Mexico/US: US Senate approves new version of the Mérida Initiative

Ecos de la Costa

Mexican Interior Minister, Juan Camilo Mouriño Terrazo [Source: Ecos de la Costa]

On June 26 the US Senate approved the amendment, slated for the current fiscal year, that was passed by the House on June 19, 2008. The initiative puts aside USD400 million for Mexico and USD65 million for Central America in training and equipment to fight drug-trafficking and terrorism. The amount approved is some USD85 million less than President Bush proposed initially. The amendment will now be sent to the president for approval, which should occur in the next few days. The Mérida Initiative forms part of the Iraq Supplemental Funding Bill, amounting to USD162 billion in spending.

The amendment establishes a “shared responsibility” between the US and Mexico in the fight against drug trafficking, designating USD215.5 million to support programs initiated by the Mexican government to combat drug trafficking as well as USD116.5 million for “military cooperation” between the two countries. Another USD20 million will go towards the “building of institutions and support for the civil society.” In addition USD5 million is slated for “human rights training” among the police, public prosecutors and prison administrators as well as USD3 million in “support of NGOs and civil society.”

The original initiative, which was criticized by Mexican President Felipe Calderón’s government, was revised to cut the unilateral human rights “conditions” imposed by the US. No explicit demands in regards to conditions or “certification” mechanisms appear in the final version of the initiative.

In a press conference held by the Mexican Interior Minister, Juan Camilo Mouriño Terrazo, he denied that the initiative implies the presence of US police or military agents within Mexico. He also stated that “The Mexican government congratulates the US Legislature on their decision and reiterates the pledge to prioritize the fight against organized crime, with the understanding that international cooperation is a fundamental component.”

In the last 18 months the Mexican government has spent some USD7 billion in programs to fight drug-trafficking and drug cartels in Mexico that move cocaine from Colombia to consumers in the US. In the past year in Mexico 1400 people have been killed in drug-trafficking related violence.

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