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The Spirit of North Americanism for Security and Diplomacy: A Case Study of the U.S. – Mexico

By: Irving Vidal Terrazas

Over the last eighteen months, the long lasting stable relationship between Mexico and the United States (U.S.) has changed dramatically. The new U.S. presidential administration has brought to question many of the latent issues affecting both nations, including security, immigration, economic growth, and the divergence of strategies. The changes directly affect the U.S.-Mexico border´s dynamics in terms of how its people interact, how policies are created, and how the ideas on the topic of justice and security develop and evolve. Though billions of dollars are invested to restrain and protect the U.S.-Mexico border from transnational crime and terrorism, this still proves a deficient effort to stop weapons crossings, drug trafficking, and human smuggling. For the purposes of this essay, the further discussion focuses on security and law enforcement in the context of the border region and its potential threats.

In recognition of the tensions that divide the U.S. and Mexico and the challenges that unite them, the creation of a new bilateral treaty is necessary. At the heart of this treaty is to have an intelligence core within a binational law enforcement body with shared investments and responsibilities.

The proposed treaty is to include a formal channel of intelligence exchange creating the necessary reliability of the information gathered and shared. By formalizing a treaty for this specific purpose, Washington D.C and Mexico City will be responsible for addressing common issues targeting the specific objectives and not presenting unstable solutions.

In history, instances in which both nations found cooperated to prevent incidents along the border include initiatives such as the Border Violence Prevention Protocols.[1]  These protocols incorporate the exchange of information between authorities from both nations. Even though simulations and meetings occur regularly, mutual distrust prevents information from flowing between U.S. and Mexican personnel as intended; this shared effort has functioned more reactively rather than preventively and border security remains fragile for both nations.

Following 9/11, United Nation´s Security Council resolution 1373/01 obliged member states to criminalize intentional acts of terrorism. It also called on states to cooperate, particularly through bilateral and multilateral arrangements and agreements, to prevent and suppress terrorist attacks and take action against the perpetration of such acts.[2] Cooperation between Mexico and the U.S. has proven to be difficult to formalize, as states have struggled to even agree on a common definition of  terrorism.

Even when a politically popular and simple solution, such as building a fence, appeared to be the faultless deterrent to prevent smuggling people, drugs, and weapons, the crossing continues between the two countries. Reinforcing such policy by building a wall will result in further political alienation, rather than a solution.

Other threats remain latent until now for both nations. For instance, the presence of Hezbollah and Iran´s Qods Force in Latin America has become a closer threat to the security of North America. In August 2012, a U.S. congressional delegation visited Argentina, Mexico, Colombia and other countries to confer with foreign leaders and other experts within these countries on hemispheric security. The delegation concluded that Iran and Hezbollah pose a threat to the entire Western Hemisphere, highlighting the U.S.´ southern border with Mexico[3].

The issues explained before become an even greater challenge when considering the effective regional and global approach taken by criminal and terrorist organizations. Some illicit organizations have tapped into a vast network through the Mexican drug cartels to finance terrorists and other illicit activities in the Middle East and South America. The nexus of these cartels has reached even the attempted assassination of a foreign dignitary in the U.S.[4]

With the proposed treaty, the binational law enforcement cores will be strengthened by simplifying the bureaucracy for extradition proceedings, mutual legal assistance, and prosecution.  This strategy will result in reducing costs significantly for both countries and increasing the rights protection of the individuals involved. As an example, the availability of a list of the most wanted fugitives for both nations can reduce the efforts by focusing on the defined priorities and specific individuals. This system has been proven to work globally for close to a century with INTERPOL’s red notice.

This treaty will not be the first example in which these two nations endeavor to address issues in common through international cooperation based on a treaty. The most concrete and ambitious project was NAFTA, a comprehensive free trade and investment treaty linking the economic fortunes of the two nations (along with Canada).[5] The implementation of a North American Treaty to secure the border can also be a viable solution to lessen violence and threats, which would directly benefit the economies of both nations.

In summary, both nations can address the security issues together to eradicate the vulnerability. Integration in North America between these two countries and their symbiosis has been part of their history. As Ronald Reagan expressed in November, 1979 with his visionary perspective, ¨…The key to our own future security may lie in both Mexico and Canada becoming much stronger countries than they are today… it is time we stopped thinking of our nearest neighbors as foreigners…¨.

The United States and Mexico need to rise up again with the spirit of North Americanism to attend to one of the most challenging moments in their history, in which a strong, direct, and informed diplomacy will be the protagonist.

[2] See United Nations Security Council Resolution S/RES/1373 (2001). (3)(c).

[3] United States House Committee on Homeland Security, Subcommittee on Oversight, Investigations and Management, Representative Michael T. McCaul, Chairman. A line in the sand: Countering Crime, Violence and Terror at the Southwest Border. One Hundred Twelfth Congress, Second Session November 2012, p. 7.

[4] See U.S. Manssor Arbabsiar and Gholam Shakuri: United States District Court for the Southern District of New York, Case 1:11-cr-00897-JFK.

[5] O’Neil, Shannon K. Two Nations Indivisible: The United States, and the Road Ahead, Oxford University Press 2013, page 25.


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