July 22 at 1:58 PM
MEXICO CITY — The Mexican government said Monday it has reached agreement with the United States for a joint operation to combat gun smuggling along the U.S. border after seeing a spike in the number of illegal firearms detected.
Seizures of assault rifles in Mexico are up 122% so far this year.
Foreign Relations Secretary Marcelo Ebrard said Mexico’s military would coordinate with U.S. authorities to launch anti-gun-smuggling operations in five Mexican border cities — Tijuana, Ciudad Juarez, Nuevo Laredo, Reynosa and Matamoros.
He implied that U.S. authorities would coordinate by cracking down on smuggling in the corresponding cities on the U.S. side. Many of the firearms seized by police in Mexico have come from the United States.
The announcement comes after Sunday’s meeting between Ebrard and U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.
Ebrard also said Mexico had proposed the two countries undertake a joint effort to identify and seize the assets of convicted drug lord Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzmán. Many Mexicans fear their country will lose money that belongs to Mexico after a U.S. court ordered Guzmán to pay $12.6 billion as part of the life sentence announced Wednesday.
Mexican Foreign Minister Marcelo Ebrard holds the microphone to his mouth as he gives a press conference about new U.S. restrictions on asylum seekers in Mexico City, Monday, July 15, 2019. Ebrard said his country “does not agree with any measure that limits access to asylum,” a reference to measures announced Monday by the U.S. government to end asylum protections for most migrants who arrive at the U.S.-Mexico border. (Christian Palma/Associated Press)
Ebrard said “the aim is that the assets of this criminal organization be recovered for the Mexican government.”
He said Pompeo “was very favorable to it, so that in the next few days we should be able to make very rapid progress on this strategic objective.”
Few experts believe either country will ever be able to find anything approaching $12.6 billion in assets. The amount was calculated on the price of the amount of drugs Guzman’s Sinaloa cartel smuggled into the United States over the course of years. Ebrard said some of the money is probably in the U.S. and some in Mexico.
Ebrard said Mexico had presented evidence it had reduced the flow of Central American migrants through Mexican territory by about 36 percent between January and early July.
The United States had threatened to impose tariffs within 90 days on Mexican products unless the country did more to halt the flow of migrants. Sunday’s meeting was the halfway mark evaluation of the progress Mexico has made over 45 days.
Ebrard said he was confident Mexico could avoid the imposition of tariffs, while resisting U.S. pressure to sign a “safe third country” agreement with Washington that would require migrants to apply for asylum in Mexico rather than in the U.S.
“We are not going to change our position, which is to say, we do not agree and we are not going to start negotiations on this,” Ebrard said of the “safe third country” proposal.