Sending U.S. troops to Mexico to help fight drug cartels is a bad idea, Republican presidential contender and former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney said Monday, rejecting an idea thrown out by his GOP opponent, Texas Gov. Rick Perry.
"Let's build a fence first," Romney said in an interview with the New Hampshire Union Leader, "and let's have sufficient border patrol agents to protect it. And if the Mexican government want us to help it with logistics, intelligence, satellite images, I'm sure we can provide the sort of support we provided in Colombia."
"Mexico has its own military," Romney continued. "And it think it's a bad idea to send American troops into Mexico. I think Mexico would consider it a bad idea. I consider it a bad idea."
Over the weekend, Perry wasin New Hampshire when he said counternarcotics efforts "may require our military in Mexico working in concert with (Mexican authorities) to kill these drug cartels and to keep them off of our border and to destroy their networks."
In the race for the GOP presidential nomination, Perry has sought to highlight the experience he has as Texas governor in managing the U.S.-Mexico border, a task relevant to both immigration policy and counternarcotics programs. But on Monday, Mexico's ambassador to the United States, along with Romney, rejected Perry's proposal.
"The issue of participation, or the presence of, U.S. troops on Mexican soil is not on the table," the ambassador, Arturo Sarukhan, told reporters on Monday, the AFP reports.
While Mexico may not want U.S. troops in its borders, American civilian military employees and some CIA operatives have crossed the border to fight in the drug war, the New York Times reported in August. Mexico has accepted over $1 billion in aid from the U.S. to fight drug cartels as part of the United States' Merida Initiative. The program has provided military equipment like Black Hawk helicopters to Mexico's Federal Police, as well as support for civil justice programs and other forms of aid.
Though he does not want U.S. troops in Mexico, Romney also told the Union Leader this week that he thinks the U.S. should make its military budget at least 20 percent of federal spending. The former governor will deliver a foreign policy speech in South Carolina on Friday, he also announced Monday.