Fact Sheet
Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs
June 23, 2009

The multi-year Merida Initiative will provide equipment and training to support law enforcement operations and technical assistance for long-term reform and oversight of security agencies. The initiative complements broader efforts by Mexico, the Central American nations, Haiti, and the Dominican Republic to fight criminal organizations and drug trafficking.

Myth vs. Fact

Myth: The Merida Initiative only strengthens the military’s role in law enforcement.

Fact: Transnational organized crime has a corrosive impact on all levels of society. A primary goal of the Merida Initiative is to help strengthen a broad spectrum of institutions engaged in combating criminal organizations by equipping and training police, supporting judicial reform plans, building prosecutorial capacity, and cooperating with other key agencies--including border security, corrections, customs, and when appropriate, the military. The Initiative also addresses a broad range of needs outside of law enforcement and the judiciary--including funding drug treatment centers, gang prevention activities, education, and public outreach.

Myth: The United States, through the Merida Initiative, is intervening in the sovereignty of neighboring nations, dictating policy and even making personnel decisions.

Fact: The Merida Initiative is a partnership, and the United States respects its individual partners’ sovereign decisions and their different legal authorities. Close collaboration with Merida counterparts has been a hallmark of all issues concerning support, training, technical advice, and funding. The Merida Initiative supports efforts partner nations themselves have initiated to combat a common enemy--transnational criminal organizations.

Myth: The Merida Initiative is too little money, too late. There is not enough money for Central America.

Fact: The Merida Initiative was envisioned as a three-year program. The U.S. Congress approved $465 million in the first year, which includes $400 million for Mexico and $65 million for Central America, the Dominican Republic, and Haiti. For the second year, Congress approved $300 million for Mexico and $110 million for Central America, the Dominican Republic and Haiti. A FY09 supplemental appropriation is providing an additional $420 million for Mexico; and $450 million for Mexico and $100 million for Central America has been requested for FY10.

Myth: The United States is not doing its part, on its own side of the border, in reducing demand for drugs, or stopping the flow of arms and cash across the borders, or conducting successful law enforcement operations against organized crime.

Fact: The U.S. Government continues to make progress in reducing the demand for illicit drugs in the United States. Cocaine use among 18-25 year-olds, the leading demographic in the U.S., dropped 23% between 2006 and 2007. Cocaine positive tests in the workplace, with no breakdown by age, dropped 19% in the same time period. Additionally, the Administration is increasing resources to U.S. federal agencies responsible for preventing weapons from entering Mexico and Central America from our territory, and is implementing new strategies to track the flow of bulk cash out of the United States. By coordinating our own efforts with those of our Merida Initiative partners, we attack the transnational crime cartels from different directions and expect to deny their funding, arms, and safe havens. We also increase the likelihood of their capture and prosecution in regions where they thought themselves safe.

Myth: The Merida Initiative will only help the United States.

Fact: The Merida Initiative provides tangible support to our neighbors as they arrest and prosecute criminals, interdict contraband, reform criminal justice systems and restore public confidence in law enforcement institutions. All these actions benefit both the people of the United States as well as in our partner nations. It is in our own interest to help them confront increasing levels of crime affecting citizens in our neighboring countries. Since criminal activities are not bound by national borders, we must all cooperate if we are going to reduce the damage these criminals are doing to our societies.

Myth: The Merida Initiative will bring back the certification requirement of other countries’ cooperation in counternarcotics.

Fact: There is no certification requirement regarding cooperation with the United States or counternarcotics performance associated with the Merida Initiative. The U.S. Congress has asked the State Department to prepare reports on how partner governments are dealing with certain administration of justice and human rights challenges and opportunities. In addition, in response to Congress, the Department will also evaluate the impact of the procurements associated with the Merida Initiative.

Myth: With so much focus on helping the military and police, corruption and human rights abuses will only worsen.

Fact: The Merida Initiative will directly support Mexican and Central American plans to strengthen human rights and accountability as they:

  • Further professionalize their law enforcement agencies;

  • Improve the effectiveness of citizen participation councils to help oversee law enforcement agencies and improve the effectiveness of community policing;

  • Establish or strengthen offices of accountability and oversight within government agencies;

  • Conduct ethics and human rights training at law enforcement academies; and

  • Establish links between bar associations and law schools across our borders as part of law school curriculum development and continuing legal education development.