NEWS

Joint Statement: U.S.-Mexico High Level Security Dialogue 2023


Two years ago, the United States and Mexico came together to reaffirm the importance of our enduring partnership and develop a shared vision for how our two countries would enhance security cooperation in the 21st century.  The result of that effort was the comprehensive and innovative U.S.-Mexico Bicentennial Framework for Security, Public Health, and Safe Communities.  This Framework, based on mutual trust and respect for the sovereignty and independence of each nation, guides our cooperation in the face of common challenges.

The Bicentennial Framework recognizes that many of the threats we face today are multi-dimensional and cannot be overcome by either country on its own.  Together, the United States and Mexico will intensify our efforts to combat illicit drug trafficking, particularly synthetic drugs such as fentanyl and their chemical precursors; the trafficking of illicit firearms; human trafficking and smuggling; and the transnational organized criminal groups that threaten the security of communities on both sides of our border.  This includes enhancing our efforts to address irregular migration in our hemisphere.  Our countries understand the imperative to disrupt transnational criminal organizations which traffic arms and illicit drugs or smuggle humans, profiting from the desperation of people driven from their homes by crime, violence, and instability.  As neighbors, partners and friends, the United States and Mexico are jointly addressing these challenges by implementing solutions that reflect our shared values, including respect for the rule of law, protection and defense of human rights, intolerance of corruption, and zero impunity.

At the 2023 High-Level Security Dialogue, cabinet and other senior officials from the United States and Mexico evaluated the progress we have made through the Bicentennial Framework, and discussed new plans, programs, and actions to protect our people, prevent transborder crime, and pursue criminal networks.  We also honored the memory of the brave men and women of both countries who have lost their lives in the pursuit of peace and justice.

Protect Our People

Over the last year, the United States and Mexico have worked together to build the capacity of institutions to promote safe communities and access to justice.  

Mexico has created the Commission for Attention to the Crime of Homicide (CONAHO) to strengthen homicide investigations and arrest priority targets.  As established in its National Public Security Strategy, Mexico is also addressing the causes and origins of violence, promoting actions that reduce related risk factors including inequality.  Mexico’s new public safety paradigm prioritizes the creation of opportunities to prevent young people from becoming victims of criminal groups.  One example is Peace Builders (Constructores de Paz), a program through which Mexican government representatives have visited young people in the 50 municipalities with the highest number of homicides, offering scholarships and job training in order to prevent them from being recruited by criminal organizations.  In addition, in 15 of Mexico’s 2,741 municipalities, with the highest rates of femicide, Mexico is reinforcing its prevention efforts and actions to combat violence against women.

Both the Biden and Lopez Obrador Administrations have taken significant steps to reduce drug consumption.  The Mexican President’s Office is carrying out an intensive media campaign that reaches more than 30 million families, especially adolescents, to prevent them from engaging in the consumption of synthetic drugs.  Over the past year, the U.S.-Mexico Binational Panel of Experts on Mental Health, Substance Use and Addiction continued to develop joint public awareness campaigns on the risks of fentanyl and other illicit synthetic drugs.  Through this bilateral work, the United States and Mexico developed public health materials for the Spanish-speaking population in the United States for delivery via “Health Windows” (Ventanillas de Salud) at Mexico’s consulates across the country.  These materials will provide clear information on prevention, treatment, harm reduction, and recovery resources for those dealing with substance use and addiction.

Prevent Transborder Crime

Since 2022, the United States and Mexico have re-doubled our efforts to prevent transborder crime.  We have disrupted and dismantled illicit drug, arms, and human smuggling networks and violent gangs through improved joint investigations; targeted prosecutions; arrests; and significant seizures of firearms, currency, fentanyl, and other illicit drugs and their precursor chemicals.  

To continue the high tempo of our combined response to the particularly devastating impact of synthetic opioids and firearms-related violence on our communities, on March 9, 2023, President Andrés Manuel López Obrador hosted a U.S. delegation led by White House Homeland Security Advisor Dr. Elizabeth Sherwood-Randall with the participation of senior officials from the Departments of State, Justice, and Homeland Security.  Both countries plan to intensify and expand cooperation to combat illicit fentanyl production, the trafficking of high-caliber weapons and ammunition to Mexico, and transnational organized crime.  High-level discussions on fentanyl, in particular, continued during the first and second meetings of the Canada-Mexico-United States Trilateral Fentanyl Committee on April 14, and July 25.  The Trilateral Fentanyl Committee will meet again at the margins of the North American Leaders Summit this winter. 

Between October 1, 2022 and July 31, 2023, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and Department of Justice’s (DOJ) Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) made 7,556 seizures of fentanyl, totaling approximately 52,664 pounds of fentanyl.  This equates to 417 million fatal doses and $1.23 billion in drug value seized.  Of this, approximately 35,261 pounds were seized on the southwest border. 

DHS surge efforts, like Operation Blue Lotus and Four Horsemen, resulted in seizures of 12,500 pounds of fentanyl and more than 10,000 pounds of other illicit drugs as well as 284 arrests in just two months.  Customs and Border Protection Operation Artemis, launched June 5, resulted in the seizure of 12,919 pounds of fentanyl as well as 159 pounds of Xylazine, the combination of which was designated by the Biden-Harris Administration as an emerging threat to the United States.  DEA’s Operation Last Mile, which targeted operatives, associates, and distributors affiliated with the Sinaloa and Jalisco Cartels from May 1, 2022 to May 1, 2023, comprised 1,436 investigations.  It resulted in 3,337 arrests and the seizure of nearly 44 million fentanyl pills, more than 6,500 pounds of fentanyl powder, more than 91,000 pounds of methamphetamine, 8,497 firearms and over $100 million.

On July 7, the United States also launched the Global Coalition to Address Synthetic Drug Threats to accelerate efforts against illicit synthetic drugs and employ coordinated approaches to prevent illicit drug manufacturing, detect emerging drug threats, disrupt trafficking, address illicit finance, and respond to public safety and public health impacts.  The coalition, including the United States, Mexico, and more than 100 other countries and international organizations, recognizes that countering illicit synthetic drugs must be a global policy priority.

As a result of its efforts to disrupt clandestine laboratories producing synthetic drugs, during the administration of President López Obrador, Mexico has destroyed 2,131 clandestine laboratories, and seized 188 tons of methamphetamines and 1,435 tons of precursors and chemical substances.  Through these actions, the Government of Mexico prevented the production of approximately 7,288 tons of methamphetamine. 

Mexico has devoted special attention to the fight against fentanyl, and during the administration of President López Obrador, Mexican security institutions have seized 7,691 kg of fentanyl, in addition to 470,369 kg of methamphetamine, 184,869 kg of cocaine, 726,300 kg of marijuana, 1,524 kg of heroin, and 1,249 kg of opium gum.  Mexico has also eradicated 68,718 marijuana plantations on 9,189 hectares; 409,701 poppy plantations on 57,209 hectares; and 189 coca leaf plantations on 62 hectares.  Improvements to its detection processes, including analyses conducted by specialized laboratories, have helped Mexican authorities better detect the presence of illicit substances in cargo, and led to the seizure of 86,820 kilograms of cargo containing cocaine and 55,000 kilograms of cargo containing methamphetamine.

Mexico has initiated administrative and criminal proceedings against companies for non-compliance with regulations and for facilitating the diversion of precursor chemicals coming primarily from Asia to illicit drug producers.  These actions have significantly reduced these companies’ ability to carry out their criminal activities.  The United States continues to work with Mexico to explore joint action against precursor smugglers while at the same time engaging with the private sector in both countries to warn them about potential diversion and smuggling risks.

The DOJ and DHS have also coordinated on multiple operations to significantly increase firearms trafficking investigations and seizures with a nexus to Mexico.  As of July, southbound firearm seizures in Fiscal Year 2023 by DHS and DOJ had significantly outpaced seizures in Fiscal Year 2022.  These seizures have resulted from DHS’s Operation Without a Trace and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives (ATF)’s Operation Southbound.  Since the inception of Operation Southbound, the number of investigations of firearms trafficking into Mexico has increased by 40 percent, and the number of firearms seized in those investigations has increased by 11 percent.  

In addition, using the new authorities under landmark 2022 U.S. legislation related to firearms trafficking, the DOJ has charged more than 200 defendants with offenses related to trafficking firearms to Mexico.  The Government of Mexico has also expanded its efforts to combat the trafficking of illegal weapons, and during the administration of President López Obrador has seized 44,771 firearms – of which 426 were .50 caliber firearms; 183,176 magazines; 18,710,197 rounds of ammunition, and 2,956 grenades.  Additionally, Mexico has developed a Weapons Exchange Program (Programa de Canje de Armas), in which individuals can exchange firearms and ammunition for cash.

The ATF works directly with the arms trafficking unit of the Attorney General’s Office (FGR) Criminal Investigation Agency (AIC) and with prosecutors belonging to FGR’s Specialized Prosecuting Unit for Organized Crime (FEMDO) in bilateral investigations, and also provides technical support for the AIC’s domestic investigations. To date, the ATF and the FGR have collaborated on 14 bilateral investigations involving approximately 25 defendants and more than 1,000 illegally trafficked firearms.  A recent seizure of 270 firearms in Texas demonstrates the ongoing collaborative efforts between ATF, DHS, and Mexico.

Pursue Criminal Networks

The United States and Mexico also continued to pursue criminal networks, including through the disruption and dismantling of their finances, and their ability to profit from cybercrime.  During 2023, Mexico’s Secretariat of Finance and Public Credit’s Financial Intelligence Unit (UIF) collaborated with the U.S. Department of the Treasury’s (Treasury) Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) in 18 actions against 98 suspects.  As a result of this collaboration, we were able to prevent 180 individuals from accessing the Mexican financial system.  Likewise, in collaboration with the Department of Justice’s Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) and Treasury’s Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCEN), the UIF has been able to detect and combat email fraud (“Business Email Compromise”) schemes, targeting 30 incidents involving $37,433,124.16, of which $12,624,897.12 was successfully recovered.

Looking Ahead

Over the next year, with the aim of achieving the goals we established in the Bicentennial Framework, the United States and Mexico plan to take the following actions: 

  1. Continue to expand investments in public health, and strengthen evidence-based prevention, drug treatment, and recovery programs that respect the human rights of users, including by improving mechanisms to monitor illicit drug consumption, trends, and overdoses.
  1. Devote additional resources to investigations, prosecutions, regulation, and inspection of chemical imports and movements to disrupt the synthetic drug threat.
  1. Scale evidence-based crime prevention models, including civic justice and community policing, to improve citizen security and support at-risk youth to lead crime-free lives.
  1. Expand investment in law enforcement, security, human rights, and justice institutions.
  1. Continue coordinating actions to address irregular migration including measures to ensure that migration occurs in an orderly, safe manner, and through the legal channels established by both countries.
  1. Strengthen actions for the prevention of gender-based violence and care for victims of such violence.
  1. Strengthen trust, integrity, and credibility between law enforcement and security officials and the communities they serve.
  1. Reduce impunity for high-impact crimes using data, analysis, and prioritization of specific crimes, such as homicides and gender-based violence.
  1. Work together on initiatives to improve data collection, sharing, and analysis to support investigations and prosecutions.
  1. Dismantle criminal organizations engaged in human trafficking and human smuggling through efforts like Joint Task Force Alpha, and continue to develop mechanisms to strengthen information exchange.
  1. Further implement our joint action plan to fight the production, trafficking, and harms caused by synthetic drugs, including by expanding action by private chemical and shipping companies and sharing information to prevent diversion of precursor chemicals.
  1. Expand information sharing on seizures of drugs and precursor chemicals, and emerging trends in chemical imports.
  1. Develop and launch a work plan to implement innovations at ports of entry (maritime, land and air) for a more integrated border that improves northbound and southbound security against illicit goods while facilitating legitimate trade and travel.
  1. Continue to expand access to and use of ATF’s terrace system to advance prosecutions of firearms cases and dismantle gun trafficking networks and enhance related information sharing.
  1. Strengthen the institutional capacity of units dedicated to fight arms trafficking and violence through training and the provision of equipment.
  1. Dismantle arms trafficking networks through expanded bilateral investigations and collaborative efforts between ATF, DHS, and the Government of Mexico.
  1. Fulfill remaining technical requirements to begin the exchange of information between Mexico’s National Customs Agency and the U.S. Customs and Border Protection’s National Targeting Center regarding air cargo shipments.
  1. Enhance maritime port security through the implementation of bilateral, multiagency working groups, exercises and expert exchanges focused on pilot efforts at the port of Manzanillo, such as the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime’s Container Control Program.
  1. Support the U.S. Coast Guard and Mexican Navy (SEMAR) plan to strengthen efforts to counter the maritime threats of drug trafficking, irregular maritime migration, and illicit transport of weapons of mass destruction through a potential bilateral maritime enforcement arrangement. This will enable maritime operations and support sound maritime governance for our fleets, within our coastal areas, and on the high seas.
  1. Build up the effectiveness of the global coalition to counter synthetic drugs launched by the Biden Administration on July 7, 2023.
  1. Finalize the work plan to advance cybersecurity and infrastructure security cooperation between our governments.
  2. Jointly measure the impact on our shared security of our efforts under the Bicentennial Framework.

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