Texas Congressman Wants House to Renounce GOP Contenders' Threats of Military Strikes in Mexico

Reps. Joaquin Castro (D-Texas), left, and Jerry Nadler (D-N.Y.) arrive to testify before the House Rules Committee in Washington, D.C.
Reps. Joaquin Castro (D-Texas), left, and Jerry Nadler (D-N.Y.) arrive to testify before a meeting of the House Rules Committee on May 9, 2023, in Washington, D.C. (Drew Angerer/Getty Images/TNS)

WASHINGTON -- Talk of attacking drug cartels south of the border by drone or special forces has become increasingly popular among Republicans. Texas congressman Joaquin Castro is pushing Congress to renounce such moves without Mexico's full prior approval.

"Over the last several months, Americans have seen an alarming rise in reckless remarks that threaten to normalize the idea of invading Mexico," he said.

The San Antonio lawmaker, the top Democrat on a subcommittee overseeing Western Hemisphere relations, will file a resolution Friday that "condemns calls for military action" without Mexico's approval -- a swipe at GOP presidential candidates that makes it unlikely to pass the GOP-controlled House.

The resolution affirms that "any act of aggression on Mexico's sovereign territory without their consent could be considered an act of war and a violation of international law."

Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador has made the same point. In March, he dispatched his foreign minister to Washington to declare that "we will not allow ourselves to be pushed around."

The talk has escalated since then.

In August, López Obrador denounced growing calls for military action in Mexico "offensive" and disrespectful, downplaying the threats as campaign posturing while emphasizing that any such move would be seen as a provocation that could not go unanswered.

Castro's resolution would put Congress on record rejecting the use of military force against drug cartels in Mexico without the OK of both the Mexican government and U.S. Congress.

Donald Trump, the front-runner for the 2024 nomination, has vowed to send special forces into Mexico to attack drug lords "just as we took down ISIS and the ISIS caliphate." He's also promised a naval blockade.

His former defense secretary, Mark Esper, recounted in a memoir that as president, Trump wanted to shoot missiles into Mexico to destroy drug labs.

At the first Republican presidential debate in August, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis vowed to send special forces into Mexico "on Day 1" with no mention of getting a green light from his Mexican counterpart.

Entrepreneur Vivek Ramaswamy has said he's fully prepared to send U.S. forces even if Mexico objects.

In a fundraising email Wednesday titled "military force is both legally and morally justified," he insinuates that Mexico's president resists a robust U.S. response to drug smuggling, because "the cartels may be ... López Obrador's sugar daddy."

Republicans in both the House and Senate have proposed authorizing military force against drug cartels, including Rep. Dan Crenshaw of Humble, a former Navy SEAL.

The Biden administration has rejected that approach, preferring to treat the drug trade as a law enforcement issue. Public pressure continues to build as the death toll mounts from fentanyl, a powerful synthetic opioid.

"War with Mexico would cause devastating loss of life and would be disastrous for millions," Castro said. "... This resolution sends a strong message that the United States respects Mexico's sovereignty and that Congress does not support dangerous calls for war at our southern border."

Nineteen other Democrats in the House signed on to Castro's resolution as of late Wednesday. A number of anti-war groups also support it.

"Responding to the fentanyl epidemic with military force would militarize a public health challenge for which treatment and health services are desperately needed," said Heather Brandon-Smith, legislative director for foreign policy at Friends Committee on National Legislation, a Quaker group.

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