United States – Mexico: Neighbors, not so distant | Opinion | The USA Print

I was shocked when I read several decades ago distant neighbors-first edition, 1985-, one of Alan Riding’s most fascinating books. In these pages, the work of an in-depth connoisseur, not only of Mexico but of Latin America, Riding summarizes essential aspects of the history of the complex neighborhood between the two United States: the “Americans” and the “Mexicans.”

Written when the postwar model that gave stability to Mexico had collapsed, from the eighties of the last century the economic and political model began to enter into crisis. This had and continues to have implications for both countries. They share more than 3,000 kilometers of border, a commercial exchange that exceeds 600,000 million dollars a year, a living migratory reality, the swamp area of ​​drug trafficking and organized crime. Likewise, from north to south, weapons of war legally purchased mainly in Texas to be used for crime on Mexican soil.

Between reality and good wishes, the course of things in Mexico has been seen as “stable” from the United States. The gigantic bilateral trade or private investment in Mexico are part of a reality that is added to being the first tourist destination for Americans, with about 18 million arriving each year by air, land or sea.

Underpinning the optimism is the fact that after 70 years of one-party rule by the PRI, it is now 25 years since party pluralism has functioned in the Mexican electoral system. Its electoral system, structured by the National Electoral Institute (INE), without being “perfect” has recognized prestige, so much so that it has become the main institutional reference for organizing and conducting electoral processes for Latin America.

An example was when the transitional government headed by Valentín Paniagua in Peru (2000-2001), with whom I had to act, had to work at forced marches to rebuild the electoral system. This had been destroyed and turned into a grotesque caricature in the 1990s by Fujimori’s autocracy. The collaboration and participation of the INE, to which we called, was crucial to build and implement a quality electoral system that has been operating in Peru with independence and seriousness for more than 20 years.

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While periodic migration crises or illegal drug trafficking periodically make headlines critical events that denote an apparent tension between these “distant neighbors,” at times they seem to be light winds that do not alter the stability of that neighborhood’s ocean liner. The reality of certain critical problems, then, usually seems to be placed in the background and to have passed a bit to the side.

Two matters would seem to have recently raised some suspicions when certain problems and serious contradictions were put on the table: the Mexican electoral reform and the actions of organized crime.

The electoral reform underway, according to the majority of experts on the subject consulted, could hit the bone of the Mexican electoral system.

Despite the historical rigor shown by the INE in organizing and carrying out the electoral processes for almost three decades, today it is hacked and mutilated in a dynamic that, for the pessimists, takes us back to bygone times in which electoral transparency was a delusion. The fact is that the process to hit the INE is already underway, weakening its functions and capacities, reducing more than 6,000 of its officials and seriously limiting its operation for its performance in the following electoral contests.

Caricaturing the massive protests against these measures as a matter of “the rich” does not conform to an objective analysis or what is obvious. The critical questions and comments from the international community on this electoral reform are not only valid but, I would say, even obligatory. Some of them come from the US, although they could be “asordinated” by the neighborhood and by the fact that the US electoral system is far from exemplary.

On the other, the gruesome and shocking issue of organized crime, which occurs mainly on Mexican soil, but in close coordination with the United States that cannot be ignored either. Indeed, organized crime articulates the trafficking of illegal drugs and people to the dynamic market in US lands and feeds on weapons and equipment purchased in the northern country.

The issue was brought to the fore recently with the unusual attack by organized crime against four Americans, two of whom were murdered in Tamaulipas nearly two weeks ago. And it was on the front pages in the United States, where this type of homicide tends to be underestimated, since there are few victims of that nationality and because they do not appear among the overwhelming number of the more than 35,000 homicide victims a year in Mexico, which It has generated an unfortunate “everyday” phenomenon.

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Regarding this criminal act – “out of the script” – responsibility for the two murders is attributed to Los Escorpiones, one of the divisions of the Gulf Cartel. The curious thing is that, in order for things to remain “at home”, it was members of that same cartel who would have later delivered, “alive and kicking” and for interrogation, the five responsible. They seem to seek, therefore, to distance themselves from these “dysfunctional” homicides so as not to provoke Uncle Sam.

Apart from this particular and even exceptional situation, what is obvious is the structural articulation between organized crime in Mexico and the space of its not-so-distant neighbor to the north. This proximity is one of joint responsibility and, under no circumstances, can it give legitimacy to the position of some extremist Republican senators to treat the phenomenon as “international terrorism” in order to carry out US military operations in Mexico.

The articulation and co-responsibility in the current process of action of criminality calls, yes, to concerted action and not to give effect to imperial-style claims. There are two particularly sensitive areas that call for it.

On the one hand, the not irrelevant fact that the powerful criminal organizations in Mexico operate with weapons usually bought with impunity in legal stores in Texas. They take advantage of the particular liberal state legislation on the arms trade, which can become war weapons, to equip themselves and kill. López Obrador’s repeated claim and the judicial action initiated by Mexico in the US to cut off that “free market” are fair, but they have not stopped it, much less blocked it. This has also become a crucial issue on the bilateral agenda of this free market of death.

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The executive order promulgated this Tuesday by Biden to increase background checks for the purchase of firearms is positive. It’s also good that he urges authorities to use the bipartisan gun control law passed last year. But those steps are dwarfed by the huge market for assault weapons that people can find in gun stores.

It is essential that I know of the step of radically limiting the trade in assault weapons in the United States, instruments that did not exist when the second amendment to the Constitution on the right to keep and bear arms was approved in 1791. It is darkly humorous that this time standard for cowboys serves as a “legal basis” to easily acquire an M16 or an AR-15 rifle today in Laredo or McAllen.

On the other hand, because the growing consumption of drugs and consciousness-altering drugs in the US is the other obvious face of drug production and trade. It operates as a trigger for the activity of the Mexican cartels.

It is obvious that the dramatic effects in the United States of the use of fentanyl, which causes the death of more than 100,000 Americans a year, are serious. But it cannot be ignored that this frantic temptation to consume this type of drug has to do with health and public information campaigns that, if they exist on US soil, are ostensibly ineffective.

Nor can we forget the historically causal connection -sometimes overlooked- of the powerful pharmaceutical industry -often unpunished- that produced opioids and made them easily accessible on the US market for years. The market and appetite were generated, which later opened the exponential trade and consumption pipeline of today’s widespread fentanyl.

Distant neighbors, then, but who are closely interconnected on issues in which responsibilities lie on both sides of the border

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