Mexico, Colombia Meetings Show US Security Policy on Unsure Footing

5/19/2017 InSight Crime

Flag-Pins-Mexico-ColombiaA recent visit by top US officials to Mexico and a meeting between the presidents of Colombia and the United States in Washington, DC have provided further evidence that the US security strategy in Latin America under the new administration has yet to find its footing.

On May 18, US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and Secretary of Homeland Security John Kelly met with Mexican Foreign Relations Secretary Luis Videgaray Caso and Interior Secretary Miguel Ángel Osorio Chong to discuss future collaboration against organized crime and drug trafficking.

The officials recognized the need to tackle the drug trade on both sides of their shared border, and for the United States to focus more heavily on reducing drug consumption within the country.

The United States “must also confront the reality that we are the market,” Tillerson said.

“But for the seemingly endless demand by addicted users and the successful recruitment of young and vulnerable new users, there would be no market … We Americans must own this problem. It is ours,” he added.

Read more…

Complex World of Border Trade: Cattle Go North, Meat South

5/22/2017 New York Times

meat-packagingREYNOSA, Mexico — Waving arms and brandishing a long electric prod, the ranch hands and truck drivers herd about 400 leggy calves onto trucks as the sun crests on the outskirts of this border city. After spending their first eight months on the ranches of Gildardo Lopez Hinojosa, the calves are about to cross the border — bound for Texas and U.S. feed lots beyond.

On one of the three bridges connecting Reynosa with Texas, they might cross paths with the beef and chicken shipments that Lopez imports from the U.S. for his local chains of butcher shops and fried chicken restaurants. He gets the best price for his calves in the U.S. and it’s cheaper for him to import U.S. chicken than ship Mexican chicken from the country’s interior.

Lopez has been selling calves and buying beef across the border for about as long as the North American Free Trade Agreement has been in effect. President Donald Trump has said the agreement that is the basis for much of the $500 billion annual trade between the U.S. and Mexico needs to be renegotiated or scrapped entirely. To hear him tell it, NAFTA was “a catastrophic trade deal for the United States.”

Read more…

Charges Shed Light on Sea Cucumber Smuggling at US Border

5/20/2017 New York Times

san-ysidro-border-crossing-by-flickr-user-otzbergSAN DIEGO — Charges against a father-son partnership for allegedly smuggling more than $17 million worth of sea cucumbers to the United States and exporting them to Asia sheds light on a growing and lucrative illegal cross-border trade.

David Mayorquin and his father, Ramon Torres Mayorquin, are accused of a scheme to buy the illegally harvested animals from poachers in Mexico’s Yucatan peninsula, pay for them under fake names and underestimate their weight and value to inspectors at San Diego’s Otay Mesa border crossing, across from Tijuana, Mexico. From San Diego, they allegedly shipped the product to Asia, including China, where they are delicacies in Chinese dishes, prized for medicinal value and considered an aphrodisiac.

Border inspectors have spotted smuggled Mexican sea cucumbers for years, but the charges against the Mayorquins and their family business, Blessings Inc. of Tucson, Arizona, are striking for the multi-ton shipments. Authorities say they sell for $300 to $500 a kilogram in Asia, helping explain the draw for poachers and smugglers.

Read more…

Mexico sugar firm calls on President to protect industry from U.S. deals

5/19/2017 Reuters

Sugar
Flickr/Coralie Ferreira

A Mexican sugar company on Friday called on the Mexican government to take action against American fructose producers and defend local sugarcane producers from agreements with the United States that regulate the sugar trade.

In a letter to President Enrique Pena Nieto, liquid sugar firm Sucroliq argued that 2014 “suspension agreements,” which ended a long-running trade dispute over sugar between the United States and Mexico, have hit local cane producers who have no voice in ongoing talks to modify the accords.

“The United States is doing the right thing, defending its farmers. In Mexico, they sacrifice them,” said the letter, signed by Sucroliq President Enrique Bojorquez. “They are the ones who have to absorb the cost of this negotiation,” he added.

The U.S. sugar industry pressed the U.S. Commerce Department late last year to withdraw from a 2014 agreement that sets prices and quotas for U.S. imports of Mexican sugar unless the deal could be renegotiated.

Read more…

Mexico, US to Improve Efforts on Fentanyl as Mexico Seizures Rise

5/18/2017 InSight Crime

4396483665_6443cb2eef_b.jpg
Flickr/Kevin McManus

Fentanyl seizures in Mexico are on the rise, prompting Mexico and the United States to pledge to boost bilateral efforts to combat the production and trafficking of the drug, which is a major contributor to the deadly opioid epidemic currently ravaging the United States.

Mexico is ramping up efforts to combat fentanyl, according to Alberto Elías Beltrán, a Mexican deputy attorney general for judiciary and international affairs. Since the start of 2017, the country has made four seizures of the synthetic opioid, he said, while during the entirety of the previous ten years, authorities made a total of just 12 fentanyl seizures.

Beltrán’s comments were made during the inauguration of the first National Fentanyl Conference for Forensic Chemists in Mexico City on May 16. The event was attended by law enforcement officials from around the country, and “is a part of broader international cooperation on fentanyl,” US Ambassador to Mexico Roberta Jacobson told InSight Crime following the event.

Read more…

VIDEO & ARTICLE | Rethinking U.S.-Mexico Security Strategy

eo video

“And so we have an initiative underway where the senior members of the Mexican Government will be coming up here on May the 18th to participate in an interagency process with us to see if we can get at transnational organized crime and begin to break these organized crime units up.“  Secretary of State Rex W. Tillerson speech to Department of State employees, May 3, 2017. 

U.S. Secretary of State Rex W. Tillerson’s maiden speech before U.S. Department of State employees on May 3rd forms the backdrop for an important meeting he will host with his Mexican counterpart today.  It will be an opportunity to redefine U.S.-Mexico security cooperation for the foreseeable future.  The question is whether that opportunity will be used to define new and effective ways to address the vexing problem of organized crime, corruption, and extreme violence, or whether it will simply result in a doubling down on what has already been tried and mostly failed.  In other words, will the new plan look a lot like the old plan with both sides simply trying harder?

Secretary Tillerson’s words are reassuring in part because they signal a willingness to work together with Mexico to address serious problems of insecurity.   It goes without saying that nothing is more important to the immediate safety and security of the United States than its relationship with its neighbor Mexico.  But the President’s own statements about Mexico, Mexicans, and their security forces during the campaign and after his election raised concerns that he might undermine decades of work to reduce tensions between the two countries and to address common security threats through a framework of “shared responsibility.”

But cooperation is not an end in itself, but a means to an end and what must be examined is whether the strategy being pursued is appropriate.  The Secretary’s suggestion that the focus of security cooperation should be “transnational organized crime and (to) begin to break these organized crime units (OCU) up,” raises significant questions.

Read more and watch the video….

VIDEO & OP-ED | America & Mexico to Tackle Increasing Drug Violence

ew video

Secretary of State Tillerson and Homeland Security Secretary Kelly meet their Mexican counterparts on May 18 to discuss the fight against organized crime and drug smuggling. This is a positive sign in a relationship that has been shaken by U.S. criticisms this year. Both countries need good—and better—cooperation against drugs and cartels. The United States is suffering an epidemic of opioid overdoses fueled by the abuse of prescription drugs and heroin and synthetic opioids smuggled from Mexico. Mexico is suffering a surge in homicides fueled in part by the criminal gangs that feed U.S. drug demand and reap billions of dollars in profits.

Mexico and the United States have improved cooperation. However, that progress has not been sufficient to stem the smuggling of deadly drugs or the drug-related violence in Mexico. More progress will require higher levels of trust, commitment and investment by the two governments, and creative thinking to find better ways to address illegal drug use and flows.

Launching a reinvigorated effort against international criminal groups will also depend on the state of U.S.-Mexico relations and, specifically, if the governments find a way to work for mutually acceptable outcomes on two other important topics: trade (NAFTA) and migration. It is hard to imagine that the two governments can forge the confidence needed to reach a new level of collaboration against criminal networks without bilateral relations moving beyond the recent high-profile tensions. Mexican domestic politics, for one, won’t allow it.

Read more and watch the video…