Press Conference
William R. Brownfield
Assistant Secretary, Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs
Ciudad Juarez, Mexico
August 17, 2011


Olga E. Bashbush, PAO: We have with us Ambassador William Brownfield, Assistant Secretary for the Bureau of
International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs. If you need it, his biography is right over there--I think you all already have it. The Ambassador will say a few words and then he will take questions. Right now we are short on time and will be unable to take all your questions, but we will have time for four questions.

Ambassador William Brownfield: It depends, if they only have one or two questions, we have enough time for all of them.

Good afternoon, distinguished media representatives. Thank you for joining us this afternoon. It is a pleasure for me to be here.

Just so you know, this is my first visit to the city of Juarez in about 25 years, but it is not my first visit to Juarez. I must admit to you that my mother was born in El Paso, on the other side of the river. I think I came to Juarez the first time when I was something like 6 months old, and I have probably visited this city 50 times in my life, although I have to admit that this is my first visit since 1985 or so.

Ladies and gentlemen, I am the officer, the official from the United States government responsible for supporting the Government of the United States in this process of Merida, in our collaboration on counternarcotics and police and law enforcement between Mexico and the United States.

We began this process with a shared analysis between the two countries, between the two governments and two peoples, that this is a shared threat we face. Mexico and the United States have a shared responsibility between the two federal and state governments of both countries and with many of the mayors and municipal governments or governors of the two countries. We are partners in the logical way of two governments that accept a shared responsibility. During my meetings today in Juarez, and I confess that I have had meetings with municipal authorities, with officials from the state government of Chihuahua, and later today with officials from the federal government. In each one of these meetings we have spoken of or will speak of a transition process of the Merida Initiative. A transition from the last three years when the partnership was almost entirely at the federal level--of federal institutions with federal institutions--to a new partnership for the coming years at the state and municipal level.

We accept the reality in Mexico, as well as in the United States, that 90% of the police, 90% of trials, 90% of prosecutors, of courts, exist in the state and municipal institutions and not in the federal institutions.

Ladies and gentlemen, you hear an optimist in this process. I am one of those people who genuinely believe that this collaboration has produced positive results in recent years and particularly in the last twelve months. I think right now we are talking about how we can further improve this positive process.

I think we've had a lot sacrifices on both sides of the border, including, and you deserve credit for this, including the incredibly brave journalists here in the city of Juarez and other cities in Mexico that attempt to inform their communities about the realities of its streets and its people. And I congratulate you and offer you my respect for the fallen and the people you have lost due to your profession.

Ladies and gentlemen, I believe that this process of collaboration under the Merida Initiative will eventually succeed because of a very simple reason for Mexico as well as for the United States: We cannot lose, because if we lose we will say to the generations that come after us “you are condemned to live in a disgusting and repulsive world,” and that's a conversation I do not want to have with my children or grandchildren in years to come.

Thank you very much, and now I will hand over the microphone.

Olga E. Bashbush, PAO: We are going to proceed in the order in which you arrived. Patricia Caudillo, Televisa.

Patricia Caudillo, Televisa: Mr. Brownfield, I would like to know your current view of the situation here at the border. Is it serious? Or is it improving?

Ambassador William Brownfield: Look, I'll provide an answer in two parts. And so you know my perspective, immediately before agreeing to take this position as Assistant Secretary, I served as United States Ambassador to Colombia for three years from 2007 to 2010. In Colombia, if I had been asked the same question 15 years ago, let’s say, in 1996, I would have said: “Madam, the situation is incredibly serious, and I do not see many reasons for optimism.”

Fifteen years later in Colombia, my answer would be: “The truth is that I see a very, very positive outlook due to the sacrifices, effort, discipline, effort at all levels of government, national, provincial for Colombia, state here in Mexico, and municipal.”

I think that's exactly what I want to say right now here at this border. If you ask me: “If I take a picture right now, would that picture at this moment be very positive?” The answer is: “No.” You know better than me that at this moment we have some challenges, some problems, and some incredibly complicated threats. But if you ask me, if I could make a video of the situation today compared to a year or two years ago and with the perspective of what it will be in a year or two from now, the truth would be much more positive because I see institutions that are improving. I see progress in decreasing and dismantling criminal organizations. I see more communication, more collaboration, more sharing of intelligence between Mexico and the U.S. The truth is that in my opinion, I can say that yes, for the ordinary citizen of Juarez today, the situation is quite serious.

But I would say that it is less severe than a year ago or two years ago. And I believe that the ordinary citizens of Juarez can now say that they probably see a better future than in the past and for me that is key to resolving this situation in a definitive way.

Luis Carlos Ortega, Periódico Norte: Good afternoon Sir. I have heard that in some ways the United States… I've heard out there on some occasions that the United States would rather have drugs remain here and not cross the border. Then the fight against petty drug dealing would not be a priority for the U.S. government, at least in regards to Ciudad Juarez.

We just saw that there was an initiative to create a law against petty drug dealing in which local governments would have more power to act, and now it has been postponed, and it is believed that certain United States policies might be at work to stop this law, just as long as these drugs do not reach the United States. This is not a priority as other higher level policies for the U.S.

What is your comment on this?

Ambassador William Brownfield: Look, let me remind you that I am the Assistant Secretary for Narcotics and Law Enforcement. And I have to say that in the 30 years or so that I've worked in this area, I think we had a debate, and heard a good debate, indeed, among many people about the correct policy on the drug issue--not only in the United States but around the world. And I have heard comments on the question of legalization or decriminalization, the question on whether to focus more efforts on education or treatment or rehabilitation, rather than eradication or interdiction. On whether the emphasis should be more social or more law enforcement, whether we should spend more resources on issues, on the hard side or on the soft side.

But never, never in my 30 years in this glorious diplomatic profession of mine have I heard a debate on whether we should try to leave drugs across the border. The reason is not logical. Who could imagine that such a solution would be a permanent solution for this process?

Criminal organizations, ladies and gentlemen, are commercial organizations; they want to earn money, the maximum amount of money in their miserable profession. If they can earn more money selling their product in Juarez, they will do that. If they can earn more money selling their product in the United States, across the border, they will do that.

The truth is that the solution requires a collective effort against illegal drug trafficking in the United States, Mexico, Central America, the Caribbean and South America. That is one of the lessons learned of the past 40 years. You cannot solve this scourge, this human tragedy, in one country. That is impossible. And I say this not because I am a totally honest man and correct in all respects, but that this conclusion is logical. Therefore, I have to say that I reject your hypothesis because it is not logical.

Olga E. Bashbush, PAO: Let's go with an electronic media reporter. Miguel Fierro of Puente Libre.

Miguel Fierro, Puente Libre: Basically, you’re talking about a shared responsibility. You’re also talking about a shared threat. Are you noticing that the Mexican cartels are threatening the United States more and more?

That would be one question, and I’m really curious, why are you changing the method of distributing the resources of the American Initiative? Mérida, sorry. Why do it now through the local or municipal governments? And how will it operate? Basically.

And if I may take advantage of this opportunity, will the international financial crisis affect the resources of the Merida Initiative?

Ambassador William Brownfield: Too many questions in that question, but let me try to remember and respond in chronological order.

One is whether the Mexican cartels are now threatening both the U.S. and Mexico; the answer is yes. Without a doubt, as evidenced by some of the arrests on the streets of cities across the United States. At this point, you cannot talk about Mexican cartels as an institution that is exclusively Mexican, exactly as it was impossible to talk about the Colombian cartels threatening Colombians only in the 80s and 90s.

The answer is yes. The gangs, cartels, and trafficking organizations are institutions and corporations and therefore they need a transnational response.

Second, what was the second?

Voices: The changes in the Initiative.

Ambassador William Brownfield: Exactly, the transition. The reason for this transition is logic. The logic is that when two federal governments begin to cooperate, they will initially work at the national level, because they are two federal governments. Once this partnership is established, vehicles, equipment, training, education, exercises, sharing, et cetera. Once established at a national level, the logic is that cooperation should proceed to the next level, which is the level of states and municipalities.

What will happen? Good question, incidentally, that is why I am here today in Juarez, a city that is a little bit important in this regard. To listen to the authorities of Ciudad Juárez, to Chihuahua state authorities and national authorities located here in Juarez on their advice, ideas, and recommendations for this type of collaboration. I imagine, ladies and gentlemen, that we are here to decide how to create more fluid channels of communication between U.S. institutions and institutions here.

I guess we will talk about the future support for training centers and training at the municipal or state level. I guess we will talk about the future of how we can support the formation of task forces that are national, state and municipal.

But in the end, that decision, ladies and gentlemen, will come from Mexican authorities. Mexico is a sovereign country. Mexico decides how to work with any other country in the world.

What I’m saying, I repeat, I affirm and reiterate is that we have shared threats, shared responsibility, and we want to work in a collaborative manner between the U.S. and Mexico.

But as we work together, in the end, the decision is a sovereign decision for the agencies and institutions in Mexico.

Finally, on the small issue of the global economic and financial problem. Ladies and gentlemen, we do not live in a vacuum. And I will not deny that the global economic situation will have a budgetary impact in my country, in your country, in each of the 192 countries represented today at the United Nations.

But that will not affect the calculation of two countries, or in this case, if we incorporate Central America and Colombia, in the calculation of the ten Meso-American or American and Meso-American countries. And that is, that our societies, our people, are now threatened by multinational gangs and trafficking organizations.

With a financial crisis or no financial crisis, we still have the same threats. We must seek and find ways to attack and resist these threats. We will have to navigate these budgetary complications, but they will not affect the need for collaboration in the future.

Olga E. Bashbush, PAO: Last question, Jesus Rodriguez from Channel 44.

Voices: Olga, my name was added even before Miguel’s.

Ambassador William Brownfield: I’m a captive here.

Olga E. Bashbush, PAO: What I’m going to do is take down the questions that you couldn’t ask and send you the answers later.

Angélica Bustamante, El Mexicano: I have a very important question about how many Merida Initiative resources are going towards Mexico and how many resources are available for Juarez.

Sandra Rodriguez, El Diario: Yes, because I would like for you to explain how the Initiative is going to change, before it was between the federal governments and now… if you could at least explain this a little bit more precisely.

Ambassador William Brownfield: Okay, not a bad way to conclude this part of the conversation. Incidentally, as you know, I guess, at least during the first three years of collaboration between our two countries, the United States government spent $1.5 billion over three years for our support of the Merida Initiative. Of the $1.5 billion, my office is responsible for about $1.0 billion, and the rest is to support economic, social, and public health elements which are also incredibly important, but not in my area of responsibility.

What will happen in the future? Again, the partnership…for legal reasons…we live in a community… And just like the Mexican government has no right to make direct links to cities and states in the United States, nor does the national government of the United States have a right to make direct relationships with municipalities and states in Mexico.

The collaboration continues between the two governments, but the two national governments have taken the decision that as of 2011 we will put more emphasis on supporting institutions at the state and municipal level.

That means that the bilateral dialogue will now be more triangular or quadrangular, I guess.

Eventually, this entire conversation of ours must be processed by federal institutions. Ladies and gentlemen, my country is exactly like yours. Your constitution is much like our own. We are two federal countries, we accept that. The truth is that I have no problem with that. I'm pretty happy with the decisions made by our Founding Fathers in 19…in 1776, and in your case too, although that is up to you. In other words, I do not criticize, or condemn, I say that it is a reality. The two federal governments have decided that in the future we will try to make more resources available to the state governments and municipal governments or municipalities.

And how do we do it?

That eventually depends on the advice and dialogue that we started here today. And so that you know, in two days, I will be elsewhere in northern Mexico. In a place that I can not mention, but it is located between Tamaulipas and Coahuila and its capital starts with the letter ‘M.’ And I will have, to some extent, exactly the same kind of dialogue there. I will say to those people: “What should we do? What is the best way to proceed in this area?”

Ladies and Gentlemen, I am not suggesting that we have formulated the plan, that we have the strategy completed. The truth is that we are, if I may use a baseball metaphor for this process, we are not even in the first inning. Both pitchers are warming up. We are trying to decide who will play, the lineup for each team, the order of the hitters, and so forth.

Over the coming months you have every right to attack me and say: "Brownfield, enough. You have had enough time for your questions. Tell us exactly what the plan is and how you will support these efforts in Juarez, in Chihuahua, and in northern Mexico."

But please give me at least a few days to hear the views, recommendations and suggestions of your own authorities because in the end, this plan, this process, will only give results if it reflects the desires, the recommendations and the realities that you face every day.

Please let me finish by saying for the third and last time that I am optimistic. I am optimistic that our two societies, both our peoples… our two governments have concluded that we face the same threats. Since we have shared threats and shared responsibilities, we will cooperate. And if we work together, I think that there’s no organization in the world that can resist the collective efforts of the Mexican and U.S. governments… two nations, and the two societies of Mexico and the United States.

Eventually we will win, and we will win because we have to win for the future generations, and that ladies and gentlemen, is it. Thank you very much. See you in my next visit to Juarez. Ciao.

Miguel Fierro, Puente Libre: See you. Bye Bye.

Ambassador William Brownfield: He is very diplomatic.

Sandra Rodriguez, El Diario: The New York Times says you have a training center here along the northern border. Do you know anything about it?

Ambassador William Brownfield: I don’t. That’s why I’m here to see what type of training (inaudible)

Sandra Rodriguez, El Diario: That the U.S. has a training center in the north of Mexico?

Ambassador William Brownfield: I would like to visit the center one day because I think that is why I am here. To discuss how we can establish, how we can support training centers here in the north of Mexico.

If that is not necessary because we already have one, it's news to me. I should have remained in Washington, but that's why I'm here. Thanks, gentlemen.

Olga E. Bashbush, PAO: If anyone has another question, please write it down and I’ll get you an answer.