The accusations announced by the US Department of Justice in three federal districts of Mexico against the faction “Los Chapitos” —sons of El Chapo Guzmán, of the Sinaloa Cartel—, for the production and distribution of fentanyl in US cities were striking.
It is a State policy in foreign territory. So said the attorney general, Merrick Garland, from the White House itself, when pointing out 28 people who would be involved in the trafficking of this synthetic drug.
This position has two readings in Mexico. One, associated with the future of the government’s “hugs, not bullets” policy. The other is that this is the first step on the US road against Mexican narcopolitics.
The “hugs, not bullets” policy in the fight against organized crime, in addition to the derision it provoked in political circles in Washington, is besieged and seems to have no future. The production and distribution of fentanyl is causing thousands of US consumer deaths and has set off political alarm bells until it has become a central part of public debate.
In the United States, the leaders of the Republican Party spoke out because they recognize the Mexican cartels as “terrorist organizations”, which was rejected by the majority of the Democratic representatives due to the implications in matters of security and national sovereignty. However, the democratic position does not mean affinity with the vision of the Mexican officialdom — even less so in an election year, when the zero-sum game is imposed on issues that earn votes.
This explains the Biden administration’s stance on fentanyl, a socially sensitive topic that requires tough decisions to combat its production and distribution. This calls into question the policy supported by the López Obrador government, which has been interpreted in some US political and media circles as complicity with criminal organizations.
The search for the children of Joaquín “El Chapo” Guzmán in Mexican territory will certainly not wait for a betrayal within the Sinaloa Cartel in exchange for the US$ 10 million offered by each of them. If that were to happen, it would likely involve a binational collaboration, including covert operations by US security agencies.
For this reason, the stance of the Mexican government and the words of López Obrador, who, in the face of US infiltration into the Sinaloa Cartel, called attention an “abusive interference”, harmful to national sovereignty. This will undoubtedly affect binational cooperation in the fight against the trafficking of fentanyl to the United States; in fact, this week, the US media again mentioned that Mexico is a narco-state.
Although the Mexican Chancellor, Marcelo Ebrard, presents “unprecedented” numbers of achievements in the fight against the fentanyl epidemic, the truth is that the US authorities are not convinced of these results and what they have in their minds is the permissive policy of “hugs, not bullets” by President López Obrador.
The tension between the governments does not mean, at least for the moment, that there will be an advance beyond the attempt to reduce the production and distribution of fentanyl and, in this sense, it is disastrous of the government itself to deny that the drug is not produced in Mexico when the Chancellor’s data show otherwise.
For the time being, US officials have been careful not to mix up the drug lords with politicians old and new. This was evident in the trial of García Luna, Felipe Calderón’s former security secretary, when Judge Brian Cogan refused to implicate Mexican politicians.
So there is no reason to think that the US government is looking for something more in the fight against “Los Chapitos”. Therefore, apparently, the status quo would be preserved and the governors who received favors from this criminal faction during the 2021 elections and who could be preparing to influence the voting decision in this year’s state elections would remain calm.
In summary, the announcement by the US Department of Justice and the DEA comes as a shock to the Mexican government, as it believes its capacity is insufficient to deal with a growing problem for US society. At the moment, however, it seems that this will not affect the electoral situation in the fall, when the nomination of the candidate of the Mexican ruling party and the new president of the North American neighbors will be at stake.
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