We have a common plan for 2023, which is to drastically reduce the trafficking of weapons to Mexico and … to increase controls on precursor chemicals and the movement of fentanyl [to the United States],” Ebrard said.

The foreign minister offered a summary of the “fruits” of the bilateral security agreement, as presented in Washington during the high-level security dialogue in which he, Security Minister Rosa Icela Rodríguez, Attorney General Alejandro Gertz Manero and other high-ranking Mexican officials exchanged views with U.S. officials including Secretary of State Antony Blinken, Attorney General Merrick Garland and Secretary of Homeland Security Alejandro Mayorkas.

Ebrard highlighted that Mexican and U.S. authorities have seized over 32,000 firearms and 17 million rounds of ammunition over the past year, preventing them from reaching the hands of organized crime members in Mexico.

“This figure means homicides and femicides, or potential homicides and femicides,” he said, referring to the number of confiscated weapons. “It’s not a cold figure.”

Ebrard also said that over 5 tonnes of fentanyl pills, 154 tonnes of methamphetamine and 94 tonnes of cocaine were seized over the past year.

A car passes through a scanner at the San Ysidro border port between the U.S. and Mexico.
A car passes through a scanner at the San Ysidro border port between the U.S. and Mexico. U.S. Customs and Border Protection

“If we hadn’t worked together, these tonnes [of drugs] – which could poison thousands of people – would have arrived in the United States,” he said.

“… Mexico is confiscating more cocaine than the United States,” Ebrard added.

The foreign minister said that the security agreement also contributed to a 9.2% decline in homicides in Mexico in the first nine months of the year. Kidnappings and robberies have also declined, he said.

Ebrard said that Mexico proposed 20 measures to U.S. officials to strengthen the fight against arms trafficking. One proposed measure is for the United States to increase checks of vehicles heading to Mexico from that country.

Ebrard said that Mexico is “respectfully” asking the United States to help stop the flow of weapons from 10 counties in Arizona and Texas that have been identified as leading sources of firearms smuggled across the border.

He asserted that United States authorities should be checking vehicles leaving that country with the same thoroughness as they check those entering the U.S.

“What comes in is important but so is what goes out,” Ebrard said. “That’s essentially what we’re saying.”

The foreign minister highlighted that the military and the National Guard check vehicles on the Mexican side of the border.

National Guard checkpoints on highways near the border are one tool the federal government uses to check incoming vehicles.
National Guard checkpoints on highways near the border are one tool the federal government uses to check incoming vehicles. Twitter @GN_Carreteras

At a press conference with U.S. officials in Washington on Thursday, Ebrard declared that the Bicentennial Framework “is working,” even though a range of bilateral security challenges remain.

“There is still a way to go. This doesn’t mean that everything has been solved. But the most important indicator is that for the first time in the last few years we have seen a reduction in the homicide rate in Mexico,” he said.

For his part, Secretary of State Blinken said that officials at Thursday’s high-level meeting looked at progress toward “three main goals” that were established in accordance with the bilateral security agreement – “protecting our people, preventing transborder crime [and] pursuing criminal networks.”

“We’ve made significant progress, reflected in unprecedented investments, legislation [and] law enforcement action. And these efforts have already made a tangible difference in the lives of Mexicans and Americans,” he said.

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken and other officials on stage at the Washington, D.C., event.
U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken and other officials on stage at the Washington, D.C., event. Secretaría de Relaciones Exteriores

“Today’s discussion focused on the areas where we need to make even more progress, such as redoubling our efforts to combat the threats of fentanyl production and trafficking, arms trafficking, and the exploitation of migrants.”

The secretary of state also highlighted the United States’ broader cooperation with Mexico, and declared that the partnership between the two countries is in great shape.

“Across the bilateral, the regional, and global cooperation, we have I think one of the strongest – if not the strongest – partnership we’ve seen, certainly in my experience,” Blinken said.

In a joint statement, the Mexican and U.S. governments said they “remain committed to an enduring partnership based on mutual trust and respect for each country’s sovereignty and independence.”

“The Bicentennial Framework reaffirmed our commitment to take concrete actions on both sides of the border to address the shared security challenges affecting our communities, including human trafficking and smuggling, violence and illicit firearms, as well as substance use disorder and illicit drugs,” they said.

“The United States and Mexico recognize our shared commitment to uphold the rule of law through enhanced law enforcement cooperation and protect our communities from transnational criminal organizations.”

The two countries committed to pursuing 13 “actions” over the next year, among which were “commit to and implement an action plan to prevent the consumption and trafficking of synthetic drugs, specifically fentanyl and methamphetamines” and “prepare a collaborative report on arms trafficking to identify routes, organizations and tactics used to traffic firearms.”

Mexico News Daily  

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