Mexico Bristles at DeSantis Pledge to Fight Cartels as GOP Support Rises

With yearly overdose deaths once again approaching six figures, Republicans are showing increasing support for military action in Mexico to stop the tide of illegal drugs over the border. During this week’s GOP primary debate, Governor Ron DeSantis pledged to use military force to take on the cartels, earning applause from the American people. Talk of using force to take on the cartels has left Democrats and Mexican officials rattled, however, and figures on both sides of the border are voicing their opposition to the idea.

The latest discussion kicked off during Wednesday’s debate when DeSantis was asked whether he would authorize sending special operations forces into Mexico to take on the cartels and destroy fentanyl labs. “Yes, and I will do it on day one,” the Governor replied.

“The president of the United States has got to use all available powers as commander in chief to protect our country and to protect the people. So when they’re coming across, yes we’re going to use lethal force, yes we reserve the right to operate,” ~ Gov. Ron DeSantis

A spokesman for the DeSantis campaign, Bryan Griffin, said that the Governor would declare a national emergency on day one as president and use “the full force of the federal government” to take on the cartels.

“[Military resources] will be utilized to ensure that illegal drug flow is stopped, and he will bring to bear every tool he has to this end.”

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Republican candidates supporting military action on the drug cartels include former President Donald Trump, former South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley, and Senator Tim Scott.

Earlier this year, Florida Congressman Mike Waltz (R) introduced a bill with Rep. Dan Crenshaw (R-TX) to authorize military action and “put us at war with the cartels.” Waltz told Politico at the time,

“We need to start thinking about these groups more like ISIS than we do the mafia,”

Republicans have underscored the need to take on the illegal drugs that kill tens of thousands of Americans yearly, many of which are trafficked into the country through the southern border.

Democrats, however, say they are more concerned with preserving relations with America’s southern neighbor.

“The Republicans cheering for war with Mexico are taking the United States down a dark, dangerous path,” Rep. Joaquin Castro wrote following the debate.

Vanda Felbab-Brown, director of the Brookings Institution’s Initiative on Nonstate Armed Actors, told CNN that using military action to fight cartels might have “major implications for trade.”

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Mexican officials offered a similar view, voicing disapproval following the Republican debate. In an interview with ‘The Hill,’ one unnamed official said that using special forces would “destroy the North American trading bloc” and threaten the United States with a “wave of migration in the region.”

The country’s former ambassador to the U.S., Arturo Sarukhán, acknowledged that the Mexican government–including Presidés Manuel López Obrador–refuses to recognize their country’s role in the U.S. fentanyl epidemic.

“It’s been made worse obviously in the process by President López Obrador’s denial of Mexico’s role in fentanyl trafficking — the fact that he says that fentanyl isn’t produced in Mexico — which is absurd because its own armed forces parade seizures of labs and of fentanyl being produced in Mexico,” ~ Arturo Sarukhán to ‘The Hill’

In June, the CDC reported that 109,000 Americans died in 2021 from opioid overdoses.

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