Mexico launches US campaign to defend its reputation: ‘We will not allow ourselves to be pushed around’

Foreign Secretary Marcelo Ebrard traveled to DC to mobilize consuls against the Republican strategy of blaming southern neighbor for America’s fentanyl crisis

Mexican Foreign Secretary Marcelo Ebrard at a meeting this Monday in Washington, D.C.. To his right, Mexican ambassador to the US Esteban Moctezuma.
Mexican Foreign Secretary Marcelo Ebrard at a meeting this Monday in Washington, D.C.. To his right, Mexican ambassador to the US Esteban Moctezuma.Prensa (SRE)

The Mexican government of Andrés Manuel López Obrador has announced a major diplomatic campaign to counter criticism voiced by the most conservative sectors of the Republican Party against its security policy. Mexico is ready to mobilize its more than 50 consuls in the United States – it is the largest consular network in the world – and try to foil an electoral strategy that involves keeping up an anti-Mexican rhetoric for political profit. “We will not allow ourselves to be pushed around,” said Foreign Secretary Marcelo Ebrard, the person in charge of coordinating the Mexican government’s response, speaking from Washington D.C. on Monday.

Ebrard underscored that relations between the governments of López Obrador and Joe Biden are in good health, and that Mexico is America’s “main ally” in the fight against fentanyl trafficking. In 2021, the opioid crisis became a public health epidemic, claiming the lives of more than 107,000 Americans, according to official data. The foreign secretary said that the synthetic drugs have also entailed a high human cost in Mexico, with the death of numerous Mexican soldiers and police officers in the war against the cartels. “With this cost in human lives, how is it that these men dare to question our commitment or, even worse, to call for intervention in our country?” he said, alluding to some Republicans’ suggestion that Mexican drug cartels should be classified as foreign terrorist groups to justify U.S. intervention on Mexican soil.

Ebrard also announced that the Security Cabinets of both countries will meet in April to identify additional ways to cooperate in the fight against arms and fentanyl trafficking. Ebrard’s trip to Washington had to be brought forward amid a climate of tension between the López Obrador administration and hard-wing leaders of the Republican Party. “Mexico is much safer than the United States,” said the Mexican president at his press conference this past Monday.

Just last week, President López Obrador asserted that if the most radical Republican legislators do not change their attitude towards Mexico, his government will encourage the Mexican community living in the U.S. not to vote for the Republican Party. According to the Institute for Mexicans Abroad, a body that reports to the Foreign Secretary’s Office, there are almost 12 million Mexicans who are registered voters in the United States, out of a total diaspora of around 36 million people. “If they do not change their attitude and think that they are going to use Mexico for their propaganda, electoral, and political purposes, we are going to call on people not to vote for that party,” warned the Mexican president.

Marcel Ebrard with a group of Mexican consuls in the U.S.
Marcel Ebrard with a group of Mexican consuls in the U.S.Prensa (SRE)

Mexico’s strategy involves requesting that Mexico’s ambassador in Washington and the 52 consuls scattered throughout the country hold information sessions with the Mexican community and political actors, as well providing material at diplomatic representations and to the local media “in order to prevent a narrative based on lies that harms our country to gain force,” reads a statement from the Mexican Foreign Secretary’s Office.

Claims that the Mexican government has not done enough to curb organized crime were recently exacerbated by the murder of two American tourists in the border city of Matamoros, and by the disappearance of three women who crossed the border two weeks ago. “He’s clearly not against the cartels. He’s clearly defending the cartels at the detriment of his own people,” said Dan Crenshaw, a Republican congressman from Texas, speaking on Fox News about President López Obrador.

Mexico has a double goal: on one hand, it wants to respond to the criticism. On the other, it wants to underscore that its dialogue with the Biden Administration remains intact. Just a few hours before Ebrard’s meeting with the consuls in Washington, López Obrador received a delegation of legislators from the Republican and Democratic parties, led by the Republican congressman from Missouri Jason Smith.

At the meeting, the president highlighted the actions and achievements of the Mexican government in the fight against fentanyl and the chemical precursors used to create it. But he also spoke of the importance for both countries of expanding bilateral trade and said that economic integration should be pursued to consolidate North America as the most important region in the world.

Also in attendance was Ken Salazar, the U.S. ambassador to Mexico, who, upon leaving the National Palace, thanked the Mexican president for receiving him. “We are partners, the United States and Mexico, forever. Sometimes there are concerns and disagreements, but we know that we are united by our geography and by our people,” he said.

Foreign Secretary Marcelo Ebrard said that, far from taking extreme positions, the governments of Mexico and the United States are working within the Bicentennial Framework to both prevent deaths from fentanyl and prevent criminal groups from gaining access to high-powered firearms.

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