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Merida Initiative

The Merida Initiative - An Overview

In December 2008, Mexico and the United States signed the first Letter of Agreement (LOA) for the Merida Initiative, opening a chapter of historic cooperation and acknowledging the shared responsibilities of the United States and Mexico to counter drug-fueled violence threatening citizens on both sides of the border.  Through five years of implementation, the Merida Initiative has led to a new architecture for bilateral security cooperation, provided tangible support to Mexico’s security and judicial institutions and helped to galvanize U.S. efforts to stop the flow of weapons, money and the demand for drugs. Initially signed by presidents Calderon and Bush, the Merida Initiative continues under Presidents Peña Nieto and Obama.

With $2.2 billion in appropriated funds from the U.S. Congress, the Merida Initiative has delivered over $1.2 billion in equipment and training to date.  The Strategic Framework for implementing the myriad of Merida Initiative activities and programs is referred to as the Four Pillars, each of which pulls together Merida Initiative programs under strategic objectives.  Taken together, these four objectives will strengthen both of our societies in the fight against organized crime and violence and will help drive the transformation of our bilateral security relationship.


PILLAR ONE – Disrupt Capacity of Organized Crime to Operate

Diminish the power of Mexican organized criminal groups by systematically capturing and incarcerating their leaders and by reducing drug trade revenues by interdicting drugs, stopping money laundering, and diminishing production.  Through equipment, technology, aviation, and training, the Merida Initiative will support better investigations, more captures and arrests, successful prosecutions, and shipment interdiction.

PILLAR TWO – Institutionalize Capacity to Sustain Rule of Law

Enhance the capacity of Mexican public security, border and judicial institutions to sustain the rule of law.  Merida Initiative programs will strengthen the capabilities of key institutions to improve internal controls, further professionalize the military and police, reform corrections institutions, and implement justice sector reform.

PILLAR THREE – Create a 21st Century Border Structure

Facilitate legitimate commerce and movement of people while curtailing the illicit flow of drugs, people, arms, and cash.  The Merida Initiative will provide the foundation for better infrastructure and technology to strengthen and modernize border security at northern and southern land crossings, ports, and airports.  Professionalization programs will transfer new skills to the agencies managing the border and additional non-intrusive technologies will assist in the detection of criminal activities.

PILLAR FOUR – Build Strong and Resilient Communities

Strengthen communities by creating a culture of lawfulness and undercutting the lure and power of drug trafficking organizations.  By implementing job creation programs, engaging youth in their communities, expanding social safety nets, and building community confidence in public institutions, Merida Initiative assistance will test new initiatives to strengthen Mexican communities against organized crime.



December, 2014

 

 

PILLAR ONE – Disrupt Capacity of Organized Crime to Operate

  • Four CASA 235 maritime surveillance aircraft, valued at $50 million each, were delivered to SEMAR.  The CASA is a patrol aircraft that allows the Mexican Navy to further increase vigilance and control over their territorial waters.
  • A secure, cross-border telecommunications system between ten U.S. and Mexican border sister cities, valued at $13 million dollars, has been established. This system provides public security forces on both sides of the border the capability to request and exchange information regarding active criminal investigations.
    • § Nine UH-60M Blackhawk helicopters were delivered—three to the Mexican Navy (SEMAR) and six to the Federal Police.  These aircraft have proven invaluable in confronting criminal organizations who would otherwise have used the advantage of difficult terrain to operate with impunity.

PILLAR TWO – Institutionalize Capacity to Sustain Rule of Law

  • § The Government of Mexico (GOM) opened the Mexican National Academy for Penitentiary Administration in Xalapa, Veracruz in May, 2009 with support from the Merida Initiative.  Since then, the Academy has almost 7,000 newly recruited officials.  With Merida Initiative assistance, prisons throughout Mexico are working to receive international accreditation.  To date, a total of 18 facilities, nine Federal and nine State, have received accreditation.
  • § The Merida Initiative has provided $8 million of training and equipment support to the national vetting program at the state and federal levels, a major effort by the GOM to stamp out corruption and build trustworthy institutions.
  • § Through the Merida Initiative, training is being provided to prosecutors, investigators and other Justice Sector personnel to prepare for Mexico’s constitutionally mandated transition to an oral accusatory system.  Additional support includes the modification of  courtrooms to prepare for oral trials, a project is currently underway to equip 57 courtrooms in 17 Mexican states, as well as a grant to the  Conference of Western Attorneys General to conduct interdisciplinary exchanges between Mexican and U.S. State Attorneys General Offices.
  • § The Merida Initiative is providing assistance to professionalize Mexican federal, state, and municipal law enforcement agencies and to increase the capacity of their specialized investigative units. This assistance covers a range of training, including instructor development for federal and state police academy instructors, leadership and supervision training, basic police skills, and a variety of specialized investigative skills. To date, over $5 million has been invested in infrastructure improvements and equipment donations to police academies in five states, with more donations planned for both state and federal academies.

PILLAR THREE – Create a 21st Century Border Structure

  • § Delivery of over 400 canines trained in the detection of narcotics, weapons, ammunitions and currency to the Federal Police, PGR and SAT is ongoing.  Each of the agencies is in the process of building or remodeling their own K-9 team training facilities.  In 2014, the Merida Initiative Canine program was approved to being working directly with 13 states. Additionally, trainers are being certified to train officers in Mexico.
  • Launched in December 2013 with Merida Initiative support, Viajero Confiable is a GOM trusted traveler program similar to the  U.S. Global Entry program that allows expedited clearance for pre-approved, low-risk travelers.  Currently, Viajero Confiable is operating at airports in Cancun, San Jose del Cabo and Mexico City, with plans to expand to 10 additional airports in 2014. 
  • The acquisition and use of non-intrusive inspection equipment (NIIE) continue to be a critical component to securing the borders of Mexico in the fight to detect and prevent the flow of illicit goods.  Through the Merida Initiative, the Border Security program has contributed $112 million in technology including non-intrusive inspection equipment, improvement of infrastructure, and personnel training in the areas of border security.

PILLAR FOUR – Build Strong and Resilient Communities

  • Since 2009, the Merida Initiative has provided technical assistance for the creation and expansion of drug treatment courts in Mexico and contributed $2.5 million to the Organization of American States to implement new courts in additional Mexican states.  Currently, five states in Mexico now have Drug Treatment Courts, including the State of Mexico, Chihuahua, Nuevo León, Morelos and Durango.
  • Merida Initiative Culture of Lawfulness (COL) programs aim to instill a sense of individual responsibility to uphold the rule of law in Mexico, with the larger goal of reducing crime and corruption.  COL education is now part of the junior high school curricula in 31 states and federal entities. During the academic 2013-2014 academic year, 856,348 students received CoL training as part of their education.  Schools that have taught the COL course report fewer fights, better communication between students, greater knowledge about the rule of law and bullying, and more respect for school regulations.
  • COL has supported the placement of citizens’ watch booths in 73 local offices of the Mexico City district attorney.  The booths are staffed with observers who provided information to people reporting crimes.  Over a period of 18 months, more than 16,250 people were surveyed about the services received, and this information is helping the district attorney’s offices improve markedly.