Merida Mexico


Merida Mexico:

There is a deadly disconnect between the urgency of Mexico's drug war and the slow pace of U.S. anti-drug aid.

Mexico is seeing a "record-breaking escalation of drug-related assassinations, kidnappings and other violent crimes," according to a Government Accountability Office report that says more than 12,000 people have died in drug-related violence in Mexico since 2006.

But a massive U.S. aid package designed to help Mexico defeat the cartels is trailing red tape and limping badly.

The Merida Initiative dates to a 2007 meeting between President George W. Bush and Mexican President Felipe Calderón. It is a multiyear, $1.3 billion effort to provide training and crime-fighting equipment.

Mexican drug cartels, which serve much of the U.S. demand for heroin, methamphetamine, marijuana and cocaine, threaten Mexico's multiparty democracy in fundamental ways. They sow chaos and civil unrest. No longer content just to bribe or intimidate public officials, they use their enormous wealth to buy elections.

If President Calderón loses his fight against the cartels, cartel violence could spread into the United States. U.S. efforts to build on existing trade, commerce and tourism relationships in Mexico and Central America would be doomed.

In addition to serving our national interests, the Merida Initiative was a recognition that U.S. demand for illicit drugs is what keeps the cartels in business. The United States has an obligation to help Mexico deal with criminal organizations that have moved beyond assault weapons and bullet-proof vests to amass arsenals that include rocket launchers and anti-aircraft guns.

Yet only 2 percent of the $830.42 million that has been obligated under Merida had been spent as of Sept. 30, according to the GAO report. The report acknowledged efforts by the Obama administration to expedite procurement of five helicopters, which are supposed to be delivered this month.

Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano recently told The Arizona Republic that things were "getting on track." The State Department's official response to the GAO was that time had to be spent "laying the groundwork" for aid.

Meanwhile, the Mexican cartels are expanding into the nations of Central America, which, along with Haiti and the Dominican Republic, are supposed to get anti-drug money.

The Merida Initiative was an important commitment. Now, it needs to become an effective weapon.

Comment (1)

bathmate

December 28, 2009 at 3:18 AM

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Bathmate