As USMCA negotiations drag on, Texas Democrats Vicente Gonzalez and Filemon Vela urged House Speaker Nancy Pelosi to press Mexico for firm security commitments in the war on Mexican cartels to protect U.S. trade and tourism.
“We can no longer afford to be silent. This trade pact is critical to our economy and we need to get this right or risk standing in the way of our own economic success,” Gonzalez said in the release. The representatives, who serve in districts that border Mexico, warned Pelosi in the letter that “while business and individuals alike have taken steps to mitigate the risks, including paying a protection fee to criminal organizations, this should not and cannot be the status quo we allow to continue.”
The letter urges Pelosi to work with the Mexican government to protect highways connecting to U.S. ports of entry, citing a Mexican government report released earlier this year which showed 2018 as the deadliest year in Mexican history with over 33,000 homicides, a 15 percent increase from 2017.
In 2018, left-wing Mexican president Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador promised to change the approach to the drug war, saying on election night that “the failed crime and violence strategy will change. We will address the root causes of crime and violence.”
Cartel violence, however, has remained high. Last month, cartel gunman murdered nine members of the American Mormon LeBaron family in a highway shooting. In October, a poll found that a majority of Mexicans see organized crime as more powerful than the Mexican government after government forces capitulated to cartel forces and released the son of the famed former cartel leader “El Chapo”.
“Inaction and empty promises are a threat to the success of USMCA,” Gonzalez and Vela’s letter reads. “In fact, it has left companies doing business across our southern border to invest resources in private security. We cannot stand aside and let this continue, particularly not along key North American trade routes. We can no longer afford to separate public security from trade as this faulty distinction will perpetuate severe economic and security implications.”
President Trump told commentator Bill O’Reilly last week that he was attempting to label certain Mexican drug cartels as foreign terrorist organizations.
In a statement provided to National Review, Gonzalez said the issue was complicated, but that “Mexico and its government should accept the offer of American help.”
“Designating Mexican cartels as foreign terrorist organizations has multiple factors that have not been fully evaluated. While I am not completely opposed to the idea, we should analyze the impact of this designation further before rushing into any decision,” Gonzalez’s statement reads. “ . . . Together we can create a clear and defined security strategy to root out the drug cartels once and for all.”
The congressman did not specify as to whether the LeBaron shooting motivated his letter to Pelosi.