Conflict and Cooperation between USA and Mexico

The power differences between the United States and Mexico have existed since as far back as the U.S. land- grab in its war with Mexico more than 150 years ago, which has shaped the approach of each country towards the other. In 1883, American participation in the development of their economy, and the American investors bargained for access to Mexico’s abundant natural resources in a meeting at New York. It was the American’s first step in a progression that has determined the relations between the United States and the nations of the Third World in the twenty-first century.

The Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo which was signed on February 2, 1848 officially ended the war. Terms of the treaty resulted in the Mexican Cessation, in which Mexico ceded Upper California and New Mexico to the U.S. It included Arizona and parts of Nevada, Utah, and Colorado. Mexico also relinquished all claims to Texas and recognized the Rio Grande as America’s southern border. Under the treaty, the United States paid $15 million to Mexico as compensation for war damages to Mexican property. The U.S. also agreed to pay American citizens all debts owed to them by the Mexican government.

A number of Mexican liberals who were unsuccessful in overthrowing Diaz fled to exile in Texas. In ensuing years, Presidents Roosevelt and Wilson were involved in various political situations between the two nations. These included a U.S. Navy blockade against German arms flowing into Mexico just before World War I, and a foiled plot in 1915 by overthrown Mexican President Victoriano Huerta and Germany to seize America’s Border States. The United States was forced to become more involved in the Mexican Revolution after Mexican raiders – including Pancho Villa and his followers – began crossing the border to steal livestock, attack towns, and kill Americans. President Wilson sent General John Pershing and forces into Mexico to track down Villa. Villa consistently dodged U.S. forces until they gave up and withdrew. This incident reportedly intensified anti-American feelings in Mexico. Though Mexican repatriation is generally associated with large, forced deportations of Mexicans during the Great Depression, repatriations began occurring in 1848, at the conclusion of the Mexican-American War. During the 1940s, the Mexican government sponsored a large repatriation of its people back to Mexico. The first massive Mexican repatriation from Texas occurred in 1915 – an indirect result of the “Plan of San Diego.” Conceived by Mexicans, its main objective was to organize Mexican people in the Southwest to rebel against the United States, and seize former territories of Mexico lost in the previous century. Numerous attacks were staged against the Texas Rangers and the U.S. Army in the lower Rio Grande valley. The resulting fear and panic among Anglo-Americans triggered a forced repatriation of thousands of Mexicans.

Following the establishment of initial mercantile and financial relations, they began by developing Mexico’s infrastructure. The start of Porfirio Díaz’s regime marked the active construction of railroads allowing Americans to gain access to Mexico’ s rich resources and encouraged others to settle there. The participatory nature of American society soon added tens of thousands of immigrants of the U.S. presence in Mexico, deepening and broadening the influence of American culture. After the Mexican Revolution began in 1910, these Americans found themselves at the mercy of rebels and nationalists who destroyed property and appropriated land. The seizures continued after the revolution ended in 1920, and by 1940 Americans, both residents and absentee investors, had lost most of their material assets in Mexico. As the twentieth century progressed, the ambitions of U.S. citizens in Mexico changed. Mexico provided the first setting for an American encounter outside the territory that now comprises the forty-eight states, the American experience in that country offers a unique opportunity to gain insight into the nature of U.S. power.

The economic pressures of World War II not only prompted Americans to seek cheap and efficient immigration but also to reinvest in Mexico itself. After the war they increasingly accepted partnerships with their Mexican neighbors that at least provided access to the resources in Mexico that they had once owned. Between 1865 and 2000, the contacts and connections between Americans and Mexicans were marked by intervention and revolution as well as by accommodation and cooperation. Americans entered Mexico well before they developed the capacity to exercise a powerful influence in the farther reaches of the world, but the most powerful among them already had a vision of world leadership. From the beginnings of the nineteenth century until the present era, the citizens of the United States attempted to export their unique “American Dream” to Mexico. Their vision incorporated social mobility, protestant values, a capitalist free market, a consumer culture, and a democracy of elected representation.

In spite of the intense and long-standing relationship between Mexico and the United States, the domestic War on Drugs and working-class Mexican immigration has dominated public awareness of Mexico. The indifference of the great majority of Americans has left bilateral affairs in the hands of economic and political elites who were less than representative of American diversity, especially in the development of democratic institutions and respect for Mexican sovereignty.

One aspect of the presence of Mexican and other unauthorized foreign workers who entered the United States without papers is largely ignored in the public debate: these workers were often encouraged to do so by employers and labor contractors used by employers. The U.S. government and Congress were complicit in these de facto invitations by refusing to authorize a secure identification technique for enabling punishment of employers who hired the foreigners to work in such activities as agriculture, construction, meat packing, restaurants, hotels, and cleaning services. The “crime” of many unauthorized foreigners was to accept the implicit invitations they received. Employers looked the other way so that they would not be legally charged with “knowingly” hiring unauthorized workers.

Mexico has hosted a number of important multilateral conferences, including the recent Special Summit of the Americas and the Hemispheric Security Conference and serves as the venue for the ongoing talks on the Free Trade Area of the Americas. The Mexican Government has voted in favor of United Nations Commission on Human Rights resolutions addressing the problems in Cuba since the last two years, and hopes it will do so again this year. Underlining its policy of engagement in support of democracy in this hemisphere, Mexico has co-chaired with the U.S. a Bolivia support group and has been an active participant in the Friends of Venezuela group. The U.S. and Mexico have too much mutual self interest and integration of economies to reverse the momentum of cooperation and free trade.

In 2003, U.S. and Mexican officials developed a common targeting plan against major drug trafficking organizations in Mexico and the United States and developed secure mechanisms for two-way sharing of sensitive intelligence data without compromise. Mexican authorities have achieved impressive results in capturing leaders of major drug trafficking organizations. In 2003, Mexican authorities arrested over 7,500 persons on drug-related charges. They seized over 20 metric tons of cocaine and more than 2,000 metric tons of marijuana, 165 kilograms of heroin, and 652 kilograms of methamphetamines in 2003. The Mexican Secretariat of National Defense reports that it deployed up to 30,000 troops to eradicate drug crops manually, while the attorney general’s office employed helicopters to spray illicit crops. These efforts destroyed 90,000 acres of marijuana and over 49,000 acres of opium poppy in 2003. Nevertheless, Mexico remains a major drug producing and transit country, money-laundering venue, and base of operation for criminal organizations that operate in the United States. Narcotics-related violence in border communities, particularly Ciudad Juarez, Nuevo Laredo, and Tijuana, is a serious problem, exacerbated by rivalries among trafficking organizations in the wake of the arrests of first and second tier drug traffickers by federal police. Institutional underdevelopment and corruption of state and local law enforcement officials are serious challenges. However, President Fox has not backed away from his efforts to target drug traffickers. The border security, counter-narcotics, and law enforcement situation in Mexico is both a great challenge and a great opportunity, which offers more hope than at any time in many years. President Fox has radically strengthened law enforcement cooperation with the United States and with our support has begun the process of reforming and rebuilding law enforcement and counter-drug institutions. With International Narcotics and Law Enforcement funding, the Department of State will be able to continue robust support of Mexican efforts to improve the capacity of their law enforcement institutions and to enhance their operations.

Fox Quesada, winner in first clean presidential election in 2000 has promised a more transparent government, which suggests greater cooperation with the United States on matters such as drugs and trade. A more democratic and prosperous Mexico will benefit both American and Mexican workers. Clearly, the United States should take this opportunity to end business as usual and cultivate a promising relationship with Mexico’s new government. He appears ready to establish a government that is more democratic and much more proactive.

An American belief in their personal superiority over Mexicans and an entrenched economic insularity created that sense of distance and continued to prevail in the last decade of the twentieth century despite the development of closer business and political ties. Other than rhetorically, there has been no substantive repetition during the current administration of the “good-neighbour policy” instituted under Franklin Delano Roosevelt.

Bhumika Sharma


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