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Improvising and muddling through: transnational government networks and security cooperation between Mexico and the U.S.

Abstract

For the last 20 years, the U.S.–Mexico security cooperation relationship has relied on transgovernmental networks (TGNs). TGNs have both substituted for the absence of more formally institutionalized cooperation and also served to implement and complement broader top-down understandings on binational collaboration. They bring great flexibility to dealing with constantly changing issues. But they are also no substitute for institutionalized cooperation. This paper argues that, while TGNs present a network model of binational cooperation and give extraordinary legs to binational work, they remain excessively dependent on the will and ability of individuals to create them and maintain them. As a result, binational cooperation remains vulnerable to personality variables as well as changing political winds.

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Fig. 1

Source: National System on Public Safety of the Interior Ministry. See http://secretariadoejecutivo.gob.mx/docs/pdfs/cifras%20de%20homicidio%20doloso%20secuestro%20etc/HDSECEXTRV_122017.pdf; http://secretariadoejecutivo.gob.mx/docs/pdfs/nueva-metodologia/CNSP-Delitos-2018.pdf; and https://drive.google.com/file/d/1ICBeRU_C1KIsZq_ISGa3JgzP6WLTNYxs/view?usp=sharing

Fig. 2

Sources: Mexico Interior Ministry. See http://politicamigratoria.gob.mx/es_mx/SEGOB/Boletines_Estadisticos. Office of Immigration Statistics, Department of Homeland Security and U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency (ICE). See https://www.ice.gov/doclib/about/offices/ero/pdf/eroFY2018Report.pdf

Fig. 3

Source: Clare Ribando Seelke, Congressional Research Service, “Mexico: Background and U.S. Relations,” January 29, 2018. See https://fas.org/sgp/crs/row/R42917.pdf and https://fas.org/sgp/crs/row/R42917.pdf

Notes

  1. 1.

    Lael Brainard [1].

  2. 2.

    Strand et al. [2].

  3. 3.

    Alexandroff [3].

  4. 4.

    Pastor [4].

  5. 5.

    Astorga [5].

  6. 6.

    Dujin et al. [6].

  7. 7.

    Bow and Anderson [7].

  8. 8.

    TGNs are not devoid of organizational underpinnings. They constitute a form of institutionalization of cooperation, although not ideal. This paper does not intend to imply that they are the opposite of cooperation institutions; it simply argues that they often take the place of institutions when these are absent, although they may also complement and strengthen institutions when they exist.

  9. 9.

    Slaughter and Hale [8].

  10. 10.

    Slaughter [9].

  11. 11.

    Powell [10].

  12. 12.

    Thurner and Binder [11].

  13. 13.

    U.S. Department of State [12].

  14. 14.

    Payan [13].

  15. 15.

    D’Appollonia [14].

  16. 16.

    Toro [15].

  17. 17.

    U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration [16].

  18. 18.

    Frontline [17].

  19. 19.

    Van Natta Jr. [18].

  20. 20.

    Dunn [19].

  21. 21.

    Maril [20].

  22. 22.

    Rotella [21].

  23. 23.

    U.S. Department of Homeland Security [22].

  24. 24.

    Carlsen [23].

  25. 25.

    Payan [24].

  26. 26.

    SPP [25].

  27. 27.

    Gluszek [26].

  28. 28.

    Storrs [27].

  29. 29.

    Plan Colombia was a major foreign aid, military and diplomatic initiative by the United States to combat drug cartels and left-wing guerrillas in Colombia. It was started in 1999 and made law in the U.S. in the year 2000. The plan is largely credited for the eventual break down of drug trafficking cartels and the defeat of the FARC guerrillas in that country.

  30. 30.

    Seelke [28].

  31. 31.

    U.S. Department of State, ‘Inspection of Embassy Mexico City, Mexico.’

  32. 32.

    Heinle et al. [29].

  33. 33.

    Villas de Salvárcar is a section of Ciudad Juárez, Mexico, where a massacre of 15 young athletes occurred on January 31, 2010, when a gang mistook them for members of a rival gang. After that massacre, Mexico’s President Calderón realized that the drug war strategy was focused on law enforcement and was largely missing investment in strengthening civil society and institutions. That realization is credited with the Mérida Initiative’s added investment on issues beyond law enforcement—a shift that came to be known as the Four Pillars MI.

  34. 34.

    U.S. Department of State, ‘Report of Inspection of Embassy Mexico City, Mexico.’

  35. 35.

    Seelke and Finklea [30].

  36. 36.

    CBS New [31].

  37. 37.

    Michaels [32, 33].

  38. 38.

    Arriola Vega [34, 35].

  39. 39.

    Hains [36].

  40. 40.

    U.S. Department of Justice [37].

  41. 41.

    U.S. Department of State [38].

  42. 42.

    U.S. Department of Homeland Security [39].

  43. 43.

    Reuters [40].

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Correspondence to Tony Payan.

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Payan, T. Improvising and muddling through: transnational government networks and security cooperation between Mexico and the U.S.. J Transatl Stud (2020). https://doi.org/10.1057/s42738-020-00047-w

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Keywords

  • Transnational governmental networks
  • Security
  • Cooperation
  • U.S.–Mexico relations