Mexican President on Cartels After Killing of Americans: ‘War Not an Option’

November 6, 2019 Updated: November 6, 2019

Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador told reporters on Nov. 6 that “war is not an option” and that his administration is relying on a new strategy against drug cartels, even after the brutal slayings of nine Americans, including six children.

“Independent of politics, of the media, there is a deeper effect. It hurts, because they are humans, in this case they were innocent. But we’re moving forward with the new strategy,” Obrador said.

“The other option [the military being deployed against cartels] is irrational, war is irrational. That is not an option in our case.”

Obrador seemed to be responding to U.S. President Donald Trump, who wrote on Tuesday: “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. We merely await a call from your great new president!”

Chihuahua state police officers man a checkpoint in Janos, Chihuahua state, northern Mexico, on Nov. 5, 2019. (Christian Chavez/AP Photo)

“We are taking a different approach. That approach was tried for 36 years and it failed,” Obrador said. “We are going to prove that our approach works.”

Obrador spoke to Trump on Tuesday after cartels gunned down the Americans in Sonora the day prior.

“He offered help and he stated that he will be ready to any call for help from us in that matter,” Obrador said, “I thanked him for his interest in participating in this issue and I thanked him for being respectful of our sovereignty.”

Trump said America is ready to assist Mexico in decimating the cartels, which have ramped up activity in recent years, culminating first in a fevered rush on Mexican forces after the son of Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman was detained in October, ultimately securing the release of alleged cartel member, and then the slayings of the women and children in the desert in northern Mexico on Monday.

Relatives of slain members of Mexican-American families belonging to Mormon communities observe the burnt wreckage of a vehicle where some of their relatives died, in Bavispe, Sonora state, Mexico, on Nov. 5, 2019. (Jose Luis Gonzalez/Reuters)

Obrador has opted for a policy known as “hugs not bullets” to try to stem violence in Mexico since being elected last year, but has faced heavy criticism for his claim that violence cannot be met with more violence.

“I’m really shocked actually of his way of thinking, and it ain’t going to solve the problems,” said William Stubbs, a pecan and alfalfa farmer who serves on a community security committee in Colonia LeBaron, where the victims of the massacre lived.

Mexican security analyst Alejandro Hope said that “there are areas where the government’s control is very fragile” after the Mexican army took over 10 hours to respond to the site of the killings, even while five surviving children lay hiding in the mountains with bullet wounds.

“The government’s main policy tool, the National Guard, is not where it should be,” Hope said. “It should be in the mountains, and it’s not there.”

A file photograph showing some of the victims of a cartel attack in Sonora, Mexico on Nov. 4, 2019. Howard Miller, the man in the black shirt, and the three children with blurred faces survived the attack. The five others were killed. (Family Handout via CNN)

After the release of Guzman’s son, there are questions about whether the Mexican army can do its job, even when it is present.

American lawmakers and Trump took aim at the soft policies in the wake of the slayings.

Trump called cartel members “monsters” and said “the United States stands ready, willing & able to get involved and do the job quickly and effectively” if Mexico “requests help in cleaning out” the country.

Sen. Ben Sasse (R-Neb.) said in a statement that “Mexico is dangerously close to being a failed state.”

“This is what happens when Mexico’s politicians look the other way and let drug cartels bribe their way to power. Enough. Mexico’s president hasn’t taken the threat seriously and innocent American lives have been lost again,” he said. “The Mexican government must partner with U.S. intelligence and law enforcement agencies to wage a full-scale offensive against these butchers.”

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Follow Zachary on Twitter: @zackstieber
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