Drug demand in the United States has caused the ongoing drug-related violence south of the border, a pair of President Trump's senior advisors said following a meeting with Mexican officials.
"We know what we own, and we, as Americans, need to confront that we are the market," Secretary of State Rex Tillerson told reporters. "There is no other market for these activities. It is all coming here. But for us, Mexico wouldn't have a trans-criminal organized crime problem and the violence that they're suffering. We really have to own up to that."
Tillerson offered that assessment following a meeting at the State Department devoted to analyzing the threat that transnational drug cartels pose to the United States and Mexico. Although they didn't settle on specific policy solutions, Tillerson and Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly emphasized the role American consumers play in driving the crisis.
"The first thing we need to do, because it generates all of the problems, [is reduce] the drug demand in the United States," Kelly said. "So the most important thing we can do is reduce the drug demand. We've never tried it, we've never done it. We have to develop a comprehensive drug demand reduction program in the United States."
Those comments seemed at least partly designed to compensate for President Trump's reported criticism of Mexican security forces during a phone call with Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto in February. "You have a bunch of bad hombres down there," Trump said on the call, according to portions of a transcript obtained by the Associated Press. "You aren't doing enough to stop them. I think your military is scared. Our military isn't, so I just might send them down to take care of it."
Diplomatic teams in both countries denied the report, but they also took care to praise Mexican law enforcement following Thursday's meeting. "From this podium, I'd like to acknowledge the Mexican armed forces, which for years have been an essential pillar in the fight against this serious phenomenon and which with their lives and in their effort have shown their love for their motherland," Mexican Foreign Minister Luis Videgaray said through a translator at the State Department.
"We don't want to give the idea that this violence is not being addressed on our side and this is why we talked about the comprehensive issue on all the problems that both sides face, and what are the alternatives that we can find to solve this problem together," Mexican Interior Secretary Angel Osorio added.
Kelly echoed Videgaray's praise for Mexican military and law enforcement and responded to Osorio by criticizing recreational drug use in the United States. "If Americans understood that playing around with drugs on a weekend for fun ultimately ends, or results, in the lives lost in Mexico by law enforcement and by the military, or lives lost in Colombia or Central America . . .if Americans who use drugs recreationally understood that and stopped doing that, that would significantly reduce the amount of drugs and consequently the amount of profits that come out of the United States," he said.
Videgaray called for an end to "finger pointing" during the press availability. "We must understand that every demand creates supply and every supply creates demand," he said. "If the governments of Mexico and the United States discuss who is to blame, who is responsible the only one who wins is organized crime that is bringing violence and death on both sides of the border."