G20 Summit: Violence Surges in Mexico Amidst US-Mexico Diplomatic Efforts
By Sylvia Longmire
Contributor, In Homeland Security
President Donald Trump is scheduled to meet with Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto for 30 minutes at the G20 summit in Germany on July 7.
Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Secretary John Kelly will be in Mexico until July 7 “to discuss building the U.S.-Mexico relationship while working together to combat transnational criminal organizations, enhance regional security and boost economic cooperation,” according to a DHS statement. In the meantime, the homicide rate in Mexico is the highest it’s been since the Mexican government started tracking drug-related statistics two decades ago.
Recent attempts at diplomacy between the U.S. and Mexico have been strained at best, and utter failures at worst. Tensions between the two countries that share a volatile border have risen at a time when drug-related violence in Mexico is at an all-time high, and Trump is causing controversy as a result of his aggressive plans to build a border wall and increase deportations. In September 2016, Trump met with Peña Nieto in Mexico City prior to the U.S. election—a visit that was unprecedented in nature, and further diminished Peña Nieto’s already dismal approval rating. In late January 2017, Peña Nieto canceled a planned meeting with Trump due to strong disagreements over Trump’s proposed border wall.
G20 Summit Unlikely to Improve US-Mexico Relationship
The G20 meeting between the two leaders isn’t expected to be very productive, either. Mexican Foreign Minister Luis Videgaray told Reuters the meeting would likely not lead to any major agreements, and specifically, “We have to put it in context and not have expectations that are unjustified.” The Ministry also said Trump and Peña Nieto will discuss renegotiations of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) scheduled for August, as well as cooperation in combating drug cartels and development in Central America. NAFTA has been a major sticking point for Trump, who has referred to the agreement as “the worst trade deal ever.” He initially intended to withdraw the U.S. completely, then settled for modest renegotiation after succumbing to pressure from Mexican and Canadian leaders.
Secretary Kelly met with Peña Nieto in Mexico City on July 5 and discussed their common fight against organized crime groups. According to Mexican daily El Nuevo Dia , Peña Nieto commented that said fight will be carried out “from the approach of co-responsibility.” Mexico wants the U.S. to reduce its demand for drugs, as well as the supply of illegal weapons used by Mexican drug cartels. Following a meeting with Mexican officials in February 2017, Kelly and Secretary of State Rex Tillerson made the uncharacteristic acknowledgement to reporters, “We know what we own, and we, as Americans, need to confront that we are the market.”
The ‘El Chapo Effect’
As for the increasing violence in Mexico that concerns everyone, a considerable amount of it appears to be the result of the extradition of former Sinaloa cartel leader Joaquin Guzmán—what’s being called the “El Chapo effect.” A battle in a small town in border state Chihuahua left 14 dead, and another conflict last Friday, 17 cartel gunmen were killed in a highway shootout with police in Sinaloa state. According to Deutsche Welle, homicide rates have surged in recent months, with 2,186 murders in May alone, the highest since the collection of such statistics began 20 years ago. El Chapo’s absence has caused a power vacuum in many cartel-controlled parts of Mexico, and controlling the resulting bloodshed will require more successful diplomacy and coordination between U.S. and Mexican leaders and officials – at the G20 Summit and in the future.