Mexican Cartel Killings of Americans Brings US-Mexico Relations To Boiling Point

The brutal murder of three women and six children by Mexican drug cartels marks a new low in US-Mexico relations. Those killed were part of a Mormon religious community which has sought to build a life in the rural areas of northern Mexico. Mexico’s leftist President Andrés Manuel López Obrador called the killings “regrettable,” and said Mexico would do what it can to find the killers. One suspect has now been arrested. Obrador has pursued a policy that considers the cartels and Mexico’s massive drug-fueled violence to be a product of poverty and has said that cartel criminals need “hugs, not bullets.” In contrast, US President Donald Trump has called for a war on the cartels that will “wipe them off the face of the earth.” Mexico says it does not want US troops or any outside help to take on the cartels. Unnamed Mexican officials being cited in various reports say that the area where the Americans were killed is part of a drug turf war between cartels, and that they may have been mistaken for rivals.

Serious Doubts That The Killings Were A Mistake

The claim being floated in many American media reports stating that the women and children were killed by accident is highly questionable. The area of Sonora that they were killed in is being contested by La Línea, which has links to the Juárez cartel, and “Los Chapos”, part of the Sinaloa cartel. Nonetheless, their Mormon community of Colonia LeBaron has faced cartel threats in the past including the 2009 kidnapping of Erick LeBaron, who was held for ransom. The community refused to pay and he was eventually let out, but his brother Benjamin was beaten to death, as was Benjamin’s brother in law. The LeBarons were significantly concerned about organized crime in Mexico and one family member Julian LeBaron even wrote a piece in a Dallas newspaper saying it was time for Mexico to put a stop to the thugs ruining their country. Colonia LeBaron has also had strong disagreements with neighbours over their water usage levels. Furthermore, reports of the killings detail that one of the women killed stepped out of the vehicle and waved her hands to indicate there were children in the vehicle and they were not a threat, but was mowed down regardless.

How Bad Is Cartel Violence In Mexico?

The short answer: very bad. Over one-quarter of a million people have been murdered in Mexico since 2007, the majority cartel and drug-related. In the first half of 2019 alone, the number of murders in Mexico spiked to the highest amount ever recorded with 14,603 murders from January to June, with the nation likely to exceed 2018’s total murder count of 29,111, which also set a record. Many of these are cartel-related killings, with the government seems unable to stop the carnage. Cartels like Sinaloa are often more accurately referred to as well-funded terrorist armies, with high-powered weapons, guerilla tactics and no regard for human life.

Mexico’s Ineffective Response To The Cartels

Mexico’s police do not have the firepower or tactics to defeat the cartels, which behave with ferocious impunity and callus violence. Obrador’s militarized National Guard police force are often targeted and unable to sap the power and determination of the vicious cartels. In particularly alarming killings, 14 individuals were mowed down at a family gathering in Veracruz province this past April, and 26 were murdered at another bar in Veracruz province in August. More recently, thirteen police officers were killed and nine injured in El Aguaje in Mexico’s western state of Michoacán in mid-October, and the Sinaloa cartel recently attacked the city of Culiacán in a coordinated assault with 400 militants in order to get Ovidio Guzmáthe son of the infamous drug kingpin Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzmánout of jail. Meth, fentanyl and synthetic opioids have grown in popularity over the past few years as cartels battle for turf, including in areas near the Latter-day Saints communities where the three American women and their six children lived.

Mexico-US Relations To Hit New Low

This horrific slaughter merits a strong response, particularly as there is a good chance it was not a mistake. The American Right, in particular, is outraged over this murder, with US Senator Ben Sasse of Nebraska, for example, saying that a “full-scale offensive” must be launched against the cartels and saying Mexico is close to collapsing as a viable country. Various conservative voices are decrying the miasma of violence that is destroying Mexico and making the Southern border a hell-world of trafficking and murder, with Sean Davis writing in the New York Post that Mexico is “failed narcostate run by paramilitary cartels” that brings “death, drugs and terror” to America.

Bring The Troops Home–To Mexico

Non-interventionist American conservatives are increasingly asking why American troops are being involved in the problems of the Middle East. Ryan Girdusky, for example, tweeting that the US should pull the troops out of Syria and send them to Mexico. The killings, especially if deliberate, were indeed an act of war, and merit a strong and devastating response. The cartels have gained far too much power and are causing too much damage to Mexico and the United States. Their mountains of cash built on addiction and violence are making the world a worse place.

As overdose deaths in America from illegally-obtained synthetic opioids continue to increase sharply, Mexico’s position as a hub of production for this and similar drugs marks its internal problems as a uniquely potent threat to American security and well-being. For all the talk and controversy over Trump’s proposed border wall, the real problems of Mexico or at the US-Mexico border will not be solved by a wall, as they extend much further into the heart of the Mexican drug war and the government’s inability to tackle it, as well as the addiction crisis in American society. American-Mexican relations are at a new low, and this will only worsen until serious and decisive action is taken against cartel dominance. Trump has shown his willingness to put military on the border with his the deployment of National Guard troops to the U.S.-Mexico border in the operation formerly known as Faithful Patriot and there is no reason to think he will not push harder for an increased American security assistance component or military involvement to taking down the cartels.