U.S.-Mexico relations face new complications ahead of dual elections

During the first debate among candidates for the Republican U.S. presidential primary last month, Florida Governor Ron DeSantis said he would be willing to send American Special Forces over the southern border to combat fentanyl producing cartels.

“Would I use force? Would I treat them as foreign terrorist organizations? You’re damn right I would,” he continued.

Both countries have high stakes presidential elections in 2024, which could transform the political and economic relationship between America and Mexico.

Border, migration, violence and trade relations

Political discourse about the U.S.-Mexico border has grown more heated, amid a surge of migrants and crossings.

As of July, U.S. Customs and Border Protection tracked 1.9 million encounters at the border, more than all of 2021.

Republicans have blamed the Biden administration for this, especially following the end of Title 42, which turned away migrants at the border on public health grounds.

A Gallup poll found that 73% of Americans say the U.S. government is doing a bad job at that border, including 87% of Republicans.

Mexican drug cartels have also played a major part in American concerns at the border. Some critics say that cartels control between 35% and 40% of Mexican territory.

Seven of the 10 most dangerous cities in the world were in Mexico, according to Statista.

Cartels have been blamed for the flood of the drug fentanyl into the U.S., which led to the overdose deaths of more than 100,000 Americans in 2022, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Mexico recently became the biggest trading partner for the U.S., reaching a total trade of nearly $400 billion ($396.6) in the first half of 2023.

But concerns over a trade war or rising tariffs could cool that relationship and further trade disputes could rapidly change the region.

Mexico’s politics and policies

U.S. Republicans have focused much of their ire on outgoing Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador, especially his economic policy that they say tramples on two decades of open trade, including violations of the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA).

Critics say Obrador’s security policy has also made it more difficult for U.S. federal agencies like the Drug Enforcement Administration to pursue operations in the country.

Mexico is preparing for an upcoming election between former Mexico City Mayor Claudia Sheinbaum and Senator Xóchitl Gálvez.

Mexico will head to the polls in June 2024, while Americans will vote in the presidential election the following November.

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