The U.S. State Department Merida Initiative Report makes a mockery of the intent to include human rights concerns in the security aid package. Despite citing a sixfold increase in human rights complaints against the Mexican Army, failure to prosecute a single reported case of torture, and the continued practice of military immunity from civilian courts—among many other dismal indicators—the State Department justifies release of withheld funds based on empty promises, programs yet to be implemented, and reform policies that in practice have had negative impacts on human rights.
Violence related to organized crime in Mexico is a very serious problem. So are the human rights violations and corruption of security forces. These challenges do not have to be viewed as mutually exclusive. The report glorifies the binational supply-side drug war as if it were the only approach to confronting illegal drug trafficking, when research shows that health-oriented strategies are more cost-effective and tend to enhance rather than violate human rights. It fails to even mention concerns that funneling massive amounts of U.S. taxpayers’ money exclusively to Mexican military, police, and intelligence agencies actually exacerbates violence, corruption, and human rights violations.
The three-year Merida Initiative designed by the Bush administration ends in 2010. It has not been effective in stemming the flow of illicit drugs. It has failed spectacularly in reducing violence. The power of organized crime in Mexico is burgeoning, including in areas that are occupied by U.S.-supplied military forces. Congress attached few measurable benchmarks to the Merida Initiative. At the end of this cycle, the public should demand a full accounting of the results, not the intentions. Based on complete and transparent information, and a high priority on human rights, the U.S. government must transform the failed Merida Initiative into an integral cooperation plan for Mexico—one that balances aid to security forces with assistance to build strong communities that are capable of resisting the encroachment of organized crime without militarization.