U.S. Ambassador Ken Salazar told the L.A. Times the gap between the two nations is obvious

U.S. Ambassador to Mexico Ken Salazar, bids farewell after speaking at the ambassador's residence in Mexico City, Tuesday, Nov. 9, 2021, about the discussions between the two nations on visas for United States DEA agents. and Mexico's controversial energy reform. Mexico has refused to grant more visas to US agents and has proposed limiting the amount of electricity it will buy from gas and renewable power plants operated abroad. (AP Photo/Marco Ugarte)

Ken Salazar, the U.S. ambassador to Mexico, met with the Los Angeles Times for more than an hour while visiting California in November.

Salazar was eager to talk up the celebrations surrounding the U.S.-Mexico diplomacy bicentennial. We were eager to talk about the border. The pas de deux featured a lot of platitudes, a couple of tense moments, and a number I can’t shake: 13,000.

That was the estimate Salazar gave for the number of Mexicans who were studying at our universities at the time. Many of us were surprised to hear it was so low. We’ve been friends with Mexico for 200 years, and that’s all our diplomacy could muster? By comparison, our geopolitical adversary China had north of 300,000 on our campuses.

The reason for the gap between the two nations is obvious: Chinese students bring in an estimated $15 billion to the economy each year. Mexico’s economy is robust — the 15th largest in the world — but China is second only to the U.S. Apparently that number matters more than those 200 years.

And therein lies the rub.

Instead of sending 300,000 college students to the U.S. like China does, Mexico is being trampled by those two giants: China funnels fentanyl through Mexico to the U.S. market, and the U.S. exports guns to Mexico so the cartels can protect their product. It’s an ugly triangle of illicit trade, and Mexico gets the worse end of every deal.

And yet when drugs and guns claim lives on both sides of the U.S.’s southern border, Mexico is chastised for not doing more. More what exactly? President Andrés Manuel López Obrador had his own critique for Americans this month: “Why don’t you take care of your young people? Why don’t you take care of the serious problem of social decay? Why don’t [you] temper the constant increase in drug consumption?”

Those remarks came after Mexican authorities rescued the two Americans who were kidnapped by members of a drug cartel in Tamaulipas state this month. Two others were killed.


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