On Friday, President Trump met with many world leaders, including his Mexican counterpart Enrique Peña Nieto. Before this meeting began, a journalist asked President Trump if he expected Mexico to pay for the wall, he responded “Absolutely.” President Nieto has repeatedly stated that he has no intention to have Mexico pay for the border wall. While the issue of the wall was obviously contentious, some points of mutual cooperation were found. It is expected that a renegotiation of NAFTA will be completed by the end of the year, and agricultural guest worker reform was also discussed.
In the days before the summit, dozens were killed in Mexico during gang violence. On July 1st, 19 people died in two shootings in Sinaloa near the resort town of Mazatlan. On Wednesday, 26 people were killed in a gun battle between members of the La Linea Gang and the Sinaloa Cartel in the town of Las Varas. On Thursday, 28 inmates were killed in an early morning prison riot in Acapulco in the state of Guerrero. In the prison riots, bodies were found in various parts of the prison, including the kitchen, yard, and visitation area. Some of the inmates killed had their throats slit while others had been beaten to death. The riot was part of a conflict between two rival groups in the prison. These are just three examples of recent violence in Mexico in the past week, there are likely many more that I could have found. During the escalation of the drug war in Mexico that began in 2006, nearly 200,000 people have been murdered, an additional 30,000 have disappeared and are likely dead or trafficked. May of 2017 was one of the most violent months on record, with 2,186 murders. From the incidents of this past week, it is possible that July will also be an extremely violent month.
What is causing this uptick in violence? It is possible that the arrest of Joaquin Guzman, also known as “El Chapo,” has something to do with it. Guzman was captured in January 2016 and has been in U.S. custody. Guzman led the Sinaloa Cartel, which has historically been Mexico’s most powerful confederation of criminal organizations. With Guzman absent, infighting among Sinaloa leaders, as well as other cartels (such as the Jalisco New Generation Cartel and the Zetas), has led to a power struggle. Those killed in Mexico are for a large part cartel members, but thousands of innocent civilians have also been caught in the crossfire.
President Trump is right to be concerned about the crime from Mexico and Central America spilling over our borders, and his idea for a wall has been one of the most solid responses to date. While the effort to build the wall will be slow, there are other efforts that President Trump can take to stop the flow of illegal immigrants and crime into the United States. One of these methods is to crack down on illegal immigrants in the United States to discourage others from coming, and he has been doing this quite well. Another, and certainly more long term, answer is to work with Mexico and other countries to solve these internal gang problems. Drug reform, increased trade, and increased law enforcement cooperation could all potentially lead to greater stability in the region. If President Trump plays his cards right, he might not even need to build the wall.