WASHINGTON – The U.S. and Mexico need to work together to stem the threat of transnational criminal organizations and meet mutual security threats, but need to respect each others’ sovereignty, the Mexican chief of staff for National Defense said Tuesday.
The Trump administration has bee vocal about its belief that drugs and crime flowing across the U.S. southern border is a key threat to national security, a public position that has strained relationships with Mexico. Lt. Gen. Roble Arturo Granados Gallardo told an audience at the annual Association of the United States Army conference that the best way to address the issues is together, recognizing the shared threats.
“Mexico understands that every state has established security priorities,” Gallardo said. “But we also understand that multidimensional threats demand an integrated and decisive posture. And we identify among these transnational organized crime, due to financial capacity and the violence they generate.
“It’s worth taking cooperative measures to stem the flow of illicit drugs from south to north, and the weapons and money from north to south.”
Trump has been particularly keen to highlight the U.S./Central American gang MS-13, which was identified by the U.S. government as a transnational crime organization in 2012.
The Mexican government has been particularly aggravated by Trump’s campaign promise to make Mexico pay for a border wall for the United States. In August Trump reupped his demand that Mexico pay for his wall project via a tweet, to which the Mexican foreign ministry said the country would “under no circumstances” pay for it.
“This determination is not part of a Mexican negotiating strategy, but a principle of national sovereignty and dignity,” the statement said.
Gallardo called for mutual cooperation to solve shared security threats, but said nation’s sovereignty needed to be respected.
“Mexico recognizes the complexity of countering the intentions and designs of potential adversaries,” he said. “We understand the shared responsibility in coordination and cooperation with other counties are the best way to deal with the threats. But always keeping in mind the sovereignty of the other country.”
Despite the simmering tensions, the military-to-military relationship with Mexico has remained relatively strong, with Defense Secretary Jim Mattis making a point to visit the country in September.
Gallardo highlighted humanitarian assistance and disaster relief as an area the countries should work together. Given that storms are projected to occur with more frequency and increased intensity, the U.S., Mexico and Canada should develop strategies to better respond together to the increased threat.
“We think our countries should develop models for humanitarian assistance, which are more efficient in operations and recovery,” he said.
David B. Larter was the naval warfare reporter for Defense News.