Taken Question
Office of the Spokesperson
Washington, DC
September 16, 2011


QUESTION: What is the State Department reaction to members of Congress who say the Merida Initiative is a failure?

ANSWER: We believe the Initiative is already having a positive impact. Through its bold efforts, with U.S. support, the Mexican government has successfully dismantled drug smuggling routes, seized major amounts of illicit drugs, and jailed drug kingpins. Building institutional capacity for the rule of law is crucial to long-term success. The Merida Initiative is a long-term initiative to support Mexican efforts in this regard.

A variety of U.S. federal agencies—including the Department of State, the Department of Homeland Security, the Department of Defense, the U.S. Agency for International Development, and the Department of Justice—are working with the Mexican government to implement Merida projects. We have seen an increase in bilateral law enforcement cooperation since the Merida Initiative began.

As President Obama has clearly stated: “We share with Mexico responsibility for meeting this challenge and we are committed to continuing our unprecedented cooperation in confronting these criminal organizations.”

QUESTION: What are the accomplishments of the initiative to date?

ANSWER: As of September 1, more than $504 million in equipment, training, and capacity-building has been delivered. With additional deliveries in 2011, we will bring this total to almost $900 million.

Moreover, our partnership with Mexico under the Merida Initiative has helped to strengthen and enhance our cooperation with Mexico in terms of our overall bilateral agenda. Since the partnership was formalized in 2008, more than $1.6 billion has been appropriated for the Merida Initiative (FY08-11). We have put into place an effective bilateral implementation structure that is now accelerating the implementation of our activities.

Since the inception of the Merida Initiative, working together, the United States and Mexico have:

  • Trained more than 6,800 federal police officers, 4,300 prosecutors and justice sector personnel, and 2,000 corrections and penitentiary staff;
  • Strengthened ties to investigate cross-border financial flows and combat money laundering;
  • Transferred 14 helicopters to Mexican security forces and police to increase their mobility in their operations;
  • Trained more than 23,000 justice sector personnel on their new roles in the oral, adversarial system, including litigation, negotiation, witness preparation, case development, and management.
  • Increased information sharing on transnational drug trafficking organizations, which has undergirded successful efforts to remove more than 29 drug cartel bosses;
  • Expanded the deployment of non-intrusive inspection devices, including canine teams, at our common border;
  • Expanded collaboration to trace weapons found in Mexico by serial number to determine whether they come from the U.S. “e-Trace”;
  • Continued the high level of extraditions and fugitive apprehensions.
  • Purchased and trained more than 114 canines for the Federal Police (SSP), Attorney General’s Office (PGR), and Customs Service (SAT) -- all of which are developing canine academies with Merida funding and technical assistance.
  • Increased by 70 percent the number of cases now referred to as pre-trial case resolution alternatives in the states where the judicial reforms are being implemented. This has resulted in increased proportions of indictments of more serious crimes.
  • Provided technical assistance to victims’ services and alternative justice centers in Chihuahua and Morelos, and trained over 3,500 government officials and members of civil society to attend to victims of trafficking, domestic violence, and sexual assault.

QUESTION: Is a counterinsurgency strategy, as suggested by members of Congress, right to combat the drug cartels in Mexico?

ANSWER: We fully support Mexico’s efforts to combat organized crime, reduce violence, and enforce the rule of law. We share responsibility for these challenges and Mexico's efforts and interests in this regard can and do coincide with our own. We are committed to working with Mexico on both sides of the border in order to counter transnational criminal organizations.

Mexican authorities assert control throughout Mexico, in all Mexican states. Although organized crime tries to act with impunity, the Mexican government is using its resources to ensure that state authority will prevail and criminals will be punished, and we are supporting them.

U.S. support to Mexico through the Merida Initiative is designed to support the efforts of Mexican authorities, especially the civilian law enforcement agencies.



PRN: 2011/1518