Republicans use Lagos de Moreno tragedy to pressure Mexican president: ‘It’s time to let us help you’

Congressman Dan Crenshaw has used the disappearance of the five young men to insist that the drug cartels be named ‘enemies of Mexico and the United States’

Republican congressman Dan Crenshaw in July 2023.
Republican congressman Dan Crenshaw in July 2023.Jacquelyn Martin (AP)
Elías Camhaji

The Mexican government of Andrés Manuel López Obrador and the U.S. Republican Party have locked horns once again. U.S. Congressman Dan Crenshaw — who proposed classifying drug cartels as terrorist organizations — has attacked the Mexican president over the disappearance of five young men from the city of Lagos de Moreno.

“I have a question for the president of Mexico: how much more violence can you endure? When will you reach your limit?” asked Crenshaw in a video shared on Instagram on Tuesday.

“It is time to declare enemies of Mexico and the United States,” added Crenshaw, addressing López Obrador. “It’s time to stop the political games and work together to combat this threat.”

Crenshaw and the Mexican president have clashed before over the congressman’s call to categorize drug cartels as terrorist groups, which would allow the U.S. to authorize the use of military force within Mexico, and over the Texan politician’s criticisms of the Mexican government’s security policy.

“You’ve said before that I want to invade Mexico, but you know that’s not true,” said Crenshaw in the video, which he delivers in Spanish. “It’s time to let us help you,” added the congressman, who is a veteran of the Afghanistan and Iraq wars.

Crenshaw is not the first person to call for the U.S. army to fight the Mexican cartels. The proposal emerged under the Barack Obama administration and gained strength during the government of Donald Trump. Although it has never come into effect, the plan has gained further momentum in the midst of the fentanyl crisis, which claims tens of thousands of lives in the United States every year. Mexico’s Jalisco New Generation Cartel and the Sinaloa Cartel have been blamed for trafficking the drug into the U.S.

Last March, Crenshaw and other members of the Republican Party used the murder of two Americans in the border city of Matamoros to argue that López Obrador’s policy against organized crime had failed. In response, the Mexican president said that Mexico was “not a colony of the United States” and that using weapons on Mexican territory was a violation of international law. He also lashed out at Republican lawmakers, calling them “interventionists and arrogant wimps.”

At the end of July, in an exclusive interview with EL PAÍS, Crenshaw said that his proposal had been misinterpreted and that he would never support an “invasion of Mexico” — an argument he repeated in Tuesday’s Instagram video. Just as Crenshaw spoke out in March after the death of the two U.S. citizens, his most recent message comes in the wake of the Lagos de Moreno case, which has shocked Mexico. The case involves five men who have been missing since August 11. Days after they were reported missing, a disturbing video emerged of them being held by gang members. The footage shows two of the boys lying on the ground, covered in blood, while in the background — in a horrific scene — one of the boys is being forced to kill one of his friends. The case has dominated the news in Mexico and sparked public outrage.

Mexican authorities have been trying to locate the bodies of the victims, who were aged between 19 and 22. This week, officials announced that they had discovered bone segments on a secured property, but the Jalisco state government later said they were not related to the Lagos de Moreno case.

In his video, Crenshaw blamed the Jalisco New Generation Cartel for the murders, saying the only crime of the victims was refusing to join the cartel.

Mexico and the United States will both head to the polls next year to elect a new president. Most experts argue that the Republican Party will continue to use the wave of violence in Mexico, as well as the issue of migration, to win over voters. Presidential hopefuls such as Donald Trump and Florida Governor Ron de Santis have both taken a hard-line stance on immigration, supporting the use of deadly force at the border, including against immigrants in transit.

“Mexico is going to be a topic throughout the election and the crux of the Republican Party’s campaign,” said Marcelo Ebrard, the presidential candidate for Morena, in an interview with EL PAÍS last weekend. “Whoever their candidate is, they will be anti-Mexican, in fact, it is one of the few elements that brings the party together,” added Ebrard, who acknowledged that the presidential campaigns in each country may elevate diplomatic tensions.

“We have to act now, before more innocent people get killed. Your country is on the line,” said Crenshaw, who added in his Instagram post that he is to meet with the Mexican president to put their disagreements behind them.

After months of friction with different sectors in Washington, López Obrador has avoided addressing the controversy. A new open wound for Mexico can reignite the tensions between the two countries.

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