US and Mexico begin work towards revitalising security partnership

Prime US and Mexican officers met on Friday to attempt to revitalise a bilateral safety relationship that has been blighted by the high-profile arrest of a former Mexican defence minister final 12 months.

Having simply sought to patch up relations with France after the fallout from the Aukus submarine deal, Antony Blinken, US secretary of state, led the nation’s delegation to satisfy Andrés Manuel López Obrador, Mexico’s president, and take part in talks on migration, drug trafficking and legal justice.

“It’s time for a complete new strategy to our safety co-operation,” Blinken mentioned in Mexico Metropolis on Friday.

The 2 sides are engaged on a brand new, broader framework for safety co-operation that can embrace public well being and financial alternatives, although consultants mentioned concrete outcomes have been unlikely on this first spherical of discussions.

Some see the mere existence of high-level talks as a step ahead for the rocky relationship between the international locations, which share a border that’s almost 2,000 miles lengthy.

“The truth that we’re speaking once more is enormously essential, the truth that not so much will come out of it’s secondary,” mentioned Pamela Starr, a professor on the College of Southern California who has suggested each the Mexican and US governments on overseas affairs. “Speaking and collaborating is step one to getting stuff performed.”

US-Mexico relations grew extra fractious beneath former president Donald Trump, and sustained important injury final 12 months when US authorities detained Salvador Cienfuegos, a former Mexican defence minister, on drug trafficking costs with out tipping off Mexico prematurely.

In response, Mexico’s authorities launched a marketing campaign to have him launched, calling the allegations baseless and handed a legislation limiting the actions of overseas brokers on Mexican soil.

The US in the end relented and dropped the costs, citing “delicate and essential overseas coverage concerns”. However when Mexico later printed tons of of pages of proof from the case, Washington threatened to finish legal co-operation.

Marcelo Ebrard, Mexico’s overseas minister, mentioned this week that the premise for Friday’s dialogue was mutual respect, and that Mexico was now targeted on lowering homicides, together with stopping the circulate of US guns.

“It could be very unlucky if we didn’t perceive one another, if the connection wasn’t strengthened” López Obrador mentioned at a breakfast on Friday with the US officers.

Alejandro Mayorkas, US homeland safety chief, additionally attended the assembly. Immigration via Mexico has grow to be a political drawback for Joe Biden, US president. US authorities’ dealing with of the arrival of 1000’s of Haitians migrants who arrived on the border drew condemnation from left and proper.

In recent times the US has pushed Mexico to step up enforcement in opposition to migrants, together with using the Nationwide Guard and deportation flights. That reliance has made Washington reluctant to criticise López Obrador publicly over different insurance policies, consultants mentioned.

“There’s no query in my thoughts the Biden administration is attempting to be as quiet and as diplomatic as they probably can with López Obrador,” Starr mentioned. “They simply don’t have the political area in the US to lose Mexico’s co-operation on migration.”

The US-Mexico safety relationship has lengthy been targeted on drug trafficking and associated violence. Since 2007, Mexico has seen a surge in its murder price, with organised crime infiltrating authorities, nearly 100,000 folks lacking, and tons of of 1000’s displaced from their properties.

López Obrador has taken a much less confrontational strategy to the nation’s drug cartels than his predecessors, in what he calls a “hugs not bullets” technique. In a seminal second in 2019, his authorities released the son of infamous drug trafficker Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzmán not lengthy after seize to keep away from civilian deaths.

“There’s a technique to keep away from confrontation,” mentioned Romain Le Cour, co-ordinator of the safety and violence discount programme at think-tank México Evalúa. “When it comes to figures it’s apparently not working, murder charges are usually not dropping.”

A cornerstone of the bilateral safety relationship has been the Mérida Initiative, a US funding stream that grew to become synonymous with navy tools for Mexico’s struggle on medication. Mexico has requested for it to get replaced.

Blinken mentioned Friday that after 13 years of Mérida, it was time for one thing new to deal with to root causes of the international locations’ safety issues.

The US state division mentioned on Thursday that it hopes to have a plan by the top of January 2022.

Along with rising violence, the US has grow to be more and more involved over the booming commerce for Mexican cartels in artificial medication like fentanyl, which kills tens of 1000’s of individuals a 12 months within the US.

Le Cour is hoping that the dialogue will acknowledge the previous failures and search for methods to construct public establishments reasonably than simply react to threats.

“There have been billions of {dollars} poured into the US-Mexico safety co-operation, and the state of affairs shouldn’t be bettering in goal phrases,” Le Cour mentioned. “On the bottom, it’s a complete failure actually.”

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