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on the border line between the US and Mexico

Tuesday, March 16, 2021

What Is the Merida Initiative, and Why Is It a Potential Target for Reform?

"MX" for Borderland Beat

Note to readers: This 'Washington Post' article was written by Edward Hunt, an assistant professor of political science at Regis College.

The U.S. has spent billions trying to fix Mexico’s drug war. It’s not working.

Mexican lawmakers just voted to legalize recreational marijuana, a move that raises new questions about U.S.-Mexican collaboration on anti-drug efforts. Since 2007, the U.S. government has appropriated $3.3 billion under the Mérida Initiative to help Mexico wage war on drug trafficking. But the increasingly violent conflict has left an estimated 150,000 Mexicans dead and about 79,000 “disappeared” over the past 13 years.

The Justice Department recently brought charges against Emma Coronel Aispuro, wife of notorious drug lord Joaquín “El Chapo” Guzmán, who is serving a life sentence in a U.S. maximum-security prison. And the Drug Enforcement Administration issued a warning this month about another cartel leader, Nemesio Ruben Oseguera Cervantes, or “El Mencho.” But after last year’s large-scale violence in Mexico, some officials within the Biden administration have questioned whether the U.S. approach is working.

Several members of Congress want Secretary of State Antony Blinken to reassess U.S. security assistance, citing concerns that U.S. aid has not effectively reduced crime-related violence in Mexico. So what is the Mérida Initiative, and why is it a potential target for reform?

The Mérida Initiative kicked off in 2007

The Mérida Initiative began during the George W. Bush administration, with the goal of helping Mexico fight crime-related violence and cross-border trafficking.

Initially, the U.S. government focused on aiding Mexican security forces, providing $1.5 billion of assistance during the first few years of the program. This initial package included $421 million in foreign military funding, which enabled the Mexican government to buy advanced U.S. military equipment such as Black Hawk helicopters.

Under the Obama administration, U.S. officials refocused the program to emphasize criminal justice reform. With this approach, U.S. officials have been working with the Mexican government to transform Mexico’s judicial system from an opaque system based on written arguments to judges into an accusatorial system with public trials and oral arguments — much like U.S. criminal judicial procedures.

Although funding for the Mérida Initiative has declined, Congress continues to appropriate about $140 million every year. A January 2020 hearing suggested that many U.S. officials want the program to continue but think it’s time for an overhaul and a closer look at why this funding hasn’t stemmed drug-related violence. A U.S. drug policy commission called in December for the program’s reassessment, finding that U.S.-Mexican security cooperation hasn’t protected U.S. citizens from illegal drugs and Mexican citizens from criminal gangs.

What do supporters of the Mérida Initiative say?

Supporters of the Mérida Initiative maintain that the program is a key component of the war on drugs. They argue that it’s helping the Mexican government reform the criminal justice system and confront drug cartels — the groups they identify as the main purveyors of violence in Mexico.

The program’s defenders, including security experts, U.S. officials and academics funded by the Mérida Initiative, praise the growing cooperation between the U.S. and Mexican governments, citing examples of collaboration to target drug traffickers and cartel leaders.

And other analysts point out that U.S. security funding is a relatively small component of the overall effort to rein in criminal activity. Analysis from the Congressional Research Service, for example, notes that U.S. programs make only a small dent in Mexico’s overall spending on public security and national defense.

How about opponents of the initiative?

Some researchers see the Mérida Initiative as a tool for the United States to increase its influence in Mexico. They say the United States is using the program to open Mexican markets, reorient Mexican military forces and acquire greater influence over the Mexican government, for instance.

For years, some opponents have argued that the program has made drug-related violence worse. They point to the increase in drug-related violence that occurred during the program’s initial implementation, claiming that U.S.-trained security forces committed human rights violations and exacerbated violence.

My research on the drug war suggests that complementary U.S. counternarcotics assistance may have played a role in boosting drug-related violence. Even as funding for the Mérida Initiative declined and the program’s emphasis shifted to criminal justice reform, the Defense Department provided the Mexican military with counternarcotics assistance to train elite Mexican security forces at U.S. military bases.

Drug-related violence increased as U.S. counternarcotics assistance rose during the initial years of the drug war. Violence decreased when U.S. funding declined from 2013 to 2014 and increased again in 2016 as U.S. counternarcotics aid approached previous highs.

Are there alternatives?

In early 2019, Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador declared that the drug war was over, promising that the army would focus on public safety rather than rounding up drug kingpins. In December, the Mexican government announced plans to limit bilateral cooperation, but critics of the U.S. role advocate more concrete steps to end the drug war.

Human rights organizations argue that Mexico’s military should not be involved in policing operations. Amnesty International, for example, reported that as the involvement of the military increased, human rights violations became more frequent and levels of violence rose across Mexico.

In recent months, alternatives once considered impossible, such as the decriminalization of drugs, have come up for discussion. With a growing number of advocates calling for a shift to decriminalization and an end to the drug war, some analysts on both sides of the border see hypocrisy in programs like the Mérida Initiative, which aims to fight a drug war that has become increasingly violent, while the Mexican government and many U.S. states move toward decriminalization.

Finally, some experts advocate for policymakers to consider ending security aid altogether, especially the U.S. training for Mexican security forces reportedly involved in human rights violations. Critics point to recent explosive allegations that high-level Mexican officials have been colluding with drug cartels, citing this corruption as grounds for curtailing the program.

Much academic research suggests that ending the militarized approach to combating drug trafficking would reduce violence and enable the United States and Mexico to transition away from a seemingly endless and violent war.

Source: WP


  1. The Merida Initiative is a big bunch of Big BS. Is an initiative for fools to think Mexico is getting a 5 billion dollar check to spend on what they want. Lol. In reality is help from the US in a form of equipment (not new equipment ) and training. NOT CASH. Just equipment and training. But Americans think is money given to Mexican government.

    1. Totally agree Bush and mexican politicians pocketed the $$$$$$$. Bushes r Rich, Tomas Yardington never been convicted.

    2. In 2019 Amlo declared War Over. I am still waiting Mr. PRESIDENT

    3. Look at the stimulus in US its all money laundering funneling the money back to donors politicians etc send money to other countries in form of relief then back to corrupt fucks bank account off the books or in form of donations to there legal bank accounts.

    4. @7:35 AMLO has installed over 150 new military barracks across Mexico and expected to top off at 250 by the end of the year. It's funny how you think things happen at the snap of a finger. Year after year homicides in mexico were increasing, 2020 was the first year in which they decreased, (600 less) may not seem like a lot but better than the rate at which they increased under past administrations. It's easy to point the finger and criticize another person's efforts. 7:35, tell us what you've don't to improve Mexico's situation.

    5. AMLO is not fighting the cartels cause ist useless. He tried to go after the corrupt politicians. Here he has done more than any other president before him.
      But there is still too much resistance from local gob and the military (Cienfuegos)
      And most Mexicans are easy minded and chasing the low hanging fruits (this is also valid for almost all other people).

    6. 11:46 el peje and his pejezombies have NOT been stealing the Corporate Welfare Queen for the Mierda Initiative created by blood suckers on the US that planted one fallen and one captured forced to land planes loaded with cocaine, even that cocaine was trafficked as usual for sure.
      --Influence Traffickers in training and used second hand equipment made a killing, and Mexico put the dead and the prisoners and the no end gangbanging.
      --The School of the Americas that changed its name like the soiled diaper it was, did not change the murdering habits of their mexican military graduates or their narco-polesias whose drug trafficking and disappearing artists continue to disappear their victims and fabricate Falsos Positivos for which Colombian "President" drug trafficking specialist and disapearances expert in Falsos Positivos alvaro uribe velez gave genarco garcia luna and FECAL their medals, spain too...
      All that and more as the stealing of mexican resources
      goes on unabated, and the little that AMLO has rescued causes great concerns to the puppet Gilbertonas that love and miss their corporate queen left overs and table scraps along with their Chayote loving "journalists" like lopez doriga, maerker, loret de moolah, brozo and other anti-pejezombies.

  2. It's so much easier to blame AMLO and say, "what happened to hugs not bullets!..." 🤭😬

    1. 4:51 the opposition has used AMLO's hugs and kisses to denigrate the best intentions and to try to brainwash their marks into allowing more ass fingering by the Extreme Right Mexican Oligopolists.

  3. "Drug-related violence increased as U.S. counternarcotics assistance rose during the initial years of the drug war. Violence decreased when U.S. funding declined from 2013 to 2014 and increased again in 2016 as U.S. counternarcotics aid approached previous highs."
    It's as if the US is endorsing state-sponsored genocide to fulfill a FAILED decades-old policy of prohibition. It's plain to see.

    1. Interesting comment.

    2. 6:41 the results of failure and murdering assassination did not fail to make money for the Corporate Welfare Queen Contractors that created the Mierda Initiative to keep stealing from the US treasury.

  4. Mérida was a tool to support US company’s. The aim was never to end the violence.
    If Biden really want to help Mexico he will use RICO and OFAC but Merida is dead horse.
    Just go after the money and with seize every cent. Seize the profits and increase penalties, banks and businesses must prove that their money is legit, not the gob that the money is illegal, like Italy does with their mafias.

    La rana

    1. INDIA declared their currency illegal, and issued new currency where everybody had to declare their property and richess to replace it legally and start anew.
      Mexican satraps would have to demonstrate how they acquired their money and properties, like edgar veytia and his governor, the salinas de gortaris, and javier duarte and his SSP secre, the moreiros, cesar duarte, the slim helu mafia, epn and FECAL.
      The method of "sign property to me" or to my acholytes can be proved, cash ransoms can be hard to track, but mexican government expert anti-kidnapping death squads trained in France, Spain, etc were involved in many of them failed negotiations and disappearances like Niño Marti, one more victim of Garcia Luna and Luis Cardenas Palomino, now a wanted man.

  5. Just hardworking taxpayers money feeding the RATS. Legalize drugs and see who really loses financially.

  6. Aw come on, everyone! Sheesh, the USA government, ATF, DEA, DOJ, FBI, city State politicians, bimbos can't slow the tsunami of migrants, or fentanyl and meth .... our homeless problems. Even our school, military and commerce are infected with LGBTZXY perverted ideologs and Narco-money influenced politicians, bankers, (money laundering scams and enterprises).
    America is dysfunctional and broken on many levels! Are you expecting a highly intoxicated alcoholic to drive you home safely?
    Have you noticed how American Blacks have gone chimp doing violence, looting, shop lifting, etc, etc because law and order ethos for them evaporated with the anti-cop policies of the Biden Administration? And you expect to slow Mexican crime problems with American help and money?
    As far as academics, I would probably get more realistic suggestions from El Ponchis (age about 18-19) now.
    Mexico Watcher


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