The United States is calling for authorities in Mexico to intensify their crackdown on organized crime groups, doubling down on strategies that have failed to produce any meaningful security gains over the last 15 years.
US President Donald Trump delivered a memorandum to the Secretary of State on September 16 that said while there have been “signs of progress” regarding Mexico’s anti-crime fight, “more must be done.”
“These cartels present a clear threat to Mexico and the Mexican government’s ability to exert effective control over parts of its country,” the president said. “Mexico must clearly demonstrate its commitment to dismantling the cartels and their criminal enterprises and do more to protect the lives of Mexican and American citizens threatened by these groups.”
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The annual memo comes in the context of increased US pressure on the administration of Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador. In the last year alone, President Trump has threatened to designate Mexico’s criminal groups as terrorist organizations and send in US troops to “clear [them] out.”
President López Obrador has rejected these escalations but has so far been unable to get a grip on spiraling violence in the country. If current trends hold, 2020 will close with yet another record number of homicides.
“Unless the Mexican government demonstrates substantial progress in the coming year backed by verifiable data, Mexico will be at serious risk of being found to have failed demonstrably to uphold its international drug control commitments,” President Trump threatened.
InSight Crime Analysis
Despite sprinkles of praise for asset forfeiture reforms and increased extraditions, President Trump’s tough talk highlights just how out of touch he is with Mexico's security dynamics and the urgent need for innovation.
From immigration enforcement to cracking down on social movements, the United States has long encouraged and supported hardline measures in Mexico. The same holds true for the fight against organized crime.
Washington has poured billions of dollars into Mexico’s anti-crime fight through programs like Plan Mérida, launched in 2008 to tackle arms trafficking and drug smuggling, among other things. Undermining these efforts in part are corrupt top-level officials that the United States has been willing to work alongside despite strong indications they were compromised.
But while government officials in both countries have shown little interest in changing course, scores of academics, researchers and investigators are searching for a new understanding of Mexico’s drug and security dynamics.
In July 2020, for example, Noria Research launched the Mexico Opium Network, a data-driven approach to “systematically increase understanding” and “gather robust empirical data on the opium market and its stakeholders.”
The collective of researchers and analysts has also launched a long-term project to produce a detailed analysis of local dynamics -- historical, political and social -- driving violence across Mexico using field-based research.
“Violence must be understood as a social and political phenomenon, not as spontaneous reaction or an individual, isolated issue,” according to the announcement.