Mexico's President Wants It Both Ways on Cartel Violence

AP Photo/Ginnette Riquelme

Mexico has a problem. We all know what it is. It's the fact that the cartels control more than a third of the nation and it's only a matter of time before it becomes a full-on narco-state. 


One would imagine that the government isn't fond of this idea, though I'm not so sure that's true. 

After all, rather than address the cartels themselves, Mexico has decided to file a lawsuit against American gun manufacturers, arguing that they're responsible for the violence south of the border.

This isn't new. It still remains to be seen if the Supreme Court will toss the lawsuit, but Mexico is pushing forward with it nonetheless.

I'm bringing this up because of a post written by my colleague Streiff over at RedState. I'd missed this the first time around.

What I'm talking about are comments made by Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador where he basically argued that Mexico doesn't have a problem with crime or violence anymore.

Mexico’s president on Friday delivered his second-to-last state of the union, and perhaps what was most striking of his roughly 1 1/2 hour speech was what he didn’t talk about: drugs, crime or drug cartels.

Experts and residents agree that wide swaths of Mexico are under the de-facto control of drug cartels, but President Andrés Manuel López Obrador mentioned gangs — and drugs — exactly zero times.

Mexico also has over 111,000 missing people, who weren’t mentioned in the speech.

Crime in general merited less than one minute of the president’s speech, which focused almost entirely on what the president viewed as successes of his administration.

For example, he cited a decline in the poverty rate in Mexico from 49.9% of the population in 2018 to 43.5% in 2022, though that was in some part due to the huge rise in remittances, the money sent home by Mexicans working abroad.

The only thing López Obrador had to say about security policy was that his anti-crime strategy was working, even though homicides remain at historically high levels.

“Our strategy of applying the principle that peace is the fruit of justice is working well,” the president said, a reference to job-training and youth programs he says will reduce the ranks of recruits for drug gangs.


Now, it does appear the homicide rate is dropping, though not nearly as significantly as Obrador wants to claim. Further, it seems the drop started under his predecessor.

But it seems to me that while he's touting how much better everything is in Mexico, he's still continuing with a lawsuit that blames American companies for the violence that his government and others still fails to have under control.

So is it a problem and the American firearm industry is to blame or it's not a problem and the voters of Mexico should accept that? While it doesn't have to be either--there are other possibilities, to be sure--it can't be both. Those two takes from Obrador's government are mutually exclusive.

And let's understand that this is from September. This isn't breaking news by any stretch of the imagination, so Obrador has had time to end the lawsuit if he realized it wasn't a problem.

What's happening is Obrador isn't winning against crime like he claims. As Streiff notes in his RedState piece:

When Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador took office in December 2018, the CIA concluded that drug groups controlled about 20 percent of Mexican territory. By 2022, the US Northern Command concluded that up to 35 percent of Mexico was under direct control of drug cartels. That does not seem like success. If that trend line continues, Mexico will be a narco-state within four years. The drug cartels directly employ about 170,000 people, making it that nation's fifth largest employer. If you consider people who make a living supplying goods and services to the cartels, they are probably the most significant economic engine in Mexico.


The homicide rate is likely dropping because the Cartels have sufficient power that fewer people dare cross them. 

But as president, he can't acknowledge he's losing there. On the same token, he has to continue with the lawsuit because he has to put the blame on someone else in case people don't buy his claims that everything is sunshine and daisies.

That's American gun makers who can't lawfully export guns to Mexico without State Department approval, who don't sell guns directly to people without it going through a third-party FFL in the vast majority of cases, and who have absolutely no control over who does what with a gun after it leaves their possession.

However, I wouldn't be shocked if this speech is used as evidence that Mexico's issues aren't the result of American guns. If it's not a problem anymore, then how can it be gun manufacturers' fault?

If the Mexican people shouldn't be concerned about crime, then neither should the government and neither should the American courts.

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