Biden faces tensions with Mexico after DEA partnership is weakened

Mexico and the United States face diplomatic tensions when President-elect Joe Biden asssumes office. Photo: AP
Mexico and the United States face diplomatic tensions when President-elect Joe Biden asssumes office. Photo: AP

Mexico lawmakers stripped U.S. Drug Enforcement agents from their diplomatic immunity last week, creating a mess for Joe Biden when he assumes the presidency in January. Officials on both sides of the border called the new law ruinous.

“The big winners in this entire process are the cartels,” said Mike Vigil, the DEA’s former chief of international operations, in an interview with The Daily Beast.

An editorial in the Dallas Morning News says the loser here is Mexico, with a homicide rate almost six times the U.S. and among the worst in the world. Why would Mexico restrict a productive crime-fighting partnership with its neighbor?

“Clearly, last week’s action is not a serious effort by the Mexican government to protect its citizens or its sovereignty,” wrote the newspaper’s editorial board. “Instead, it’s a retaliation for escalating tensions with American officials.”

Former Mexican Defense Minister Salvador Cienfuegos was arrested in the U.S. on drug-trafficking charges last October, triggering a diplomatic backlash that included threats to expel DEA agents from the country. In response, the U.S. released Cienfuegos back to Mexico.

All this is a mess that Biden will inherit.

“Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador was chummy with President Donald Trump. He may perceive Biden as softer on foreign affairs in the vein of Barack Obama,” the Dallas Morning News wrote. “Whatever the case, it seems like he wants to get his bluff in early, and he’s none too bothered if doing so undercuts efforts to curb drug trafficking.”

Biden can allow Mexico to save face, but not allow corruption to creep north of the border.

“If the Mexican government wants to choose the wrong side in the battle between cops and cartels, Biden should make sure there are consequences that are felt in Mexico City,” the editors wrote.

Read the entire editorial here (registration required).

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