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Mexico and the U.S. Border: A Symbiotic Relationship

Mexican army soldiers prepare a search mission for four U.S. citizens kidnapped by gunmen at Matamoros, Mexico, Monday, March 6, 2023. Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador said the four Americans were going to buy medicine and were caught in the crossfire between two armed groups after they had entered Matamoros, across from Brownsville, Texas, on Friday. (AP Photo)

Most of the time Mexico is blamed by the United States government and officials for being responsible of the drug crisis in their country, however, it is never mentioned the trade back that happens. United States is the number one consumer of the drugs trafficked by Mexican cartels. Despite, just in the same way drugs are smuggled from Mexico to the U.S., arms cross freely from the American border to Mexico. By 2022, it was estimated that every year around 200 000 firearms are trafficked from the U.S. to Mexico, which end in the hands of drug leaders, cartels, and other violent groups. Consequently, this means that in the last ten years it accounts for more than 2 million guns.

In Mexico, it is not legally allowed to buy or carry firearms as in the United States. Guns shops are not as usual and permits are heavily regulated. Therefore, officials in Mexico blame gun laws in the U.S. for the number of advance weapons cartels and paramilitary groups now possess. The Mexican government even went as far as filing a sue against U.S. gun manufacturers in front of Federal Court. Anyhow, in September of 2022, Federal Court Judge F. Dennis Saylor in Boston dismissed the $10 billion lawsuit.  Gun manufacturers were not hold accountable or responsible for the load of guns in Mexican streets under the excuse that every person or group of people use guns for their intended purpose. Nonetheless, the intention of the lawsuit, and the lawsuit itself, received worldwide recognition. It was taken as a turning point in the discussion regarding the American gun’s industry responsibility for violence inflicted with their sold weapons.

On the other hand, in 2021, the United States government declared the deadliest drug epidemic in its history in consequence of the quantity of fentanyl, a synthetic opioid, being trafficked through the border. American officials publicly blamed Cartel Jalisco Nueva Generación (Jalisco’s Drug Cartel) and the Sinaloa Cartel, which in the end led to the launch of Operation Without a Trace. Operation Without a Trace is a campaign that started in July of 2021 consisting of a tip-line directed by ICE (Immigration and Customs Enforcement) focused on receiving information regarding illicit acts involving firearms; pushing the message out towards check-points, shipping and transportation businesses and ports of entry. As a result, 360 suspects were apprehended, 534 investigations were launched, 1200 guns taken away, 700 000 ammunitions confiscated and $29 million intercepted.

Trafficking is done in all sorts of tactics, like stashing weapons and drugs within bigger products like fridges and stoves, to more complicated strategies. For example, a U.S. citizen who passed as a cable-lying network worker using his government ID to smuggle gun parts. Nevertheless, the one thing all different tactics have in common is the help of certain authorities in exchange for the right amount of money or favors. Hence, another important factor that must be taken into consideration for this analysis is corruption. Most drug busts in the U.S. and arms confiscations in Mexico have unveiled long lines of corruption in both sides of the border. Without the support of officials inside the operations and campaigns the routes for smuggling would not be working so forcefully in both sides.

Often the narrative portrays Mexico as a violent perpetrator of the perfect, drug-free, and developed American society within the U.S., but without the American guns provided, cartels would not have the strength and the power to send such quantities of contraband drugs. Therefore, it can be said, that whether you analyze what comes through the border from North to South, or South to North, it is a symbiotic relationship that feeds of corruption and creates illegal profits for both countries; it is a bilateral relationship without a doubt. As a consequence, both governments and their agencies are relaying on a blaming game instead of actually joining forces, acknowledging the responsibility on each side, and doing operations that could transcend. This because of the lack of trust with each other but also because no one wants to recognize that the situation has escalated so much, that maybe the solution is not only on their hands anymore.