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Mexican Prez Refuses to Fight Cartels, Claiming ‘Mexico First’ Policy

Gerardo Vieyra/Getty Images
Gerardo Vieyra/Getty Images

Mexican president Andrés Manuel López Obrador on Friday rebuked the calls of U.S. officials to crack down on the illegal drug trade, saying the U.S. opioid crisis caused by drugs funneled through Mexican cartels wasn’t Mexico’s problem to deal with.

At his daily news briefing, the Mexican leader located his inaction to combat cartel violence within a “Mexico First” policy that doesn’t answer to anyone else—namely the U.S., Mexico’s northern neighbor.

While explaining why he wouldn’t directly crack down on the illegal drug trade, López Obrador said, “We are not going to act as policemen for any foreign government.”

“Mexico First. Our home comes first,” he said.

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The reasoning goes against the explanations López Obrador has offered in the past, when he claimed “you cannot fight violence with violence” as a reason for his inaction. He’s offered the solution to cartel violence lies in curing social inequalities, like providing better access to economic opportunities.

His view isn’t new or necessarily different from his predecessors.

“For decades, past administrations in Mexico have thought the war against drug cartels was basically a U.S. problem,” security analyst David Saucedo told the Associated Press. Drug usage levels in Mexico are still relatively low.

“On the other hand, the drug cartels provide jobs in regions where the Mexican government can’t provide economic development, they encourage social mobility, and generate revenue through drug sales to balance trade and investment deficits,” Saucedo added.

In the U.S., tens of thousands of people die each year from overdoses on synthetic opioids like fentanyl, usually from drugs manufactured in Mexico from chemicals originating in China. According to the CDC, more than 100,000 people died from synthetic opioid-related overdoses in 2021 and 2022—a number that has climbed every year.

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