Crime and Violence

U.S. releases US$214 million of Merida Initiative funds

The United States has released $214 million of the 3-year$1.4 billion anti-drug aid package for Mexico known as the Mérida Initiative, which will in part go toward the purchase of five Blackhawk helicopters.

The move came a month after Democratic senator Patrick Leahy blocked the release of the funds, disputing a State Department report that credited Mexico with making required advancements in the protection of human rights in the country, including undertaking massive justice system reforms. David Johnson, U.S. Assistant Secretary for International Narcotics and Law Enforcement, said that money, which will also go toward border surveillance equipment and training for Mexican investigators, will be released by year’s end. Johnson lauded the anti-narcotics efforts of President Calderón, who sent a report to Mexico’s Congress in early September claiming that operations have seized 90 tons of cocaine, 5,000 tons of marijuana, and 50,000 illegal weapons.

In related news, the 27th annual border governors’ meeting convened in Monterrey, Nuevo León, at which governors from Mexico’s border states of Tamaulipas, Nuevo León, Chihuahua and Coahuila pressed U.S. delegations to advocate for the diversion of some Mérida Initiative funds directly to state and local governments. Bill Richardson of New Mexico was the only U.S. governor present at the conference. Spokespeople for Texas Governor Rick Perry cited scheduling conflicts as the reason for his absence.

U.S. officials have acknowledged the governors’ request for more localized funding of anti-narcotics operations, but have cited the limited resources and corruption as significant concerns. A U.S. official speaking on condition of anonymity said that such decisions are at this point premature due to the amount of work left to be done at the national level and finite funds, though did not rule out the possibility of working with “some states” in the future. U.S. Ambassador to Mexico, Tony Garza addressed the concern of local and state-level corruption, insisting that a concrete plan would be needed to vet and train local and state police forces and to ensure integrity among the ranks to avoid “putting hardware in the hands of poorly trained and vetted officers.” Garza, also U.S. Ambassador to Mexico under the Bush administration, was integral in bringing the Mérida initiative to fruition.


Olson, Alexandra. “US releases $214 million to aid Mexico drug fight.” Associated Press September 3, 2009.

Corchado, Alfredo. “Border governors ask U.S. to divert money to their fight against organized crime.” Dallas Morning News September 5, 2009.

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