SECRETARY BLINKEN: Well, good morning, everyone. Welcome. Welcome to the State Department. Bienvenido, a todos y todas. Thank you so much for being here today.
A year ago, we came together in Mexico City to launch the Bicentennial Framework for Security, Public Health, and Safe Communities, and we set three primary goals together: to protect our people, to prevent transborder crime, and to pursue criminal networks. And what’s so critical is we defined these goals together. They reflect a shared responsibility and a shared interest in working together to address challenges that neither one of our nations can adequately address alone.
Today, we have an opportunity to assess the progress that we’ve made on these interconnected goals, and to identify what more we can do to meet them.
The high-level group represented here – including the attorney general, including the Secretary of Homeland Security, including the administrator of USAID, Ambassador Salazar, other leading U.S. Government officials focused on anti-corruption, on drug policy, on public health – all of us together reflect the comprehensive approach that the United States is bringing to bear on this set of issues. And we can visibly see a similar commitment on the part of our Mexican counterparts.
That commitment is also evident in the unprecedented investments, the new legislation, the deepened coordination that we’ve demonstrated in our first year of implementation.
Last November, President Biden signed the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, which includes $1.9 billion for six new construction and modernization projects on the U.S. southern border that include enhanced security features.
In June, the President signed the Bipartisan Safer Communities Act. This is the United States’ first major gun safety legislation in nearly 30 years, and it makes straw purchases and the trafficking of firearms a federal crime, and that we’ve been using to hold traffickers accountable.
We’ve made considerable new investments in substance use prevention, treatment, recovery – both to reduce the ravages wrought by illicit drugs, and to reduce demand. This year, our Drug‑Free Communities Program has worked with 745 community coalitions in all 50 of our states to prevent youth substance use.
Having said that, we still have a lot of work to do.
We need to enhance our efforts to disrupt illicit fentanyl production and trafficking, and synthetic opioids more broadly. Last year, approximately 108,000 people died in the United States of overdoses, most from synthetic opioids like fentanyl. Synthetic opioids are taking a rising toll in Mexico, too – something we’ve talked about in recent months.
We need to enhance our efforts to disrupt illicit weapons trafficking. Last year, more than 33,000 people in Mexico were killed in intentional homicides; more than two-thirds of those came from firearms.
So across these and so many security issues, the same truth holds: our ability to protect our people depends on working effectively together. And that’s what we’re here to do today, from treating substance use as a public health concern, to dismantling the financial networks of transnational criminal organizations, to addressing the root causes that drive people to organized crime, including a lack of economic opportunity.
Marcelo, I just want to say to you and to all of our colleagues here we are so grateful for the spirit of openness and cooperation that all of you continue to bring to this effort – in the days leading up to today, today, indeed every day. And that’s happening not just among those at this table, but critically, throughout the working levels of our governments. We deeply, deeply value it; we deeply appreciate it, and we look forward to a frank, open, productive discussion today as we’ve had in recent months.
With that, let me turn it over to the attorney general. Merrick.
ATTORNEY GENERAL GARLAND: Thank you, Secretary Blinken, Tony; Secretary Mayorkas, Ali; and to our esteemed friends from Mexico, Ale. It’s great to see all of you again and to have this opportunity to reaffirm the central importance of the law enforcement partnership between our two countries.
The first framework goal that we will address today, protecting our people, is a thread that runs through everything we do. It is why we do this work. On behalf of the Department of Justice, our prosecutors, and each of our law enforcement components, including the DEA, ATF, FBI, and the United States Marshals Service, I want to thank the Government of Mexico for your continued partnership in our shared efforts to protect the people of both of our countries. I look forward to all of our discussions today and our continued work together.
SECRETARY BLINKEN: Thank you. Ali?
SECRETARY MAYORKAS: Thank you very much, Secretary Blinken and Attorney General Garland, for your remarks. Secretary Ebrard, Secretary Rodriguez, Attorney General Gertz, and all colleagues, I am glad we’re able to come together in this 20th – this 200th year of our country’s friendship to celebrate the successes in our implementation of the historic bicentennial framework that was adopted last year. We are, of course, regularly reminded of how intertwined our nations are. Not only do we have a network of communities across our shared border that demonstrates every day how much we have in common, how connected our peoples are, but we also share so much of our respective cultures, we have common democratic principles, we have interconnected economies, and of course, we face similar challenges.
It is both a privilege and a pleasure to work together with all of you in strengthening our bonds which have grown so remarkably over the past several years to tackle the challenges that we both confront with really a united purpose and a shared foundational principle. I am very optimistic about the future because of all of you around this room and the teams whom you represent. I look forward to our dialogue today and to our continued work and friendship together in the days and years to come. Thank you.
SECRETARY EBRARD: Thank you, Antony. Muy buen día. I’m going to turn to Spanish.
(Via interpreter) Thank you very much, assistant secretary. Thank you, Attorney General, Secretary Mayorkas, and all the rest of the officials that are here. I just want to say that for Mexico, this bicentennial framework is a high priority to us. It’s strategic, and today we’re going to review the accomplishments of this year of joint efforts. And we’re going to determine what we’re going to do in 2023 to establish goals for that year. President López Obrador started a new security initiative. He launched it as he came in and to get to the root causes of insecurity and deal with young people in the rural sector. We have more than a half a million people – 2.2 youths are out of work, I’m saying. There’s a high number of people out of work so – especially young people, and they’re in a program that’s created by the – we created a national guard. For the first time, we’re going to have dominion over the entire territory from the law enforcement (inaudible). Before, we had 400 police forces.
Another key point is our – is this framework with the United States. That’s why it’s a framework, because we have common security issues. And so I can tell you, and I’d like to thank and underscore our gratitude to Secretary Blinken for his efforts, and Attorney General Garland who we have met on many, many occasions, and Secretary Mayorkas who we’ve spoken with a lot because they’ve become personally involved in all these efforts. What has been achieved over this year? Okay. There’s 32,000 weapons have been seized. How do we view this in Mexico? We – for the first time, we have a reduction of the murder rate of 9.2 percent approximately it was reduced. Of these 32,000 weapons had been in Mexico, if we hadn’t worked together, we wouldn’t have a 9.2 percent reduction of homicide rate. This means 17,000 cartridges, and each cartridge can kill someone in Mexico, and so it’s something that’s of the upmost important. This is not just statistics. We’re talking about saving lives.
And we can’t just do it without working together, and so that’s why we view it as very important. And we’re going to see soon – we’re going to take a look very soon at – that there’s been an achievement of arrests of 5,000 chemical precursors and fentanyl as well. It’s so much it could poison thousands of people if they had gotten to where they were going – 150,000 tons of methamphetamine. It’s almost – if – it’s if we give a dose of methamphetamine, that would allow to give to every person in Mexico who’s over 50 years of age, that would be enough methamphetamine. Ninety-four tons of cocaine were seized as well with a special interception at sea – interdiction at sea. It’s been – I’m not going to get in more detail – of these details. I just want to say with these results what we should do is next year we should make it higher figures to reduce violence and avoid drugs from getting to people in Mexico and the United States.
Now that I’ve said this and with our gratitude, I give the floor right now to Rosa Icela Rodriguez, the Secretary of Security and Citizen Protection.
SECURITY SECRETARY RODRIGUEZ: (Via interpreter) Good morning to everything. I’m very happy to be here with you all. Greetings, and I thank our hosts for their hospitality. Secretary Blinken, Secretary Mayorkas and Attorney General Garland and everyone present and the Ambassador Ken Salazar. I thank and say hello to the members of the cabinet of the Government of Mexico.
And yes, I want to underscore that security is a priority – a topic or issue for our governments and must – this binational vision should remain in place, government to government, the government of Lopez Obrador and the current government of the United States, and at all times there be a – there prevail sovereignty and respect.
This is a major decision by this country. The bicentennial framework has enabled us to work in coordinated fashion and agree upon this collaboration without conditioning – without any conditions, so we underscore that this instrument is part of peace, peacekeeping, or peace efforts in both of our countries. And our nations are obligated to work together jointly because we have a shared responsibility to combat organized – transnational organized crime, which on this side in the United States leads to overdose deaths, and Mexico has violent homicides because of the transfer of these drugs.
So after – by working together and putting into practice, as we have done thus far, the capacities of our states to diminish the crime and to hamstring these criminal groups and bring about peace in the Americas, and therefore, Mexico and the United States, we are united by peace. Because we have a bilateral relationship of brotherhood; because we’re neighbors, partners; in many regions, we’re family members of each other. That’s all. Thank you.
FOREIGN SECRETARY EBRARD: (Via interpreter) Thank you very much, Secretary. Before I give the floor to Dr. Alejandro Betz (ph), the attorney general – or Gertz – of Mexico, I want to highlight the presence, and it’s very important in this framework of the national defense – Cresencio Sandoval, the presence of our defense minister, and Admiral Rafael Ojeda, who is the secretary of the navy of our country. Thank you very much for joining us here.
You have the floor, Mr. Attorney General.
ATTORNEY GENERAL GERTZ: (Via interpreter) Secretary of State, Attorney General, Secretary of Homeland Security, thank you so much for inviting us. It’s an honor to be with you all. Thank each and every one of you, ambassador as well.
I believe that it’s very important to point out that the work that we have been engaged in over time has been – has become even stronger as the result of the presence of Ambassador Salazar in Mexico.
The first thing we should mention is – and we should take this into account – crime has no borders. Crime is a structure that precisely takes advantage of the sovereignty of states and circumstances that are so clear about what our legal authorities, our own competencies are, to use them against the citizenry of both countries. That’s why when we work together with full respect of each one of the governments, we can achieve something that otherwise would be absolutely impossible.
The first thing that I mentioned with Ambassador Salazar were three things that we were deeply concerned about because of the harm that was being caused in Mexico and the United States as a result. For example, what’s happening with fentanyl is a phenomenon that we should attach a very high, substantive importance to. We are living this problem of drugs since the ’70s and ’80s. We did make some progress, but now what we’re facing is one of the most horrid phenomena that’s destroying the lives of young people, children in Mexico and the United States. This for us should be our highest priority, and I believe that whatever we do is very little as compared to what lives mean to families and new generations of Mexico and the United States.
We also saw something that was so important to avoid, what’s being done with – to migrants. Migrants are victims, and those who manipulate them are heartless criminals. So if we don’t have the ability to get to the heads of those organizations, otherwise we wouldn’t – won’t be able to do anything. We cannot solve this problem. The problem, it comes to Mexico from all of Central America and all over the world. It comes to Mexico. We have to understand that this phenomenon is a very complicated phenomenon. Why? Because immigrants are not criminals. The criminal is the one that uses them and exploits migrants in an absolutely inhuman way. If we don’t go after the heads of these groups and these people, we’re not going to be able to solve the issue.
And that we’re doing, what is absolutely essential to do – drug trafficking is to us a problem that dates back many, many years – we have to find a way to prevent purchase of weapons illegally in the United States and for them to flood into Mexico. And they cause all these confrontations, which has cost thousands and thousands of lives. It’s absolutely essentially to understand this phenomenon, and we’re very clear about this.
And let me tell you one thing that I believe is of the utmost importance. These are data that have been upheld by the National Geographic and Statistics Institute. I believe that these are well known statistics by you. The phenomena of crime that had grown in a huge way has been stemmed. We don’t recognize the means, but if – in reality, if you take a look at the statistics, the figures of how the mortality rates in Mexico have been evolving, and based on under this government – and remember, prevention is not my bailiwick. That’s not my area. But containing these crimes, containing a criminal phenomenon for those who we know – we know what it involves and the effort that has to be made, and what’s been done by the armed forces has been just exemplary. And this is something that we should take very much into account.
If you look at the statistics of how we’ve stemmed common crimes, especially homicides – and let me say that when it comes to federal crimes, what we’re concerned with – and this has been recognized – federal crimes have been reduced over these four years by 32 percent. This had never happened in the past. The media talk a lot about the bad stuff, but not about the good stuff. And so they talk more about the scandalous stuff, but we are firmly convinced that what’s being done and should be recognized because that – the President of the United States is represented by the ambassador, and the ambassador has done an exemplary job. We’re always in close contact with Secretary Mayorkas, with the Attorney General, with each and every one of you, because we believe that if we do it together, we can live up to what we have to do. If we don’t, forget it. This won’t work.
And so a meeting like this deserves the highest respect and it deserves for us having that deep belief that we’re all working on behalf of our people, our countries, but in the end we’re also working – you are working for us and we’re working for you as well. Thank you very much.
SECRETARY BLINKEN: Thank you very much. I think we’re going to give our colleagues a minute to leave the room.