In the first week of the Trump administration a clash occurred between the U.S. President Donald Trump and Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto, as Trump announced the building of a wall in the southern border and his intention to ask Congress for a 20 percent tax on imports from Mexico.
The tension was aggravated as the president insisted that Mexico pay for the wall. A cancellation of a scheduled meeting ensued.
As President Trump seemed to realize that things went out of control he followed up with a phone call with Pena Nieto where they agreed to engage in a dialogue to negotiate through private communication and discussed a number of bi-lateral issues at an appropriate pace.
It is understandable that President Trump is eager to show that he makes good on his campaign promises.
However, in the case of Mexico, there is no doubt that our southern border is permeable — not only to illegal immigrants but also to potential terrorists whose entrance to the country through legal means is impossible. Indeed, the U.S. Southern Command recently reported that about 30,000 out of the 300,000 people who cross the U.S. Mexican border are of Sunni-Arab origin.
Yet, there are multiple reasons why we should maintain a good relationship with Mexico, seeking the country’s cooperation rather than seek its alienation. Mexico’s stability affects something President Trump emphasized in his Inaugural address, which is the importance of meeting the challenges of "crime, and the gangs, and the drugs that have stolen too many lives and robbed our country of so much unrealized potential."
Thus, cooperation with Mexico in terms of extradition of criminals and the fight against drug traffickers is crucial.
The effectiveness of such fight heavily depends on Mexico’s justice system’s ability to prosecute the criminals, to properly enforce the law, and prevent to local corruption.
Under the Merida Initiative, the U.S. assists Mexico in disrupting organized criminal groups, institutionalizing the rule of law, strengthening the U.S-Mexico border and building strong communities.
The capture of "El Chapo" Guzman, the head of the Sinaloa cartel the main supplier of heroin to the U.S. was possible thanks to U.S.-Mexican intelligence and security cooperation.
The Mexican government has also restricted cash deposits, subjecting industries vulnerable to money laundering to new reporting requirements.
Mexico has also increased vetting of police officers likely to be corrupted.
The U.S. is additionally funding and assisting efforts to improve Mexico’s judicial and prosecutorial capabilities.
Mexico plays a role not only in in the interdiction of drugs coming from Mexico to the U.S. but also coming into Mexico from its southern borders.
Indeed, several countries in Central America are centers of drug trafficking and criminal activity, mostly from Mexican cartel. These cartels are being combated by the Mexican government.
Likewise, Mexico has remained a firm U.S. ally in the last two decades as some key Latin American countries created new alliances that rallied against the U.S.
More countries, in the name of regional integration and with a heavy influence from Venezuela, sought to isolate the U.S. from the area, often opposing U.S. military presence and in some cases even expelling the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA).
Mexico, along with other few countries like Paraguay and Colombia, abstained from joining any anti-American crusade.
A rift with Mexico could generate a wave of anti-Americanism that can spread throughout the rest of the continent and may weaken friendly countries in the Western Hemisphere.
Likewise, such development could increase the presence of rogue elements such as Iran and Hezbollah as they have flourished in the area under anti-American Latin American presidents.
As per the North America Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) it is important to make sure that all the pros and cons of that accord are properly weighed.
Taking unilateral moves without careful planning could have serious geo-political implications.
China and Russia may increase their economic, political or military influence, as it happened in the previous decade.
Political influence is important because it builds friendships that are needed to secure stability.
Sources of conflict are not only economic.They are also ideological, emotional, and political.
In the aftermath of the 9/11 attacks, we had to rely on partners for cooperation that provided military or logistical aid to us during our campaign in Afghanistan.
President Trump should take advantage of the talent he has appointed to his Cabinet in the Defense, State, and Treasury Departments, avoid stormy decisions — particularly in the Western Hemisphere, for this is the neighborhood where we live.
Luis Fleischman has worked as adviser for the Menges Hemispheric Security Project at the Center for Security Policy on issues related to Latin America. He is the author of "Latin America in the Post-Chavez Era: The Threat to U.S. Security." Fleischman is an adjunct professor of sociology and political science at Florida Atlantic University Honors College and FAU Lifelong Learning Society. For more of his reports, Go Here Now
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