Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador. Photo: Google


Amid the war of words between Mexico and the United States, brought about in large part by Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador’s (AMLO) combative response to U.S. lawmakers criticizing his policies on security, democracy and drug trafficking, two major U.S. news outlets called out AMLO on his recent statements regarding the safety situation and fentanyl production in the country, essentially calling the Mexican president a liar.

In its editorial published on Tuesday, March 14, titled “Mexican President López Obrador’s big lie: ‘We do not produce fentanyl,’” the Chicago Tribune called AMLO “a delusional leader, who recently barked out a whopper of an untruth.”

“Meeting with White House Homeland Security Adviser Elizabeth Sherwood-Randall, Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador earlier this month insisted that his nation doesn’t produce fentanyl, the synthetic opioid blamed for the deaths of more than 70,000 Americans in 2021,” read the editorial.

“Here, we do not produce fentanyl, and we do not have consumption of fentanyl,” AMLO said on Thursday, March 9, as reported by the Associated Press. “Why don’t they (the United States) take care of their problem of social decay?”

“As lies go, López Obrador’s remark ranks up there with Donald Trump’s Big Lie that the 2020 presidential election was stolen from him,” said the Chicago Tribune editorial. “Mexico’s notorious drug cartels have turned fentanyl production into one of their biggest moneymakers. A 2021 raid by the Mexican army on a lab in Culiacan, the capital of Mexico’s Sinaloa state, revealed an operation producing tens of millions of fentanyl pills monthly for the Sinaloa cartel.”

Most recently, on Tuesday, the Mexican Army seized 280 kilos of fentanyl, along with 720 kilos of controlled drugs in the municipality of Ahome, Sinaloa.

AMLO denying Mexico’s — and, basically, his administration’s — role in the widespread fentanyl crisis in the United States has, naturally, stoked outrage from Republican lawmakers.

On Wednesday, March 15, during a legislative hearing, Assistant Secretary of State for Western Hemisphere Affairs Brian Nichols confirmed that, as far as the U.S. government is concerned, there is indeed fentanyl manufacturing in Mexico contrary to the statement of López Obrador.

“Fentanyl is produced in Mexico,” Nichols said when asked by Republican Senator Bill Hagerty of Tennessee. “Mexico receives chemical precursors from around the world. These precursors are used to produce fentanyl in Mexico.”

López Obrador’s questioning of Washington’s policies to combat fentanyl trafficking has also prompted U.S. Ambassador to Mexico Ken Salazar to defend the policies that the United States has adopted to stem both drugs and arms trafficking.

“The fight against fentanyl is a priority for President Biden,” said Salazar in an official statement on Tuesday and detailed the actions that the U.S. president has carried out since coming to office in 2021, acknowledging that “efforts to combat arms and drugs trafficking should start at home.”

Likewise, Salazar assured that Biden “is committed to combating illegal arms trafficking,” and said that U.S. authorities have increased by “300 percent the seizure of firearms that, without these efforts, would have reached Mexico.”

“Year after year, more than 600,000 weapons are seized in the United States,” said Salazar.

On Tuesday, the U.S. Attorney for the Middle District of Florida announced that Two Ohio men were arrested by undercover agents earlier this month, “after trying to send several dozen rifles to drug cartels in Mexico.”

According to a Fox News report, Yuendry Rodriguez Hilario, 28, and Saleh Yusuf Saleh, 24, were charged with “conspiracy to transfer firearms to commit a felony, possession of firearms in furtherance of drug trafficking and other crimes.”

The Chicago Tribune editorial likewise touched on another issue that has plagued the López Obrador administration: cartel-related violence and insecurity in Mexico.

“Perhaps López Obrador’s lies are a way of deflecting attention from the failure of his ‘hugs, not bullets’ approach toward combating the cartels. After his election in 2018, López Obrador promised Mexicans that he could eradicate the cartels by eradicating poverty. He put in place a series of social programs aimed at lifting up his country’s impoverished masses, with the hope of wiping out the root causes of cartel violence,” read the editorial. “The policy hasn’t worked at all, and the cartels have flourished largely unchecked. Every year, cartel violence claims the lives of thousands of Mexicans, many of them students, politicians and journalists. Under López Obrador, Mexico’s murder rate remains at near-record levels.”

The Washington Times, on the other hand, zeroed in on AMLO’s claim that “Mexico is much safer than the United States.“

Reporters David R. Sands and Tom Howell Jr. wrote that “numbers don’t support the Mexican leader’s claim that Mexico is safer than the United States” and that “on international safety rankings, homicide and crime rates, and kidnapping statistics, Mexico fares poorly in most cross-border comparisons, with a national homicide rate in 2022 that was 28 per 100,000 inhabitants, almost exactly four times as high as the U.S. national rate.”

“Many individual American cities — including St. Louis, Baltimore, New Orleans and Kansas City, Missouri — do have homicide rates in excess of Mexican levels, according to the World Population Review, but Mexican cities occupy nine of the first 10 places on a global list of the deadliest cities with populations of at least 300,000 not involved in war,” read the Washington Times’ article.

The article mainly criticized López Obrador’s claim about the security situation of Mexico trumping the United States’, without hard numbers backing it up.

“Mr. López Obrador, a left-wing populist who has had a rocky relationship with the Biden administration, made his claim at his trademark daily morning press conference Monday. He offered no hard numbers to back up his assertions but pointed to what he said was the continuing crush of American and other foreign visitors vacationing in Mexico as a sign of the healthy overall security situation,” read the article.

“Asked in particular about the high-profile killings of two Americans caught in an apparent drug cartel shootout in Matamoros, the Mexican president instead turned on U.S. security warnings and what he said was an ‘anti-Mexico campaign’ spearheaded by conservative U.S. politicians to justify a military intervention.”

Veteran Mexican-American journalist Jorge Ramos, a staunch critic of AMLO, also put in his two cents, posting on his Twitter account data on the number of murders in Mexico compared to the United States, where the population is much bigger.

“In 2022 there were 20,200 murders in the United States, according to the Gun Violence Archive, but in Mexico there were 20,968 murders,” wrote Ramos. ““It is not true that Mexico is ‘safer than the United States,’ as @lopezobrador_ says.”

Needless to say, López Obrador’s combative stance against the United States has prompted Mexican senators — even those from AMLO’s own leftist ruling party, the National Regeneration Movement (Morena) — to call on the president to “be prudent and calm down” and to desist from lodging “fake lawsuits at the United States.”

Morena Senator Ricardo Monreal, in an interview with Mexican daily newspaper El Universal, said that there must be prudence and that AMLO “should resort to the existing bilateral mechanisms between Mexico and the United States in terms of combating drug trafficking.”

“I would say that what is convenient is to maintain prudence and calm, and maintain the safe relationship between Mexico and the United States,” said Monreal. “We need to maintain our good relationship with the United States, and the proposals of some Republican legislators should not alter this relationship.”

Miguel Ángel Mancera, senator from the left-leaning Party of the Democratic Revolution (PRD), said that the proposal of the Republican lawmakers to send the U.S. Army against Mexican drug cartels “is not even an issue in the White House, because they were only manifestations of some Republican legislators who are not even part of the commissions or committees related to security issues and combating drug trafficking.”

For his part, Manuel Añorve of the centralist Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI) urged López Obrador to “maintain a cool head” and to refrain from using the statements of the Republican lawmakers to fuel anti-U.S. sentiments.

“Obviously, we must have a cool head, defend our sovereignty. But we should not politicize certain statements as a call to war, as if they (the United States) were practically invading the border cities. We must calm down,” Añorve said. “We must understand that Mexico is a country of peace. Politicizing is not the way to resolve conflicts with the United States.”

Meanwhile, after essentially spearheading a campaign to defend Mexico’s reputation in the United States by instructing Mexican diplomats to go on an information drive to combat “unacceptable attacks by Republicans,” Mexican Foreign Relations Secretary Marcelo Ebrard said on Tuesday that he spoke to U.S. Secretary of State Anthony Blinken on the phone about an upcoming meeting in Washington to discuss “mutual cooperation to combat fentanyl and illegal arms trafficking.”

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