MEXICO CITY – Three members of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee concluded an official visit to the Mexican capital Sunday to reaffirm the strong security, economic, and cultural ties that bind the United States and Mexico.
U.S. Senator Ben Cardin (D-Md.), the Committee’s Ranking Member, led his colleagues U.S. Senators Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.) and Edward Markey (D-Mass.) in meetings with members of the Mexican cabinet, Senate, and civil society.
“We know that damage has been done to the bilateral relationship in the last few months,” Senator Cardin said. “Our meetings and conversations helped us better understand key issues from the Mexican perspective, and gave us the opportunity to reaffirm our priorities and expectations. I’m confident the strength of our partnership and friendship with Mexico is dynamic enough to withstand 140-character broadsides or unrealistic demands. I learned a great deal and on behalf of my colleagues, I am thankful to our Mexican hosts for their hospitality.”
The Senators first met with Secretary of the Economy Idelfonso Guajardo, where the discussion focused on economic and trade relations and the potential for reforms of the North American Free Trade Agreement. In particular, environmental and labor standards and focusing on policies that will help workers impacted by free trade were key parts of the conversation.
“All of our common concerns, from economic growth and immigration to global warming and security, are best advanced by dialogue and partnership,” Senator Merkley said, “I was impressed by the commitment of Mexican leaders to working with us to make advances in all of these areas. But have no doubt: the irresponsible and uninformed commentary on display during the campaign and the early weeks of the Trump Administration are damaging these efforts.”
Attorney General Raul Cervantes Andrade hosted the Senators for a conversation about Mexico’s efforts to combat drug trafficking and improve security, as well as bilateral cooperation on extraditions. The Senators thanked the Attorney General for the extradition of Joaquin ‘El Chapo’ Guzman. The conversation also focused heavily on the lethal synthetic drug fentanyl, which increasingly finds its way into heroin after an illicit path from China to Mexico to the United States.
“The real fear for American families is not what’s happening on the streets of Aleppo, it is the heroin and fentanyl that are tearing communities apart and killing far too many people in Massachusetts and across the country,” Senator Markey said. “The United States and Mexico have not adequately addressed this epidemic, and I will be redoubling my efforts to shape policies and steer funding toward comprehensive solutions such as disrupting the drug supply chain and getting people the treatment they need.”
The Senators also engaged in a robust dialogue with civil society leaders and human rights defenders focused on strengthening the rule of law, eliminating impunity, protecting journalists, and current legislative efforts to end torture and disappearances.
“I am deeply concerned by the level of impunity that exists in the Mexican judicial system, and yet was inspired by the brave men and women from civil society who are slowly but surely making a difference through their important work,” Senator Cardin continued. “Corruption is a cancer on any system of government and it is imperative that laws are not just passed to fight it — they must also be enforced.”
This was part of the message the Senators shared with their counterparts in the Mexican Senate: Gabriela Cuevas, Chair of the Foreign Relations Committee; Marcela Guerra, Chair of the North American Relations Committee; Adriana Davila, Chair of the Committee on Human Trafficking, and Juan Gerardo Flores Ramírez, member of the Foreign Relations Committee. The warm, frank, wide-ranging dialogue touched on a number of issues, and all the Senators agreed they would explore bilateral and multilateral parliamentary exchange opportunities as they continue to strengthen and deepen the U.S.-Mexican friendship.
The delegation departed Mexico City Sunday for El Paso, to better understand these issues in the context of the U.S.-Mexican border.