Secretary Tillerson: "We Americans must own this problem"
Mexican foreign minister: ""We need to overcome the blame game"
If there was a single theme to emerge from today’s second go at joint Cabinet-level meetings with the Mexican government, it came across stunningly loud and clear: That the real heart of Mexico’s ongoing, bloody battle with hard drug production, organized crime and murder lies firmly in the United States.
“We Americans must own this problem. It is ours,” Secretary of State Rex Tillerson stated bluntly during a news conference. America’s “pervasive demand” for illegal drugs was brought up repeatedly throughout the day, as if US officials could not strike the tone hard enough.
“We know what we own, and we as Americans must confront that we are the market. There is no other market for these activities. It is all coming here. But for us, Mexico wouldn’t have the trans-criminal organized crime problem and the violence that they’re suffering,” Tillerson said. “We really have to own up to that.”
After Tillerson and Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly’s tense appearance in February with these same Mexican officials – Foreign Secretary Luis Videgaray and Interior Secretary Miguel Angel Osorio Chong – a meeting actually interrupted by news of a President Donald Trump statement that immigration enforcement was to be a “military operation,” today’s words were precisely what the Mexican side has been wanting and even asking to hear, according to a Mexican government offical: That these issues are a two-way street.
Videgaray spoke to the notion that Mexico can’t take the blame for cross-border problems.
“We need to overcome the blame game and the finger-pointing aspect,” he said. “If the governments of Mexico and the United States discuss who’s to blame, who’s responsible, the only one who wins is organized crime that is bringing violence and death on both sides of the border.”
But all the public finger-pointing today was from the US – pointing a finger firmly back at itself.
“The first thing we need to do, because it is – it generates all of the problems – and that is the drug demand in the United States,” Kelly said, explaining that tackling this will be a major part of a new and innovative approach with Mexico. “The United States in indeed the magnet that feeds drug smuggling.”
“The most important thing we can do is reduce the drug demand. We’ve never tried it, we’ve never done it. We have to develop a comprehensive drug demand reduction program in the United States that involves everybody – involves professional sports, Hollywood; involves governors, mayors; involves parents, priests; involves everybody,” Kelly added.
Plans to more effectively target both demand and supply are just being developed, but Kelly’s words do conjure up memories of America’s infamous “War on Drugs,” launched in the 1970s, but accelerated during Ronald Reagan’s presidency and beyond. That era famously spawned first lady Nancy Reagan asking kids to “Just Say No” and the ominously sizzling egg of the “This is Your Brain on Drugs” TV spot.
That war on drugs, which included tough sentencing for offenders, was declared a resounding failure by the Global Commission on Drug Policy.
The Trump administration today promised “fresh strategies” and to work closely with Mexico to refocus anti-drug efforts at all levels.
At the very least, the relationship between the two neighbors appeared to be on better footing than it was three months ago.