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Tuesday, September 7, 2010

U.S.-Mexican Security Cooperation: the Mérida Initiative and Beyond

Clare Ribando Seelke
Specialist in Latin American Affairs

Kristin M. Finklea
Analyst in Domestic Security

In recent years, U.S.-Mexican security cooperation has increased significantly, largely as a result of the development and implementation of the Mérida Initiative, a counterdrug and anticrime assistance package for Mexico and Central America that was first proposed in October 2007. With the recent enactment of the FY2010 Supplemental Appropriations Act (H.R. 4899/P.L. 111- 212), Congress has provided almost $1.8 billion for the Mérida Initiative. Congress provided $248 million of that funding to Central America and included an additional $42 million for Caribbean countries. However, Congress has dedicated the vast majority of the funds—roughly $1.5 billion—to support programs in Mexico, with an emphasis on training and equipping Mexican military and police forces engaged in counterdrug efforts. Escalating drug traffickingrelated violence in Mexico and the increasing control that Mexican drug trafficking organizations (DTOs) have over the illicit drug market in the United States have focused congressional attention on the efficacy of U.S-Mexican efforts and related domestic initiatives in both countries. 

With funding for the original Mérida Initiative technically ending in FY2010 and new initiatives underway for Central America and the Caribbean, the Obama Administration proposed a new four-pillar strategy for U.S.-Mexican security cooperation in its FY2011 budget request. That strategy focuses on (1) disrupting organized criminal groups; (2) institutionalizing the rule of law; (3) building a 21st century border; and (4) building strong and resilient communities. The first two pillars largely build upon existing efforts, whereas pillars three and four broaden the scope of Mérida Initiative programs to include new efforts to facilitate "secure flows" of people and goods through the U.S.-Mexico border and to improve conditions in violence-prone border cities. The Administration's FY2011 budget request includes $310 million for Mérida programs in Mexico. 

Congress is likely to continue overseeing how well U.S. agencies and their Mexican counterparts are implementing the Mérida Initiative and the degree to which both countries are fulfilling their pledges to tackle domestic problems contributing to drug trafficking in the region. Congress may also examine the degree to which the Administration's new strategy for U.S. programs in Mexico complements other counterdrug and border security efforts, including the $600 million in supplemental funds for Southwest Border security efforts provided in (H.R. 6080/P.L. 111-230). In addition to questions about the four pillars proposed, Congress may also debate how best to measure the success of current and future Mérida Initiative programs. A July 2010 report by the Government Accountability Office (GAO) recommended that the State Department develop better performance measures to track progress under Mérida. Another congressional interest is likely to focus on whether human rights conditions placed on Mérida funding are appropriate or sufficient. Congress is currently deciding what types and amounts of funding to provide for future U.S.-Mexican counterdrug and anticrime efforts initiated under the Mérida Initiative in the FY2011 Foreign Operations Appropriations bill. 

For related information, see CRS Report RL32724, Mexico-U.S. Relations: Issues for Congress; CRS Report R41075, Southwest Border Violence: Issues in Identifying and Measuring Spillover Violence; CRS Report R41237, People Crossing Borders: An Analysis of U.S. Border Protection Policies, by Chad C. Haddal; and CRS Report R41215, Latin America and the Caribbean: Illicit Drug Trafficking and U.S. Counterdrug Programs.

Date of Report: August 16, 2010
Number of Pages: 39
Order Number: R41349
Price: $29.95

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