US presidents should have the power to deploy the US military to go after drug cartels in Latin America, Ohio Sen. JD Vance said on NBC News’ «Meet The Press» in an interview that aired Sunday.
“I want to empower the president of the United States, whether he’s a Democrat or a Republican, to use the power of the US military to go after these drug cartels,” Vance, a Republican, told host Chuck Todd.
The senator said that the growing popularity of fentanyl and the apparent inability of the Mexican government to crack down on the illicit drug trade makes his proposal necessary.
“We have to recognize that the Mexican government is being destabilized in many ways by the constant flow of fentanyl,” Vance said. He said he has spoken with Drug Enforcement Administration agents who believe that with the amount the drug cartels are bringing in, their income per year has increased 14-fold in the last two years alone.
“That shows what, I think, bad border policies can do,” he added.
Fentanyl, particularly when manufactured illicitly, is responsible for the majority of drug overdose deaths, killing about 150 people a day, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Opioids are responsible for approximately 74% of all overdose deaths, with the number of overdoses increasing 31% in the 2019-2020 period, the agency reported.
Calls for the US military to go after drug cartels in Latin America, particularly those in Mexico, gained momentum after four Americans were kidnapped in northeastern Mexico earlier this year, and other Republicans have since been kidnapped. they proposed a similar response to the drug crisis.
Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, who is running for president, said Monday he supported the use of «deadly force» against immigrants suspected of smuggling drugs into the United States. South Carolina Sen. Tim Scott, also a Republican, also said he would send US special forces against the cartels.
In March, Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina told Fox News it was time to «put Mexico on notice» and classify some Mexican drug cartels as «foreign terrorist groups.»
Democrats remain largely opposed to the proposal. In April, Democratic Rep. Henry Cuellar of Texas told Axios opposes military strikes in Mexico, calling the idea «unrealistic.»
Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador rebuked calls by some US lawmakers for military action in Mexico earlier this year, describing the proposals at the time as an assault on his nation’s sovereignty.
“We are not going to allow any foreign government to intervene in our territory, let alone the intervention of the armed forces of a government,” he said during a press conference in March.
Todd also interviewed Senator Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio, asking if a secure border with Mexico would be enough to keep drugs out. Brown said more was needed.
«We need a secure border,» Brown said. «And we need Congress to really work together on that, not just issue after issue demagogy. But even a secure border doesn’t stop these things from coming in, nor will our sanctions mean none of the above. Again, it’s all of the above.» It’s treatment. It’s police work. It’s sanctions. It’s border protection. It’s all of that.»