What the U.S. says vs what Mexico hears

Even when President Trump and senior U.S. officials go out of their way to say positive things about cooperation with Mexico, their manner of expression reinforces negative interpretations of their intentions.  Two current examples from Trump’s interview before the Super Bowl and Secretary Kelly’s testimony in Congress together with Mexican columnist reactions:

What the U.S. says:

Trump: We have to do something about the cartels. I did talk to [Peña Nieto] about it. I want to help him with it. … He seemed very willing to get help from us because he has got a problem, and it’s a real problem for us. … We get along very well. But they have problems controlling aspects of their country.

Kelly: If the drugs are in the United States, we’ve lost. … I think a huge partner here is Mexico. If we can help them get after the poppy production, … if we can help them get after the production labs, if we can help them get after the heroin, the methamphetamine … before it gets to the border.

What Mexican commentators hear: 

Alejandro Hope: The “aid” that Trump is supposedly offering isn’t aid:  it is war. … There isn’t … a recognition of the co-responsibility of the two countries with the problem of transnational organized crime.  … Trump’s offer is … bullets for the narcos in Mexico – period. If this is aid, I prefer open threats.

Salvador García Soto: What Trump suggested and Kelly confirmed is to take the Merida Initiative to the next level and relaunch it as a new “Plan Mexico,” similar to “Plan Colombia.” … a military assistance plan … which the Americans would coordinate and execute–with the Mexican army and police as “allies” and subordinates.

Raymundo Riva Palacio:  This plan would signify the end of the ability of Los Pinos [the Mexican White House] to take independent and autonomous decisions, through a monumental qualitative change in the bilateral cooperation over the past 10 years: the fight against drugs would depend strategically and tactically on the United States.

More extensive quotes are below.

President Trump interview with Bill O’Reilly on Fox News, Feb. 5

O’Reilly:  Let’s talk about Mexico. There’s a report that you talked to President [Peña] Nieto and you told him … that if his army couldn’t handle the drug cartels, that U.S. army soldiers would. Did you say that?

Trump: We have to do something about the cartels. I did talk to him about it. I want to help him with it. I think he’s a very good man. We have a very good relationship …. He seemed very willing to get help from us because he has got a problem, and it’s a real problem for us. … I love the [Mexican] people. I really like this administration. I think he’s a good man. We get along very well. But they have problems controlling aspects of their country. There’s no question about it, and I would say the drugs and the drug cartels are No. 1.

DHS Secretary Kelly testimony  before the House Homeland Security Committee, Feb. 7

If the drugs are in the United States, we’ve lost. … Last year, our Colombian friends, the best, closest allies we have in Latin America, bar none, eradicated tens of thousands of acres of cocoa, seized [hundreds of tons] of cocaine before it ever left, and destroyed hundreds and hundreds of drug labs. So that is all cocaine that never started the trip up. …

Heroin — 99% is produced in Mexico. Poppies grown in Mexico, in Guatemala, and trafficked up into the United States. … The vast majority of methamphetamines, once again [are] produced in Mexico … and trafficked into the United States. I think a huge partner here is Mexico. If we can help them get after the poppy production, … if we can help them get after the production labs, if we can help them get after the heroin, the methamphetamine … before it gets to the border….

Alejandro Hope, “Trump wants ‘to help,’” Feb. 8

The “aid” that Trump is supposedly offering isn’t aid:  it is war.  There isn’t, as in the more elaborated versions of the Merida Initiative, a recognition of the co-responsibility of the two countries with the problem of transnational organized crime.  There isn’t … any component of institution building, or any effort to deal with the social causes of the phenomenon. Trump’s offer is, it seems, bullets for the narcos in Mexico – period. If this is aid, I prefer open threats.  At least it is sincere.

Salvador García Soto, “Kelly: A ‘Plan Colombia’ for Mexico,”  Feb. 8

John Kelly dispelled any doubts and clearly stated the kind of “collaboration and aid” that the Trump administration wants with Mexico in the area of drug trafficking: a military assistance plan in which the U.S. Army and Department of Defense design and coordinate the fight against drugs in Mexican territory, with strategies, military bases, and economic resources by means of which the Americans would coordinate and execute–with the Mexican army and police as “allies” and subordinates–actions to eradicate plants and the production of natural and synthetic drugs in our territory and prevent them from getting to theirs.  What Donald Trump suggested and John Kelly confirmed is to take the Merida Initiative to the next level and relaunch it as a new “Plan Mexico,” similar to “Plan Colombia.”

Raymundo Riva Palacio, “What Trump Wants,” Feb. 8

The words of Trump and his advisors reveal the core of what they seek in their relationship with Mexico and the Peña Nieto government, whom they do not consider a reliable ally in the fight against the cartels, but an enemy. … This plan would signify the end of Mexican sovereignty in terms of the ability of Los Pinos to take independent and autonomous decisions, through a monumental qualitative change in the bilateral cooperation over the past 10 years: the fight against drugs would depend strategically and tactically on the United States.

 

 

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