Remarks
Roberta S. Jacobson
Deputy Assistant Secretary, Bureau of Western Hemisphere Affairs
Washington, DC
April 22, 2010


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QUESTION: Roberta, welcome. Thank you for being here. We wanted to talk to you today about the Merida Initiative. Could you talk to us a little bit about what that is?

DEPUTY ASSISTANT SECRETARY JACOBSON: Absolutely. The Merida Initiative actually began in 2007 when former President Bush met with President Calderon in Merida, Mexico and that’s where it gets its name. And it really has been ever since then an extraordinary collaboration between two governments, now the Obama administration with the Calderon administration in Mexico, on an unprecedented level of cooperation between the U.S. and Mexico to fight organized crime and to strengthen democratic institutions in Mexico. That cooperation began immediately and has continued to grow until the present.

QUESTION: So could you talk about some of the main accomplishments of the Merida Initiative to date?

DEPUTY ASSISTANT SECRETARY JACOBSON: There are a number of areas in which I think the Merida initiative has shown great great accomplishment and great promise. One is the area of working together on investigations to go after organized crime. We know with our Mexican colleagues that you have to go after the entire organization. So there are leaders who have been captured, there are funds that have been seized, there are drugs that have been interdicted. Record amounts of drugs. And going after all of the pieces of those cartels with cooperation and information sharing between the United States and Mexico has really been one of the biggest accomplishments. We are sharing more and more information, making it clear that criminals cannot exploit differences between us to supply their illegal trade. We have also been extremely productive in the area of strengthening institutions, working with the Mexican government on the expansion of their national police, working with them on the administration of justice reforms that have been passed in Mexico, and outreach to community groups.

QUESTION: Roberta, could you talk to us about the U.S. shared responsibility when it comes to the Merida Initiative?

DEPUTY ASSISTANT SECRETARY JACOBSON: Absolutely. Secretary Clinton said when she went to Mexico in March of last year, that she understood that the United States had shared responsibility for the problem of drug trafficking, and that it was this country’s demand for drugs that was driving some of the worst of the violence in Mexico. We each have responsibility for this problem. We know that Mexican cartels are operating in over 200 cities in the United States, not just our major urban areas. We know that only if we work together, and we cooperate on investigations, on efforts to strengthen law enforcement cooperation on both sides of the border, can we really fight this scourge. And so I think that we have really made it clear, the Obama administration has made it clear, that we take that very seriously: instituting southbound checks for guns and money, and making it clear that we really are putting our money where our mouth is in terms of owning up to our responsibility in this fight.

QUESTION: And one final question on the way forward for Merida, how will the U.S. work with Mexico in the years to come on this partnership?

DEPUTY ASSISTANT SECRETARY JACOBSON: One of the things that is most gratifying about the Merida Initiative and the cooperation that it has engendered is really the prospect that we will continue to see closer and closer cooperation; and that really we are able to overcome years of distrust and difficulty and move ahead together in this fight. And I think those are accomplishments and a legacy that really outlive individual presidents and administrations and become a way of doing business as two countries into the future. And that’s really the goal of the Merida Initiative and the evolution of it; it is to institutionalize that cooperation, so that regardless of who is in power in either country, we are always looking for ways to improve our work together, to fight against crime and drugs, and any form of contraband, if you will, on both sides of the border no matter what the threat may be at the particular time.

QUESTION: Thank you.

DEPUTY ASSISTANT SECRETARY JACOBSON: Thank you.

[This is a mobile copy of Merida Initiative]