State Department Claims Aggravate Rift between US, Mexico

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador in Feb. 2022. Photo: Google


While Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador (AMLO) has been sure to label the U.S. Department of State as a “little department” and as “liars” after the publication of the U.S. foreign affairs agency’s 2022 Country Reports on Human Rights Practices alleged that much of Mexico’s territory remains under the control of narco-trafficking cartels, tensions between the United States and Mexico have only heightened in the days following the report’s release – especially after U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken affirmed his department’s claims that parts of Mexican territory are dominated by organized crime during a U.S. Senate hearing on Wednesday, March 22.

As Blinken stood before the U.S. Senate Subcommittee on International Expenditures, South Carolina Senator Lindsay Graham asked the secretary of state, “Are the drug cartels in control of parts of Mexico and not the Mexican government?”

“I think it’s fair to say yes,” responded Blinken at the time.

“You are absolutely right about the insecurity in Mexico,” continued the secretary of state. “The Mexican people themselves are the Number One victim of that insecurity.”

When probed about the fentanyl crisis in the United States, Blinken agreed that the lethal drug is not only killing tens of thousands of American citizens, but also greatly affecting the Mexican population. 

“The Mexican government needs to do more (against fentanyl), they need to be more effective,” Blinken went on to say. “One of the things that we can do, for example, is have the technology at our borders to detect fentanyl. Some 96 percent of the fentanyl that comes into the United States comes through legitimate crossing points. We have the technology that can detect a lot of that.”

Despite the negative tone of Blinken’s words at the Subcommittee on International Expenditures, the secretary of state was decidedly more positive about the relationship between the United States and Mexico when appearing before the Senate Relations Committee later that afternoon, saying that “we are working with Mexico to dismantle the cartels. With our support, Mexico has taken significant actions to dismantle criminal organizations, attack cartels and their leaders.”

But just minutes before Blinken’s initial senatorial appearance on Wednesday, López Obrador took to his daily morning press conference to unleash a tirade against both the State Department and the administration of U.S. President Joe Biden, completely denying that the issues pointed out by the State Department report – such as femicide, violence, forced disappearances, impunity, torture, extrajudicial killings and limits on freedom of speech – exist in Mexico.

“If you see the report of the little department of the Department of State, it’s a ‘bodrio;’ you’ll have to check the dictionary,” said AMLO on his Wednesday morning conference. According to the Oxford Languages Dictionary, “bodrio” means something of very poor quality or badly made.

“It says: According to experts, it is presumed, it is pointed out that there are serious human rights violations,” said López Obrador. “But there is no evidence; the little department of the State Department is slanderous.”

“In Mexico, there is no torture, there are no massacres,” added the federal executive, completely contradicting the fact that massacres are rising under his administration and that the AMLO presidency is well on track to become the most violent administration in Mexico’s recent history. According to data from the daily Mexican newspaper Reforma, there were 306 homicide victims from 42 massacres perpetrated in the first semester of 2022 alone, and 318 pending investigations of human rights violations purportedly committed by members of Mexico’s Armed Forces, directly refuting AMLO’s so-called “lack of evidence” to the contrary. 

“The Mexican state has ceased to be the main violator of human rights. In Mexico, freedom of expression is guaranteed, no one is persecuted, no one is repressed, let them not be confused,” concluded López Obrador, ignoring the fact that his administration recently passed a law to fine journalists who criticize the president, that his “Who’s Who in Lies of the Week” segment has continually launched vitriol against members of the press who speak out against AMLO’s initiatives, and that Mexico is consistently one of the most dangerous countries in the world for journalists to operate in. 

Ready and rearing to keep throwing jabs at the United States, AMLO then went on to comment on the case of U.S. company Vulcan Materials, whose ship was supposedly forcibly entered by rival company Cemex alongside elements of the Mexican Armed Forces at the Maritime Terminal in Playa del Carmen without notifying Vulcan Materials on March 14 – actions Blinken and Republican senators alike characterized as having the potential to “very negatively impact” investment from the United States into Mexico.

But from López Obrador’s perspective, Vulcan Materials and its subsidiaries have been committing “ecocide” through their operations, and subsequently called the U.S. outcry against the March 14 port situation as full of “double standards,” alleging U.S. lawmakers only support the environment when it is convenient for them.

“The double discourse, the double standards. (The United States) talks about the environment and climate change and, at the same time, it destroys it,” said the Mexican president.

While the fractured relationship between the United States and Mexico continues to strain, political analysts expect the pressure between the two trade partners to keep growing as both countries approach pivotal presidential elections in 2024, especially over issues such as fentanyl and the purported human rights violations highlighted by the U.S. Department of State.

“You can see that President López Obrador was very annoyed by the State Department report on human rights. I f an NGO had done it here in Mexico, it would have been characterized as a part of the conservative agenda,” researcher at the Center for Research and Higher Studies in Social Anthropology (Ciesas) Alberto Aziz Nassif told daily Mexican newspaper El Universal. “In this case it was our neighbor to the north, which is why there is a nuance of AMLO saying that ‘it believes it is the government of the world, as if things didn’t happen there’.”

“The Americans have evidence, I don’t think they are deliberately inventing facts, but obviously López Obrador responds as always by disqualifying the State Department information because it is not a very favorable report, and because it contradicts everything he says here in his conferences,” added political analyst José Antonio Crespo Mendoza.

With more than a year and a half to go before the neighboring countries’ 2024 elections, expect the tension between Mexico and the United States to continue mounting in the months ahead.

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