Newly elected Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto has a plan for tackling his country’s ongoing drug war, and he is enlisting the help of the United States.
Interviewed on Tuesday while in Washington for his first meeting with President Obama since assuming office, Pena Nieto informed reporters of his long term plan of establishing jobs and social programs as a viable alternative for those who might otherwise be drawn into crime. He explained that one of his goals in meeting with Obama was to promote further economic cooperation between the two nations in an effort to promote job growth across the North American continent. According to Pena Nieto, it is this cooperation between Mexico and the United States that will be vital to ending the Mexican drug cartel-related violence that has plagued his nation.
Pena Nieto is not the first Mexican president to point out the potential impact that the United States could have on the Mexican drug war. Felipe Calderón ruffled feathers north of the border with his accusations that the United States is fueling the Mexican drug war through its inability to curb the consumption of illegal drugs as well as for supplying Mexican drug cartels with relatively easily obtainable firearms. Calderón delivered an earnest speech earlier this year along the Ciudad Juárez-El Paso border, appealing, “Dear friends of the United States, Mexico needs your help to stop this terrible violence we are suffering.”
Although Calderón had relatively little success as president in getting the support from the U.S. government to help fight cartel violence, Pena Nieto seems to be taking a somewhat different approach than his predecessor in appealing to Obama and other U.S. leaders. Veering away from Calderón’s sometimes combative approach, Pena Nieto is working to emphasize how international cooperation can truly benefit the North American continent as a whole, improving both national economies and public safety.
To many in Arizona, Pena Nieto’s statements regarding the potential benefits of U.S.-Mexico economic collaboration are already immediately apparent. According to a recently published study from the University of Arizona’s Eller College of Management, foreign born residents and visitors to Arizona annually contribute over 31 billion to the state’s economy. With Arizona’s increasing attempts to close off the state’s international border, it risks losing at least a portion of this contribution. If Pena Nieto is successful in strengthening economic linkages between the two nations, it could yield a disproportionate impact on Arizona and the other border states.
In addition, cooperation between the United States and Mexico may prove beneficial to the former, not only economically, but also in terms of public safety. As the Mexican drug war intensifies, it is only a matter of time before it bleeds across the border. By working with Mexico to end the war now, U.S. authorities can ensure that they will not be forced to fight this war in their own backyard.