12/8/11 – The Mérida Initiative, a $1.6 billion initiative to support Mexico in its fight against drug trafficking and drug related violence, has been a discussion point lately as President Felipe Calderón’s ‘war on drugs’ enters its fifth year, having been started in December 2006 when the president took office. The Initiative’s implementation has been slowly changing, as noted by El Universal, which quoted the U.S. State Department as saying, “The evolution of the Mérida Initiative has shifted from providing military equipment to supporting Mexico’s progress with regards to reinforcing the democratic institutions, reducing impunity, enhancing the respect of human rights, reinforcing the role of society, and transforming the nature of our borders through intense technical and capacity assistance.”
This shift away from more militarized support to institutional support is not surprising, however, as both aspects are highlighted as main pillars in the Mérida Initiative. According to the State Department, “The Mérida Initiative is an unprecedented partnership between the United States and Mexico to fight organized crime and associated violence while furthering respect for human rights and the rule of law. Based on principles of shared responsibility, mutual trust, and respect for sovereign independence, the two countries’ efforts have built confidence that is transforming the bilateral relationship.” Ultimately, the main goal is to provide monetary and non-monetary support to help the institutions develop and become better prepared to deal with the issues surrounding the trafficking of drugs.
On December 6, according to La Prensa Latina, Mexico started reviewing “the Mérida Initiative on the occasion of the visit through by Undersecretary of State for Political Affairs Wendy Sherman.” Sherman is scheduled to meet tomorrow, December 9, in Mexico with a number of government officials and civil society leaders to not only present the fourth black hawk helicopter to be used in the fight against narco-trafficking, but also to discuss the status of the initiative. As of now, $700 million has been distributed in the form of equipment and capacitation training. The State Department recently announced its commitment to distribute $200 million more by the end of 2011, bringing the total to $900 million of the $1.6 billion initially agreed upon. Additionally, for every $1 that the U.S. provides in support to Mexico, Mexico spends $13 in the fight against drug wars, which the State Department pointed to as part of the ‘shared responsibility’ and cooperative efforts between the two countries.
While the State Department and the Calderón administration have been supportive of the Mérida Initiative, others have spoken out, calling it “ineffective.” As La Prensa Latina notes, some critics point to the fact that little can be done to address drug trafficking in Mexico until the United States addresses its drug consumption rates, which are the highest in the world. Additionally, other skeptics, particularly members of Calderón’s political opposition and human rights activists, have criticized the militarized strategy that Calderón continues to employ, which they point to being inextricably tied to the Mérida Initiative, despite the escalating violence in Mexico.