NEW PUBLICATION | The Evolving Merida Initiative and the Policy of Shared Responsibility in U.S.-Mexico Security Relations

us-mx-security-cooperation-coverBy Eric Olson

The election of Donald J. Trump as President of the United States opens a new era in U.S.-Mexico security cooperation. With the new Trump administration, the security relationship is likely to undergo further review and modification. Whether the framework of “shared responsibility” that has guided security cooperation between both nations will be deepened and strengthened, as it has been over the past decade, or is completely overhauled is still unclear.  This paper seeks to place the security relationship in its most recent historical context and reviews how the bilateral security cooperation framework has evolved and deepened beyond the original “Mérida Initiative” set out by Presidents George W. Bush and Felipe Calderón Hinojosa.

The Evolving Merida Initiative and the Policy of Shared Responsibility in U.S.-Mexico Security Relations,” was written by Eric L. Olson, Associate Director of the Latin American Program and Senior Advisor on Security to the Mexico Institute. In the policy brief, the author provides a series of policy options for building on and improving the U.S.-Mexico security relationship.

This policy brief is the second of our series “Charting a New Course: Policy Options for the Next Stage in U.S.-Mexico Relations.” The policy briefs will be released individually and published as a volume in the spring of 2017. 

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Mexican Drug Kingpin, El Chapo, Escapes Prison Through Tunnel

07/13/15 The New York Times

Joaquín "El Chapo" Guzmán

Shortly before 9 p.m. on Saturday, Joaquín Guzmán Loera, the Mexican drug kingpin whose capture last year had been trumpeted by his country’s government as a crucial victory in its bloody campaign against the narcotics trade, stepped into the shower in his cell in the most secure wing of the most secure prison in Mexico.

He never came out.

When guards later entered the cell, they discovered a 2-by-2-foot hole, through which Mr. Guzmán, known as El Chapo, or Shorty, had disappeared.

The prison break humiliated the government of President Enrique Peña Nieto, which had proclaimed the arrest of Mr. Guzmán and leaders of other drug cartels as crucial achievements in restoring order and sovereignty to a country long beleaguered by the horrific violence associated with organized crime.

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Op-ed: Use Brains, not Brawn, to Handle Migrant Crisis

By Christopher Wilson and Eric L. Olson

The Hill, 7/14/14

FBchildren-northern-mexico-credit-kelly-donlan2The huge wave of families and unaccompanied children arriving in South Texas from Central America has ignited a debate on how to best dissuade the influx.

Many have proposed managing the problem at the border by beefing up the Border Patrol with more agents. Some have even called for the National Guard to be sent in as a stopgap measure. A case could be made for modest staffing increases to the Border Patrol in the Rio Grande Valley, where the number of overall unauthorized migrant apprehensions has more than doubled since 2011, but it is important to note that adding more boots on the ground would do little or nothing to stem the flow of children across the border.  The real solutions lie in addressing the push factors in the source countries.

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Mexico’s Drug War Made Crisis Worse, Pena Nieto Administration Says

Fox News Latino, 12/19/2012

While the approach was praised by some, it’s a far cry from the 80,000-member  corps he promoted on the campaign trail, said Eric Olson, a México analyst at  the Woodrow Wilson Center.

“It reflects that reality is setting in that they don’t have people sitting  idly to join these forces,” he added.

Despite his promises of reform, some human rights experts worry that Peña  Nieto has not been transparent enough with his plans and needs to reveal more  details of his new strategy

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Mexico’s Drug War Takes New Direction

Wall Street Journal, 12/17/2012

Olson_EricEric Olson, a Mexico analyst at the Woodrow Wilson Center, a Washington-based think tank, said Mr. Peña Nieto’s emphasis on building Mexico’s institutions over battling drugs could cause concern among U.S. lawmakers who still see stopping the flow of drugs as a primary objective for Mexico. However, he said many policy makers are coming around to Mr. Peña Nieto’s diversified approach.

“It’s not bad idea and frankly more realistic,” he said.

A U.S. State Department spokesman said Monday that it was natural for Mr. Peña Nieto, as an incoming president, to revise security plans.

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Mexico Says Prints Identified Zetas Boss Before Body Disappeared

Bloomberg, 10/9/12

Mexican authorities said fingerprints confirmed that a suspect killed in a gun battle two days ago was the top leader of the Zetas cartel before his corpse was stolen from a funeral home by armed commandos…

“It’s a very bizarre situation, so it will raise questions in some people’s minds about what really happened,” said Eric Olson, associate director of the Mexico Institute at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars in Washington. While a significant blow for the Zetas, Lazcano’s death may lead to more violence in the short-term as the remnants of the group “fight for their own survival and control,” he said.

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Costa Rica: Narco-families emerge as traffickers [in Spanish]

Infosurhoy, 9/21/12

Out of the 619 groups distributing drugs in Costa Rica 27.5% of them are made up of families in which all generations distribute drugs.

According to Eric L. Olson, Assistant Director of the Mexico Institutue at the Woodrow Wilson Center, this is similar to what happened in Mexico, for example with the Arellano-Felix and Beltran-Leyva Organizations.  Olson says that he thinks that this is because people are loyal to family and trust them.

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