The question must be asked; with mothers and their children incinerated to ash, presumably by feuding Mexican drug cartels.
Could the deaths of the La Mora fundamentalist Mormons have been avoided if the U.S. and Mexico had held true and solidly committed to an outline for action agreed upon more than a decade ago in a plan called the Me rida Initiative?
The slaughter of three mothers and six of their children on a desolate stretch of road in Northern Mexico says a lot about how the drug cartels feel.
They demonstrate, assuredly and with great bravado, that they can murder innocent women and children with impunity. It matters not that the families held dual Mexican-U.S. citizenship. Because the business model of the cartels is upheld by the obstinance of both countries.
Drug-related homicides in Mexico and opioid-related deaths in the U.S. have both escalated dramatically in recent years.
Yet neither Mexico nor the U.S. is led by a president willing to carry out the long-term, focused plan of shared responsibility previously outlined to change the dynamics fueling both the violence and the deaths.
They haven’t done it so far. And the rhetoric from President Donald Trump and his Mexican counterpart Andrés Manuel López Obrador following the November 4 murders gives further proof to the contention.
Trump is all bombast. He’s envisioning an all-out war, with military firepower, death and destruction. He’s like an adolescent who has seen too many movies glorifying explosive confrontations.
López Obrador is equally reluctant to face reality. He knows that his predecessors only managed to turn Mexican cities into killing streets when the military tried to outgun the cartels. So he’s latched to tones of peace and harmony, insisting to a point of laughability that “hugs, not bullets” can prevail, a nod to social reforms to steer people from crime.
Neither man is fully turning toward the Me rida Initiative. The plan originated with prior presidents George W. Bush and Felipe Calderon. Me rida’s objectives are based on frank admissions about how each country contributes and fails, creating avenues for the cartels by falling short on agreed reforms and cooperative actions.
“Both governments have struggled to fulfill those commitments,” according to a June 2019 update by the Congressional Research Service.
North America provides the market for illicit drugs such as meth, heroin, fentanyl and marijuana. We also give Mexican criminals firearms, allowing them to pass over the border by failing to regulate.
There have been successes, one highlight being the extradition of Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman, which led to his life sentence earlier this year. And efforts to train and equip police in Mexico have bolstered surveillance at the border.
All told, the U.S. has contributed $3 billion to such efforts since 2008. But that’s a pinprick compared to the estimated $19 billion to $29 billion worth of drugs the cartels sell annually to Americans.
In the U.S. we use expression that someone “got away with murder,” the subtext of which is that actually getting away with killing someone is egregious and uncommon.
In Mexico, getting away with murder is the norm, at least for cartel-related criminals.
And that’s largely because the country lacks the trained police forces at the state and local level. Investigators are needed who are well schooled and equipped, and working within departments that are free from corruption. Equally important are prosecutors and judges who are independent from politics so that people cooperate, faithful to the outcomes.
Instead, López Obrador has built a National Guard and sent many of those troops to the country’s southern border to appease Trump’s desire to keep migrants away from the U.S.
And still Trump is obsessed with building a wall to keep out the Mexican and Central American people are who are fleeing the violence that is a direct result of North Americans’ insatiable illicit drug habits. He’s beholden to the gun lobby that undercuts new laws that could help stop the flow of firearms across the border.
Both presidents are ill-equipped by attitude and focus to take the drug cartels to task. They’re straying from the original shared responsibilities of the Merida Initiative.
The Mormon families of La Mora, vulnerable by the inaction of both governments, wandered into that geo-political stalemate.
Readers can reach Mary Sanchez at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow her on Twitter @msanchezcolumn.
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