Mexican drug cartels now have more control of the U.S.-Mexico border than the governments of either country. Cartel leaders bribe the Mexican police, pay off politicians and operate with impunity. And exporting drugs like fentanyl to keep vulnerable Americans trapped in a cycle of addiction is central to their business model.
Every year, millions of pounds of drugs are seized at the border — and the numbers are going up. In the last several years, Border Patrol agents saw a 936% increase in the amount of fentanyl flowing into our country. Today, more Americans die each year from drugs than were killed in the entire Vietnam War. Yet despite this horrifying reality, Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador, aka AMLO, is more interested in attacking Republicans in the United States than in stopping the cartels wreaking havoc in his own country.
Several congressional Republicans have recently advocated designating Mexican drug cartels as foreign terrorist organizations. Reps. Dan Crenshaw and Mike Waltz have introduced a joint resolution to authorize President Biden to use military force against the cartels in Mexico.
The Mexican president didn’t take it well. He called the congressional actions “an offense against the people of Mexico, a lack of respect for our independence, our sovereignty.” Vowing to go after the American GOP in the next election, AMLO announced that he would “start an information campaign for Mexicans who live and work in the United States and for all Hispanics to inform them of what we are doing in Mexico.”
For congressional Republicans, there is only one proper response to Mexico’s threat of interference in U.S. elections: Double down. Legislators must up the ante and follow through on their calls to defeat the cartels in Mexico. With hundreds of thousands of Americans dying each year and the cartels’ participation in human trafficking across the border, now isn’t the time to backtrack. If standing up for justice draws the ire of a feckless president who gives haven to drug lords, so be it.
But tough action against the cartels isn’t just about sending a message to AMLO. It also sends a message to our greatest geopolitical threat: China. Chinese brokers continue to transmit the precursor chemicals necessary for the production of fentanyl to Mexican cartels and even send funds to support their operations. In March 2020, a Chinese national was arrested for laundering $65 million worth of illegal drugs to Mexican traffickers.
While controlling virtually every other aspect of its citizens’ lives, the Chinese Communist Party largely turns a blind eye to the illegal drug operation taking place within its border. The CCP most likely knows where the precursor chemicals are being developed. But they remain perfectly content with allowing the exportation of drugs that kill hundreds of thousands of Americans. In the same way that European powers weakened China by forcing it to import opium in the mid-19th century, the CCP seems to be striking back with its own drug-based strategy against the United States.
The coordination between Mexican cartels and their Chinese suppliers has caused incalculable suffering. But like the CCP, the Mexican president has also ignored much of the drug activity in his country. In the same speech deriding U.S. House Republicans, the Mexican president told falsehoods about his country’s involvement in the drug trade. He claimed that, in Mexico, “we do not produce fentanyl, and we do not have consumption of fentanyl.” With congressional authorization, U.S. military intelligence could quickly expose AMLO’s lies and target the cartel’s drug operations before they reach the U.S. border.
By treating the Mexican drug cartels as the narco-terrorists they are, the U.S. can accomplish many things at once. We can finally take the necessary steps to regain control of the border, defeat China’s underground drug strategy, and save American lives. Congress must signal that the United States does not negotiate with terrorists or the weak leaders that enable them.