As Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador begins transitioning his country away from its decade-long drug war, which has killed more than 100,000 Mexican citizens since 2006, officials in the Trump administration have remained largely silent about his moves. Washington is continuing its public relations strategy of saying very little about the war while helping Mexican security forces continue to fight it.
The Trump administration’s silence, which has been enabled by a lack of coverage in the US mass media, has not gone entirely unnoticed. Some members of Congress have begun to question the Trump administration’s strategy, arguing that the administration does not have an effective plan for winning the war.
“We are whistling by the graveyard if we don’t address and talk about an effective strategy for crushing the drug cartels,” Senator Ron Johnson (R-WI) said during a congressional hearing in April. To say that the Trump administration has simply been “whistling by the graveyard” as violence increases is not entirely accurate, however. Although the administration has kept mostly quiet about the growing violence, it has been working closely with Mexican military forces to crush the country’s drug cartels, exactly as Senator Johnson demanded.
As one of his very first moves in the White House, President Trump urged then-Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto to “knock the hell” out of the cartels, even proposing a US military intervention. “Our military will knock them out like you never thought of,” Trump said.
The drug war began in December 2006, when then-Mexican President Felipe Calderon began deploying tens of thousands of Mexican military forces across Mexico. Calderon’s move sparked a dramatic increase in drug-related violence, leading to some of the worst violence in Mexican history.
Although Mexican officials have often portrayed the violence as a matter of criminals killing criminals, human rights officials have insisted that the country’s military forces have killed countless civilians. Daniel Wilkinson, the managing director of the Americas Division at Human Rights Watch, wrote last year about “a vast cover-up” by the Mexican government to hide the truth about the violence, particularly its impact on civilians.
Through it all, the US government has been helping the Mexican government wage the war. By supporting the Mexican government with the multi-billion dollar Mérida Initiative, the US government has provided Mexican security forces with military equipment and training. The Pentagon has provided another half-billion dollars of additional support in amounts that closely correlate to the level of drug-related violence.
With the additional funding, US military forces have extensively trained the Mexican Marines, who have grown more lethal over the past several years.
Not everyone has looked as favorably on the growing ties between US and Mexican military forces. Last month, Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador (AMLO) called for a complete overhaul of the Mérida Initiative, saying that the program should be reoriented to provide Mexico with funding for economic development rather than military assistance.
“It hasn’t worked,” AMLO said, referring to the Mérida Initiative. “We don’t want cooperation in the use of force, we want cooperation for development.”
Excerpted from: ‘Is Mexico Winding Down or Winding up the Drug War?’.