Top US officials, including Secretary of State Antony Blinken, were in Mexico on Wednesday (4/10) to meet with Mexican officials and discuss the issue of drug trafficking and the humanitarian crisis on the border between the two countries.
Blinken will be accompanied by US Attorney General Merrick Garland and US Secretary of Homeland Security Alejandro Mayorkas. The US delegation is scheduled to meet with Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador and Rosa Icela Rodriguez, minister of security and citizen protection.
The meeting came amid rising tensions between the two countries. The United States is facing an opioid addiction epidemic that claims 100,000 lives each year. Most of the deaths were caused by fentanyl, a powerful narcotic substance trafficked across the border by Mexican drug cartels.
At the same time, the US border to the south is facing a daily flood of migrants numbering in the thousands. They use Mexico as a starting point for attempts to enter the US, either illegally or by seeking asylum as refugees.
These two problems have led to calls from a number of US political leaders who support aggressive action, including military intervention, as voiced by several Republican presidential candidates.
US officials are expected to ask Mexico to deploy more law enforcement personnel to intercept shipments of fentanyl raw materials and shut down laboratories used to produce it.
Mexico may respond coldly. The Mexican government, including Lopez Obrador himself, has been vocal in criticizing American politicians who tout drug and immigration issues. Mexico accused US politicians of scapegoating their country for their own country’s problems.
Lopez Obrador once said that the opioid epidemic in the US was caused by “social decay” in the country.
In a speech delivered at the University of Texas before flying to Mexico on Wednesday, Blinken was careful not to say the blame rested entirely with Mexico. He actually emphasized that Washington wanted to maintain good relations with its neighboring country.
“Mexico is… our biggest trading partner in the world,” he said. “We want to maintain that. We want to maintain the relationship, the bond that unites us together.”
He added, “And we also have a shared responsibility. One of the things that drives the drug trade here and facilitates it is the flow of weapons from the US to Mexico. We have a responsibility to help them overcome those problems.”
Despite the presence of three top Biden administration officials in Mexico, expectations for the two-day meeting are not high, experts said.
Will Freeman, a fellow in Latin American studies at the Council on Foreign Relations, told VOA that similar meetings in 2021 and 2022 produced few significant policy changes.
“The Biden administration is trying to present a fairly positive view of cooperation, ignoring the fact that cooperation is at a historic low,” he said. (rd/rs)