07/17/12 – The U.S. Senate Committee on Foreign Relations created waves last week when it released a report criticizing the use of the Mexican military in the fight against drug cartels. The Committee credited the administration of President Calderón for making progress against organized crime over the past five and a half years, but suggested utilizing the military in a law enforcement role has escalated the level of violence within the country and increased the collateral damage suffered by civilians. The report was prompted by a desire to reevaluate the U.S.-Mexico security relationship in light of the recent Mexican presidential election and to determine if the United States should continue aid through the Mérida Initiative– a program through which the U.S. government has already allocated over $1.9 billion (USD) to largely fund and strengthen Mexican security and judicial systems since the binational agreement was reached in 2008. Despite the criticism, the Committee nevertheless determined that an additional $1 billion (USD) should be allocated through the Initiative to “accelerate the establishment of an accusatorial judicial system at the federal and state levels and to assist, in close coordination with Mexican federal authorities, those Mexican states seeking to reform their state police forces.” The additional resources are designed to improve the public perception of the Mexican judicial system and government’s ability to maintain rule of law overall.
As expected, the report’s release criticizing Calderón’s militarized security strategy was not well received in Mexico. The Calderón administration, via the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (Secretaría de Relaciones Exteriores, SRE), repudiated the report, stating that it was neither helpful nor conducive to arriving at a solution to the common problem of transnational crime to issue such statements. The response also emphasized the Mexican government’s belief that the United States does not fully recognize its role in Mexico’s security situation, specifically referencing the U.S.’s weak efforts to control arms trafficking across its southern border, which only fuels the violence in Mexico. In addition, the Mexican response chastised the Committee on Foreign Relations for circumventing the traditional diplomatic processes by offering a public report.
Insight Crime suggests that the recent U.S recommendations to shift away from a military-led strategy were based on increasing evidence that the Mexican armed forces have committed significant human rights abuses since 2006. Despite this, the military maintains a good reputation among Mexican citizens and consistently receives positive poll results, though critics continue to argue against using soldiers in law enforcement roles without adequate support or training.
To download the full Committee on Foreign Relations’ report, click here.