The US president said his country stood “ready, willing & able to get involved and do the job quickly and effectively” if his Mexican counterpart, Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador, asked him for help. Mr Lopez Obrador declined the offer during a press conference on Tuesday, but said he would speak to Mr Trump about security cooperation between the two nations.
Mr Trump’s suggestion came after an American family was slaughtered by gunmen during an ambush in Mexico’s Sonora state. The family had been travelling in a convoy of SUVs.
He tweeted: “A wonderful family and friends from Utah got caught between two vicious drug cartels, who were shooting at each other, with the result being many great American people killed, including young children, and some missing.
“If Mexico needs or requests help in cleaning out these monsters, the United States stands ready, willing & able to get involved and do the job quickly and effectively. The great new President of Mexico has made this a big issue, but the cartels have become so large and powerful that you sometimes need an army to defeat an army!
“This is the time for Mexico, with the help of the United States, to wage WAR on the drug cartels and wipe them off the face of the earth. We merely await a call from your great new president!”
At least nine members of the Mormon family, including twin babies, were killed.
The group belonged to the LeBaron family – a Mormon community that broke away from the main body of the faith and settled in northern Mexico some decades ago.
Relative Julian LeBaron described the attack as a “massacre” and said four boys, two girls and three women had been killed. Some were burnt alive, he said.
Another relative said that the motive for the killings was still unclear: “We’re guessing right now, but we believe it was a case of mistaken identity. They just opened fire on the vehicle because it was an SUV.”
The state governments in Sonora and Chihuahua said they had launched an investigation.
Mexico’s security department said its personnel were being reinforced by National Guard, regular army troops and state police in the Bavispe area where the attack took place.
The country’s top security official said the massacre had been carried out by cartel gunmen and that one child was still missing. Six other children were found alive, with one child having a bullet wound. At least five children were taken to Phoenix, Arizona for treatment, according to Alfonso Durazo.
The attackers may have mistaken the family’s large cars as belonging to rival gangs, Mr Durazo added. The FBI has offered to assist Mexican authorities with their investigation.
It is not first time that members of the family have been attacked in northern Mexico.
In 2009, Benjamin LeBaron, an anti-crime activist was murdered in 2009 in neighbouring Chihuahua state.
Mr Trump has long used the threat of violent crime within Mexico for political ends, blaming the US neighbour for “sending” rapists and murderers north over their shared frontier. The rhetoric has underpinned his stringent migration policies and border strategy.
In a press conference on Tuesday, Mr Lopez Obrador said: “I haven’t seen the message from President Trump, but I am sure that it comes from a desire to help, to cooperate, that it has not been disrespectful nor interfering. Every time we speak, it is with that desire to help, and the government respects that greatly.
“We are very grateful to President Trump – to any foreign government which wants to help – but in these cases we have to act independently and according to our constitution, and in line with our tradition of independence and sovereignty.”
He did not want to see a war break out, he said. “War is synonymous with irrationality. We are for peace.”
One analyst told The Independent that Mr Trump’s tweets betrayed a “complete lack of understanding and care” about the feelings of Mexicans towards their northern neighbour.
Though the countries are now allies, the Mexican-American War and the occupation of Veracruz under President Woodrow Wilson remain “front and centre in the national consciousness”, said Christopher Sabatini.
Dr Sabatini, a senior research fellow in Chatham House’s US and the Americas programme, said: “The tweet shows a profound lack of knowledge, an ignorance, about US-Latin American history and particularly US-Mexican history.
“Even the idea of the US putting Drug Enforcement Administration agents [on the ground] has often had to be kept secret ... because of the sensitivity.
“I have watched this administration, very clumsily, at least in rhetoric, talk about Latin American issues and the resurrection of the Monroe Doctrine – and there’s the racist rhetoric about migrants.
“This really takes it to a whole new level. Just a complete lack of understanding and care. It demonstrates that somehow Mexican nationalism and scars of the past just don’t matter.”
Additional reporting by AP
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