(Photo: Reuters / Rebecca Cook)
Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney disagrees with his fellow GOP presidential candidate Texas Gov. Rick Perry on the possibility of sending U.S. troops to Mexico to help fight the drug cartels.
Perry ignited a debate this past weekend when he stated in New Hampshire that solving the escalating drug cartel problem “may require our military in Mexico working in concert with them to kill these drug cartels and to keep them off of [U.S.] border.” Perry compared the situation to Colombia, where the U.S. military acts as a support unit in combating the war on drugs.
Officials on both sides of the border are hesitant to get the U.S. military involved. Involvement by the military may undermine a cooperative relationship between the two countries, many fear.
Romney agrees it’s a bad idea to involve the military.
"Let's build a fence first," Romney said in an interview with the New Hampshire Union Leader, "and let's have sufficient border patrol agents to protect it. And if the Mexican government wants us to help it with logistics, intelligence, satellite images, I'm sure we can provide the sort of support we provided in Colombia." He said Mexico would not favor that decision because it has its own military.
Officials are concerned that sending in U.S. troops to do a job that should be done by Mexican troops relays the message that the Mexican officials are ill-equipped or unwilling to take care of the problem themselves.
Furthermore, many Mexican citizens have an unfavorable view of how the United States has confronted the drug cartel situation. Many see the United States as an agent that spurs on the drug war by providing American-made guns to the cartels, a view that is hard to counter with the recent Fast and Furious scandal.
Mexico’s ambassador to the United States, Arturo Sarukhan, sided with Romney and told reporters, "The issue of participation, or the presence of, U.S. troops on Mexican soil is not on the table," according to CNN.
"It is not a component that forms part of the innovative approaches that Mexico and the United States have been using to confront transnational organized crime." He called the effort between the United States and Mexico to combat the drug problems a “new paradigm of joint responsibility, law enforcement, security and intelligence cooperation” aimed at confronting the cartels, according to the Dallas Morning News.
It has certainly been a joint effort. While Perry’s comments ruffled some feathers, the United States has been very active, though indirectly, in Mexico’s drug cartel problems.
For example, the United States has spent $1.6 billion in the Merida Initiative, a program designed to train Mexican police as well as provide them with U.S. equipment such as Black Hawk helicopters.
Furthermore, it is already known that unarmed U.S. drones operate within Mexico with Mexican supervision and serve as a necessary counter-drug operations tool.
After Perry’s speech the White House said it would continue to provide its "historic level of cooperation with Mexico" in order to protect the citizens of both countries.