04/27/11 – Next Friday will mark the third meeting of the High Level Advisory Group (Grupo Consultor de Alto Nivel) to discuss the direction of the Merida Initiative. The Merida Initiative is a program developed by the U.S. and Mexico to ensure joint cooperation in fighting organized crime, more specifically narco-traffickers who are responsible for the violence that has erupted at the border. Mexican Foreign Minister Patricia Espinosa and U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton will head the delegations of both countries. In addition, officials from Mexico and various U.S. agencies will be in attendance, including the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives (ATF); Department of State; Drug Enforcement Administration; and Immigration and Customs Enforcement. Unlike the first two meetings, this upcoming one will be held in Washington D.C. instead of Mexico City.
Some of the issues that were discussed in the previous two meetings were the importance of the cooperation between these two nations to fight the war on drugs and the need to strengthen border security in an attempt to stop not only the flow of drugs, but also of arms and weapons. The Mexican news source Informador reported that, according to Mexico’s Secretary of Foreign Affairs, the topics that will be discussed this Friday include “dismantling the capacity of criminal organizations that operate on both sides of the border; the strengthening of institutions responsible for combating organized crime; the development of a strong and secure border; and strengthening the social cohesion of communities in both nations to prevent crime from penetrating them.” Informador also stated the there is growing speculation that the ATF’s “Fast and the Furious” program could be discussed. This program, which involved the smuggling of over 2,000 arms from the U.S. into Mexico, was able to lead to numerous arrests by tracing the weapons back to the individuals who bought them. The program has recently been a source of tension between the U.S. and Mexico.