Supporters of Mérida cite successes from aid package

December 9, 2013

Mexican engineersThe Texas Tribune, 12/9/2013

Criticism of the Mérida Initiative wasn’t on Alejandro Matamoros’ mind recently when he spoke about his passion for teaching how to mix hip-hop tracks and how it helps his at-risk students express how they view Mexico after years of bloodshed.

And controversy surrounding the estimated $1.5 billion aid package from the U.S. to Mexico, Central America and the Caribbean wasn’t evident during an after-school program in this city’s Felipes Angeles colonia. The children here squealed in delight during dance lessons, where the featured music was a Chipmunks-like rendition of Beyonce’s “Single Ladies.”

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Out of sight, not out of mind

October 21, 2013

The Economist, 10/19/2013

Ttijuana-hillside1roubled by the bloody image this gave Mexico, Mr Peña has adopted a new approach since taking over in December. Its most eye-catching element is to pour 118 billion pesos ($9.1 billion) into the 220 most violent neighbourhoods in the country, offering more schooling, jobs, parks and cultural activities to stop them becoming “crime factories”. Footballers have joined in, providing soccer camps to slum kids who might otherwise want to become hired guns.

These are not new ideas. Efforts to mend the torn social fabric in the most crime-ridden cities, like Tijuana and Ciudad Juárez, started under Mr Calderón. Mr Peña has given them greater impetus, yet even his government recognises that they will not yield a quick pay-off. Meanwhile, it is under pressure to produce a coherent law-enforcement plan in a country where, according even to official statistics, almost nine out of ten crimes go unreported. Policing is a particular concern. “They are still in reactive mode. If there is a plan to go after drug-traffickers, it’s being kept super-secret,” says Vanda Felbab-Brown, a crime analyst at the Brookings Institution in Washington.

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Cooperation with Mexico: Key to Border Security and Stopping Transnational Crime

August 29, 2013

shutterstock_91867121The Heritage Foundation (The Foundry Blog), 08/28/2013

According to recent reports, the U.S. is in talks with Mexico to strengthen security along Mexico’s southern border. The effort reportedly includes a three-level security system for Mexico’s border with Belize and Guatemala to stop human trafficking, drug running, and other gang-related activity.

Stopping such activities is critical to not just Mexican security but also the U.S.’s. As the only southern neighbor with a land border with the U.S., Mexico serves as conduit for trade but also for the illicit flow of drugs and humans and other criminal objectives. Partnering with Mexico to enhance their security efforts would have several beneficial results.

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Obama to find new foreign policy challenges in Mexico

April 23, 2013

obamaMcClatchy, 4/23/13

On the eve of President Barack Obama’s trip to Mexico next week, the new government there looks to reboot a joint effort to combat violent drug traffickers, worries about piecemeal efforts in the United States to legalize marijuana and hopes to rebuild frayed relations with Cuba.

In a wide-ranging interview, Mexican Foreign Secretary Jose Antonio Meade also said the return to power of the Institutional Revolutionary Party wouldn’t mean a reversal of his country’s willingness to extradite nationals wanted in the United States. “There is no plan to change the way that extraditions have been working,” said Meade, a Yale-educated economist who served as Mexico’s finance secretary before the change of administration in December. He spoke to McClatchy at the Mexican Embassy in Washington in advance of Obama’s trip to Mexico City on May 2.

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Op-ed: Stem the flow of guns to Mexico

January 28, 2013

guns1Los Angeles Times, 1/27/2013

There are plenty of reasons right here at home to support President Obama’s effort to reform the nation’s gun laws. But if Congress requires additional arguments, it should consider that easy access to guns is also undermining the United States’ avowed goal of combating drug trafficking and transnational gangs abroad.

The U.S. has sent nearly $2 billion in aid to Mexico since 2007, much of that as part of the Merida Initiative, a counter-narcotics program designed to provide aid and equipment for that country’s drug war. Yet that assistance has been undermined by lax U.S. gun laws, which allow members of the drug cartels and their associates to buy weapons here and smuggle them across the border. At least 68,000 of the firearms seized in Mexico between 2007 and 2011 — and probably quite a lot more — came from the United States, according to the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives.

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U.S. Shifts Mexico Drug Fight

September 18, 2012

The Wall Street Journal, 9/17/12

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton meets her Mexican counterparts at a security summit in Washington Tuesday to discuss the next phase in the drug war: how to train the judges and prosecutors that will be trying suspected drug lords.

The Merida Initiative, the U.S.’s $1.9 billion assistance program to Mexico, began mostly as a means to buy military hardware like Black Hawk helicopters for Mexico. But over the past two years, it has entered a new phase, in which purchases for the Mexican military are taking a back seat to measures to mend the branches of Mexico’s civilian government…

Despite the collaboration, one reality can’t be avoided when the leaders meet Tuesday: Mexico still has a long way to go in this second phase of the drug war.

Eric L. Olson, a Mexico expert at Washington think-tank the Wilson Center went to an oral trial in Morelos, one of the first adopters of the new system, and says the hearings reached an awkward moment where a judge was scolding the attorneys for wanting to read from sheets rather than argue properly.

Mr. Olson says the proceedings were a step in the right direction, even if there are missteps. Still, he says: “Both sides have always had difficulty defining what the criteria for success are,” he says. “That has not happened yet.”

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Americans Shot in Mexico Were C.I.A. Operatives Aiding in Drug War

August 29, 2012

The New York Times, 8/28/12

The two Americans who were wounded when gunmen fired on an American Embassy vehicle last week were Central Intelligence Agency employees sent as part of a multiagency effort to bolster Mexican efforts to fight drug traffickers, officials said on Tuesday.

The two operatives, who were hurt on Friday, were participating in a training program that involved the Mexican Navy. They were traveling with a Mexican Navy captain in an embassy sport utility vehicle that had diplomatic license plates, heading toward a military shooting range 35 miles south of the capital when gunmen, some or all of them from the Federal Police, attacked the vehicle, Mexican officials have said.

Eric Olson, an expert at the Woodrow Wilson Center’s MexicoInstitute in Washington, said the shooting could only sow some doubts about the police, and at best pointed to a lack of communication among Mexico’s military and the police.

“This seems to suggest there isn’t better communication between the various elements of the Mexican government,” he said. “One fundamental issue is the lack of trust.”

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In Mexico, Rehearsing to Inject Drama Into the Courtroom

August 28, 2012

The New York Times, 8/27/12

Four years ago, Mexico’s Congress adopted a legal overhaulthat will enable prosecutors and defense lawyers to present evidence and question witnesses in open court, a practice that already exists in a few states but whose rollout is scheduled to be completed nationwide by 2016.

More open trials, the theory goes, will increase due process and accountability in a country where the much-publicized arrests of cartel bosses are common, but the actual convictions of criminals are not. Fewer than a quarter of crimes in Mexico are reported and over all, just 2 percent result in sentences, according to a 2010 report by the Trans-Border Institute at the University of San Diego.

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Judicial and Police Reforms in Mexico: Essential Building Blocks for a Lawful Society

July 12, 2012

United States Senate Committee on Foreign Relations,  7/12/12

Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman John Kerry (D-MA) today released a staff report entitled, “Judicial and Police Reforms in Mexico:  Essential Building Blocks for a Lawful Society.” The report calls on the incoming Mexican and U.S. Administrations to expand their support for Mexico’s reform of its judicial sector and police as the best means to reduce the high levels of violent crime in Mexico.

The report was compiled by Senate Foreign Relations Committee majority staff at the request of Chairman Kerry and was based on visits to Mexico, an examination of ongoing reforms and U.S. Government policy supporting these reforms.

Download the report: Senate Foreign Relations Mexico 7.12


Senate report says Mexico must focus on cops, courts, not army

July 12, 2012

The Washington Post, 7/11/12

A report by the Senate Foreign Relations Committee to be released Thursday concludes that Mexico’s deployment of its military to fight organized crime has been ineffective and may have increased sensational killings by fragmenting crime mafias into warring bands.

The report was written to help guide the U.S. Congress in its strategic partnership with Mexico’s president-elect, Enrique Peña Nieto, who has suggested that his administration will focus more on reducing the violence that has left 60,000 dead, rather than capturing or killing crime lords and seizing the cocaine, methamphetamine and marijuana headed to the United States, the most voracious drug consumer in the world…

The report was compiled by the committee’s majority staff at Kerry’s request and was based on visits to Mexico and interviews with Mexican and U.S. officials, independent analysts, and human rights activists in both countries. The report urges that Congress spend $250 million annually over the next four years to continue the $1.9 billion Merida Initiative. But it pushes for a change in strategy, toward providing Mexico with U.S. trainers in police academies rather than Black Hawk helicopters and other military hardware.

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