In Chapo’s Extradition, a Lesson for Mr. Trump

1/20/2017 The New York Times

el chapo

It was not a coincidence. In the waning hours of the Obama presidency, officials in Mexico bundled the drug kingpin Joaquín Guzmán Loera, known as El Chapo, into an airplane and handed him to the American government so he could stand trial in New York.

His extradition came after years of painstaking diplomacy. It required convincing the government of Enrique Peña Nieto that the American justice system was better equipped to take Mr. Guzmán, the leader of the violent Sinaloa cartel, out of the drug trade. This was no easy task: Washington’s relationship with Mexico has been strained by an imbalance of power and by American slights. By completing the transfer on President Barack Obama’s watch, Mexico appeared to be rewarding an administration that was respectful. It also ensured that the extradition was not seen as a concession to President Trump, who made maligning Mexicans a centerpiece of his campaign.

Obama officials succeeded because they tried to persuade, not hector, their Mexican counterparts. This fit with the administration’s broader strategy for Latin America, one that was rooted in pragmatism and cooperation. It offers a lesson Mr. Trump would be foolish to disregard.

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