MCALLEN, RGV – Congressman Vicente Gonzalez hopes Mexico President Andrés Manuel López Obrador will reconsider his decision not to accept U.S. military help in the fight against drug cartels.

Both Gonzalez and President Trump urged AMLO to consider U.S. assistance following the massacre of a Mormon family in Chihuahua. On Nov. 4, gunmen stopped three vehicles outside of La Mora, Chihuahua, and killed three women and six children. The family lived in the mountains of northwest Mexico.

Trump said the U.S. was ready to assist “if Mexico needs or requests help in cleaning out these monsters.” The president tweeted: “This is the time for Mexico, with the help of the United States, to wage WAR on the drug cartels and wipe them off the face of the earth.”

In an op-ed, Gonzalez said he agreed with Trump, arguing that the time for empty promises was over.

“Although I rarely find myself agreeing with President Donald Trump, on this occasion our views somewhat align. Mexico needs our help to improve citizen security, and it’s time we take bold, concrete steps to do it. We have a moral obligation to make the offer just as Mexico has a moral obligation to accept it in the interest of protecting its citizens. In the last few weeks we have witnessed massacres in the states of Michoacán, Sinaloa, and most recently the murders of dual Mexican-American citizens in Chihuahua which included innocent women and young children. The time for empty promises is over,” Gonzalez wrote.

Congressman Vicente Gonzalez held one-on-one interviews with Rio Grande Valley reporters at his McAllen district office on Monday, Nov. 25, 2019.

On Monday, Gonzalez held a media availability with reporters at his district office in McAllen. Asking questions on behalf of the Rio Grande Guardian was Ron Whitlock of Ron Whitlock Reports.

“I believe Mexico should accept our help in securing the country. If your neighbors home is burning you don’t care who puts out the fire. If your house is burning and your neighbor puts it out, you should not have a problem with that,” Gonzalez told Whitlock.

Gonzalez said that because of Mexico’s history with the United States – it lost about a third of its land to its northern neighbor – the issue of sovereignty is important among intellectuals in Mexico City.

“There is a big push back in accepting American law enforcement or military help in securing the country. I think everyone needs to get over that,” Gonzalez told Whitlock.

“We should have a plan and an exit strategy to go in there and do that. We did it in Colombia and we could do it for our neighbors to the south.”

Gonzalez said he knows this is a big step.

“I know that this is a big step if Mexico was to do this but President AMLO is pretty popular right now. He has the popular support of the people. He controls both chambers, the House and the Senate and I think he is the only president in decades that actually has the influence to accept this type of help and he should.”

Asked if he really thought the people of Mexico would allow U.s. troops to operate in their country, given the history between the two nations, Gonzalez said:

“I think he (AMLO) has the political support to do it and he should. Only just a couple of days ago he responded to my suggestion and said, in a very nice way, that Mexico could handle this on its own and we were soon going to see results,” Gonzalez said.

“I am going to be carefully watching. I hope that we see results and we see crime go down across the country and certainly across our border and trade routes to Mexico and other important hubs in Mexico. But, we are far from that right now and I think we need to have an honest conversation with Mexico.”

Gonzalez started his conversation with Whitlock by focusing on the United States-Mexico-Canada trade agreement. Mexico has approved the new pact – a successor to the North American Free Trade Agreement – but the United States has not. Asked where things stand on Congress ratifying USMCA, Gonzalez said:

“I think we are very close to striking a deal and, hopefully, being able to get it to a vote. feel pretty confident that that in the next couple of months we will probably see Speaker Pelosi have Congress vote on the new USMCA.”

Gonzalez said on a number of occasions that his vote on USMCA depends on Mexico improving security along the highway between Monterrey and the Valley. He has noted that the number of Mexican shoppers visiting the Valley and the amount of money they have spent has declined. He says this is in large part due to security.

“I continue to press the government of Mexico for more increased security measures on trade routes that lead to our border, especially the route that leads from Monterrey to here,” Gonzalez told Whitlock.

“If we talk about trade with Mexico and ignore the subject of insecurity, it will be a missed opportunity that we regret down the road. I have told the government of Mexico that as much as I am for trade I want to see a firm commitment that they are going to do more to qualm the insecurities that are occurring right across our border and that are certainly impacting trade.”

Gonzalez said extortion is a big problem for businesses in northern Mexico.

“If we talk about taxes and tariffs and we ignore the extra security costs we are incurring when we do business in Mexico, whether it is formal or informal costs… some people are being extorted. Some of the products that are coming to our bridges have extra security costs. To me, that is not free trade. To me there is a cost that is being incurred by the business community in Mexico, whether they are American, Canadian or Mexican, and we need to address this formally and assure that we can do business safely and without any issues coming up.”

Tourism in the Valley has also been affected by insecurity in Mexico, Gonzalez argues.

“Some of the tourism coming up from Monterrey is down and it is because of the insecurity of the highway from Monterrey to our bridges. So we need to continue to press Mexico both at the state and federal levels to address the insecurity issues that are impacting tourism here,” Gonzalez said.

“Our bank deposits are down. People are selling their second homes in our region, on Padre Island and here because they do not feel comfortable enough to get in a car in Monterrey and drive all the way to our border. This is an epidemic that started about 12 years ago and has progressively gotten worse and every time we turn on a news channel we see that there are murders and massacres across the country and many times just across our border. The time to be silent about this is over.”

Gonzalez said he has met with Mexico’s security of public security and has received a commitment to put the Monterrey-Valley highway into a pilot program that aims to strengthen highway security.

“The secretary had five roads in the pilot program and he added a sixth road. Right now, if you travel that road you will see a lot more law enforcement and maybe some military, so they are trying to secure it. But, it is not to the point where I feel confident enough to tell my community that, hey, it is safe to travel now. But I think we are moving in the right direction,” Gonzalez said.

Gonzalez said a critical stretch of highway measures about five kilometers and connects the Monterrey-Reynosa toll road and Anzalduas International Bridge.

“The federal government has told me they are securing that highway but once you get off that highway there is about a five kilometer trek from the end of that toll road to the nearest bridge, which would be the Anzalduas Bridge. I am hoping that the Mexican government, both at the federal and state level, do more in securing this route. It is only five kilometers but a lot of things have been reported on those five kilometers. So, it is still a concern,” Gonzalez told Whitlock.

Editor’s Note: The main image accompanying the above news story shows Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador taking part in a news conference at the National Palace in Mexico City on July 22. (Photo: Edgard Garrido/Reuters)