11/23/2015 Georgetown Journal of International Affairs
An article by Eric Olson
The recent decision by the U.S. Department of State to transfer roughly $5 million in security and counter-narcotics assistance from its Mexico counter-narcotics budget to its Peruvian budget raised eyebrows in Mexico City and Washington. The amount wasn’t the issue, as $5 million is just a fraction (15 percent) of U.S. counter-narcotics assistance to Mexico, and an even smaller proportion when compared to Mexico’s overall security budget. What was surprising was the basis for the decision – essentially the State Department’s determination that it could not, as required by law, report to Congress that Mexico was making sufficient progress on a range of human rights criteria.
U.S. security assistance to Mexico, usually packaged as the Merida Initiative, contains a provision governing human rights conditionality that is slightly different than that of traditional conditionality. Strictly speaking, Mexico is not subject to a traditional certification process. The U.S. funding language simply requires that the Department of State report to Congress on progress made on serious human rights cases. It then is up to Congress to decide whether to freeze the affected money. While the difference between a “report to Congress” and “certifying to Congress” progress on human rights cases may seem minor, it is deemed important because of Mexico’s sensitivities to being “certified” by another country, especially the United States.