MEXICO CITY — As three North American leaders meet in Washington on Thursday, security issues are expected to be high on the agenda – at a time when cross-border cooperation between the United States and Mexico shows signs of strain.
Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador wants action to stop the smuggling of weapons into Mexico, where U.S. guns equip drug cartels and fuel violence. The United States, meanwhile, wants Mexico to further crackdown on cartels shipping drugs like fentanyl – as deaths from opioid overdoses surge in the United States. U.S. security officials also are seeking continued Mexican cooperation in stopping migrants transiting Mexican territory.
The meeting of President Joe Biden, López Obrador, known as AMLO, and Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau offers an international stage for the U.S. and Mexico to hash out ways to solve their interconnected problems amid shifting dynamics, experts said.
“You have a complex playing field in which the U.S. side is still keen on carrying out traditional law enforcement objectives like dismantling cartels, getting to the kingpins and acting as they have been. But on the Mexican side you’re seeing resistance to this sort of thinking,” said Falko Ernst, senior Mexico analyst at the International Crisis Group.
“There’s a clash of paradigms right now,” Ernst said, pointing to López Obrador’s professed security strategy of “hugs, not bullets,” even though he’s increasingly turned to the military for public safety tasks. “The U.S. is also in a situation where the Mexican side has gained a lot of leverage in negotiations, including with the migration issue.”
The U.S. is trying to reach an arrangement with Mexico on reinstating the Remain in Mexico program, which forces asylum seekers to wait in Mexican border cities while their cases are heard in U.S. courts. The U.S. is also managing the fallout of Mexico approving a law limiting the work of foreign agents south of the border, including Drug Enforcement Administration agents.
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