Sunday, April 9, 2017

U.S.-Mexican Security Cooperation: The Merida Initiative and Beyond

Ten years after the Mexican government launched an aggressive, military-led campaign against
drug trafficking and organized crime, violent crime continues to threaten citizen security and
governance in parts of Mexico, including in cities along the U.S. Southwest border. Organized
crime-related violence in Mexico declined from 2011 to 2014 but rose in 2015 and again in 2016.

Analysts estimate that the violence may have claimed more than 100,000 lives since December
2006. Social protests in Mexico against education reform and gas price increases have also
resulted in deadly violence. High-profile cases, including the enforced disappearance and
murder of 43 students in Mexico, have drawn attention to the problem of human rights abuses involving security forces. Cases of corruption by former governors, some of whom have fled Mexico, also have increased concerns about impunity.

Supporting Mexico's efforts to reform its criminal justice system is widely regarded as crucial for
combating criminality and better protecting citizen security in the country. U.S. support for those
efforts has increased significantly as a result of the development and implementation of the
Mérida Initiative, a bilateral partnership launched in 2007 for which Congress appropriated more
than $2.6 billion from FY2008 to FY2016. U.S. assistance to Mexico focuses on:

(1) disrupting
organized criminal groups,
(2) institutionalizing the rule of law,
(3) creating a 21st-century border,
(4) building strong and resilient communities.

Newer areas of focus have involved bolstering
security along Mexico's southern border and addressing the production and trafficking of heroin.
As of November 2016, $1.6 billion of Mérida assistance had been delivered to Mexico.

Inaugurated to a six-year term in December 2012, Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto has
continued U.S.-Mexican security cooperation. U.S. intelligence has helped Mexico arrest top
crime leaders, including Joaquin "Chapo" Guzman in February 2014. Guzmán's July 2015 prison escape was a major setback for bilateral
efforts, but he was recaptured in 2016 and is scheduled to be extradited. The Peña Nieto
government met a 2008 constitutional mandate to transition to an accusatorial justice system by
June 2016 but has struggled to comply with international recommendations on preventing torture, enforced disappearances, and other human rights abuses. Mexico's adoption of a national anticorruption system and its transition from a presidentially appointed attorney general's office to a more independent prosecutor general's office selected by the Mexican Senate have become the focus of efforts to combat corruption.

The U.S. Congress has continued to fund and oversee security assistance to Mexico. Congress
provided $139 million in FY2016 for the Mérida Initiative in P.L. 114-113, some $20 million
above the budget request. President Obama's FY2017 budget request included $129 million for
the Mérida Initiative. The House Appropriations Committee version of the FY2017 foreign
operations measure, H.R. 5912, would have provided $149 million for the Mérida Initiative. The Senate Appropriations Committee version, S. 3117, would have fully funded the
Administration's request for Mexico. The 114th Congress did not complete action on FY2017
appropriations, but in December 2016 it approved a continuing resolution (P.L. 114-254)
providing foreign aid funding to Mexico through April 28, 2017, at the FY2016 level, minus an
across-the-board reduction of almost 0.2%. As a result, the 115th Congress is to consider both
FY2017 and FY2018 appropriations for Mexico and the Mérida Initiative.

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