By Linda Friedman Ramirez
One day after the August 3, 2019 mass shooting in El Paso, Texas, Mexico’s Foreign Minister Marcelo Ebrard released a statement angrily condemning the attack. At least eight Mexican nationals were killed by a single gunman, apparently motivated by animus toward immigrants.
Ebrard said that Mexico would ask U.S. officials to share information on how the gun used in the shooting was obtained and will consider legal action against whoever turns out to be responsible for the sale of the assault weapon used in the crime. The Foreign Minister advised that the Mexican government would also consider charging the suspect, identified as a 21-year-old Texan, with committing terrorist acts against Mexicans in the United States. 
“As far as I know, this would be the first case of this type in history,” Ebrard said. “The Mexican government could even seek to extradite the suspect. For Mexico, this individual is a terrorist.” Ebrard also suggested that Mexico will convene a conference of all Spanish speaking countries with communities in the United States, to advocate for the rights of Hispanics in the U.S.
On Monday, August 5, Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador took a less confrontational position, but urged the U.S. to enact gun control in the wake of Saturday’s shooting that has now killed 22 people and injured dozens more. “We are very respectful of what other governments decide, but we think that these unfortunate events in the U.S. should prompt reflection, analysis, and the decision to control the indiscriminate sale of guns.” However, as recently as April 26, 2019, President Trump pledged at the National Rifle Association’s (NRA) Annual Convention to “unsign” the newly negotiated United Nations Arms Trade Treaty, which entered into force in 2014. The treaty is designed to limit international sales of conventional arms to prevent weapons from getting into the hands of human rights abusers. While the US has signed, the Senate never ratified the treaty due to pressure from the NRA. Trump announced that he was instructing Congress to stop the ratification process, and “return the treaty back to me in the Oval Office where I will dispose of it.”
Lopez Obrador is likely also aware that the United States has not yet ratified the Inter-American Convention Against the Illicit Manufacturing of and Trafficking in Firearms, Ammunition, Explosives, and Other Related Materials (CIFTA). The Convention requires parties to criminalize the illegal manufacture, import, or export of high-powered weapons. It also provides for information exchange and cooperation on initiatives including the marking and tracing of weapons and the identification of criminal transit routes. President Bill Clinton signed CIFTA in 1997 and submitted it for ratification to the Senate, but the Senate has not yet ratified the treaty.
Lopez Obrador’s relationship with the U.S. President during the past year has been a surprise to some, in view of his very clear critique of Trump’s rhetoric about Mexicans while Lopez Obrador was a presidential candidate. In April 2019, Mexican journalist León Krauze questioned why President Lopez Obrador was not standing up to Trump. He recalled that, “Two years ago, as he was gearing up for a historic campaign that would earn him the Mexican presidency in a landslide, Andrés Manuel López Obrador held gatherings with Mexican communities in the United States in what turned out to be both a listening tour and an opportunity to articulate a denunciation of Donald Trump’s immigration policy.”
Krauze referred to a statement by then candidate Lopez Obredor: “These sly yet irresponsible neo fascists want to build walls and make the United States an enormous ghetto. They liken our fellow Mexicans and immigrants in general to the Jews who were stigmatized and persecuted in Hitler’s time.”
Lopez Obrador’s simple request that the United States take unspecified action about gun control in the United States, seems to pale in comparison to his fiery speeches. As it is unlikely that an extradition of the alleged shooter will ever come to pass, what could be more significant is the extent to which the optics of Mexican nationals being attacked in the United States with a lopsidedly weak response by Lopez Obrador could result in new political instability in Mexico.