Three months after taking office, US President Donald Trump’s long-standing promise to build a wall along the US-Mexican border, paid for by Mexico, remains unfulfilled. On Tuesday, the president was forced by Republicans and Democrats in Congress and the Senate to delay his push to secure the $1.4 billion he has requested for its construction, and for other border security measures. Meanwhile, Mexico continues to insist that it will not pay.
Now, Ted Cruz, who ran against Trump for the Republican Party presidential nomination, has come up with a solution: use the estimated $14 billion of assets seized from Mexico’s Sinaloa Cartel boss Joaquín El Chapo Guzmán, who is awaiting trial in a US maximum security facility.
“Fourteen billion dollars will go a long way toward building a wall that will keep Americans safe and hinder the illegal flow of drugs, weapons, and individuals across our southern border,” said Cruz in a written statement on Tuesday.
Cruz is one of the few Republican legislators from the border states to support Trump’s wall
Introducing the Ensuring Lawful Collection of Hidden Assets to Provide Order (EL CHAPO) Act on Tuesday, the Texas senator, the son of Cuban immigrants, said that leveraging criminally forfeited assets from El Chapo and other Mexican cartel members and drug dealers would “offset the wall’s cost and make meaningful progress toward achieving President Trump’s stated border security objectives.”
He pointed out that the US government is currently seeking the criminal forfeiture of more than $14 billion in drug proceeds and illicit profits from El Chapo, the former leader of the Sinaloa drug cartel who, after twice escaping from Mexican prisons, was extradited to the United States in January to face criminal prosecution for numerous alleged drug-related crimes, including conspiracy to commit murder and money laundering.
Sinaloa has been hit by violence following El Chapo’s extradition. There have been more than 500 deaths in the western Mexican state so far this year as rival factions within the cartel fight for control of lucrative drug routes into the United States. Each week brings news of decapitations, the murder of family members, kidnappings, death threats to police officers, and dismembered bodies dumped by roadsides.
Cruz is one of the few Republican legislators from the border states to support Trump’s wall. Last week, a survey carried out by The Wall Street Journal showed that a majority of Congress and Senate members believe a wall to be of no use in preventing the illegal entry into the United States of drugs and guns. “The solution must be a dynamic, multifaceted one,” Republican Congressman for New Mexico Steve Pearce told the publication.
Trump has called for $1.4 billion to be set aside for paying for the wall and other security measures in the 2017 budget and wants a further $2.6 billion for 2018, while continuing to insist that Mexico will pay for the wall, tweeting as much on Sunday. However, after almost 100 days in office, the President has yet to explain exactly how he will force his country’s southern neighbor to do so.
In the meantime, Cruz’s proposal could offer a way out, particularly in light of the expected publicity about El Chapo’s ill-gotten gains from a number of upcoming books, movies and television series about his rise. At the height of his power, El Chapo controlled the world’s largest drug-trafficking network. Following his arrest and extradition to the US, he now faces a likely life sentence.
English version by Nick Lyne.