Clare Ribando Seelke Specialist in Latin American Affairs
Kristin M. Finklea Analyst in Domestic Security
violence perpetrated by drug trafficking organizations (DTOs) and other
criminal groups is threatening citizen security and governance in some
parts of Mexico, a country with which the United States shares a nearly
2,000 mile border and $460 billion in annual trade. Although the violence
in Mexico has generally declined since late 2011, analysts estimate that it may
have claimed more than 60,000 lives over the last six years. The violence
has increased U.S. concerns about stability in Mexico, a key political and
economic ally, and about the possibility of violence spilling over into
the United States. Mexican DTOs dominate the U.S. illicit drug market and are considered
the greatest drug trafficking threat facing the United States.
U.S.-Mexican security cooperation has increased significantly as a result of
the development and implementation of the Mérida Initiative, a counterdrug
and anticrime assistance package for Mexico and Central America first
funded in FY2008. Whereas U.S. assistance initially focused on training
and equipping Mexican counterdrug forces, it now places more emphasis on
addressing the weak institutions and underlying societal problems that
have allowed the drug trade to flourish in Mexico. The Mérida strategy now
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. As part of the Mérida Initiative, the Mexican government pledged
to intensify its anticrime efforts and the U.S. government pledged to address
drug demand and the illicit trafficking of firearms and bulk currency to
Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto has vowed to continue U.S.-Mexican
security cooperation, albeit with a new focus on reducing violent crime in
Mexico. Peña Nieto has reformed the structure of Mexico’s security
apparatus, placing the Federal Police and intelligence services under the
authority of the Interior Secretary. He also intends to create a gendarmerie
(militarized police) to gradually replace military forces engaged in
public security efforts and to help states form unified police commands.
Peña Nieto’s security strategy prioritizes crime prevention and human
rights protection; it also seeks to advance judicial reform. As the Peña Nieto
government adjusts Mexico’s security strategy, bilateral efforts and U.S.
programs may need to be adjusted. Mexico’s new administration also
supports efforts to enact gun control in the United States.
The 113th Congress is likely to continue
funding and overseeing the Mérida Initiative and related domestic
initiatives, but may also consider supporting new programs. From FY2008-FY2012, Congress
appropriated $1.9 billion in Mérida assistance for Mexico, roughly $1.1 billion
of which had been delivered as of November 2012. The Obama Administration
asked for an additional $234.0 million in Mérida assistance for Mexico in
its FY2013 budget request. Congress has also debated how to measure the
impact of Mérida Initiative programs, as well as the extent to which Mérida
has adequately evolved to respond to changing security conditions in Mexico.
Another issue of congressional interest has involved whether Mexico is
meeting the human rights conditions placed on Mérida Initiative funding.
Date of Report: January 14, 2013
Number of Pages: 44 Order Number: R41349 Price: $29.95
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