Mexican President Calderón to Washington, in his address to Congress on May 19, asks for continuing financial support for his "war on drugs," through the Merida Initiative, which was initiated by him and President Bush. While the Obama administration's budget recommends shifting some funds to social and economic support programs in Mexico (the "We Are All Juarez" initiative of Calderón), 66% still goes to support police and military efforts. This military and police funding the futility of the military response embodied in the Merida Initiative does not address the roots of the problem. Those roots lie in domestic US drug use and the laws that prohibit the regulated, legal sale of these drugs. We are petitioning Congress to end all military and police funding for Mexico and shift all funding to support social, economic and justice reform projects in Mexico.
After spending three years and $1.6 billion on the Mérida Initiative, more than ex-President Bush originally proposed, the goals of Mérida are now more remote than before. Drug-related violence continues to rock Mexican communities, as demonstrated in March by the tragic killings of three individuals linked to the U.S. Consulate in Ciudad Juárez. Spending hundreds of millions of taxpayer dollars on Mexico’s military and police has failed to curtail such violence. Murder rates continue to rise in Ciudad Juárez, despite the presence of over 10,000 troops in that city alone.
Moreover, such spending poses a serious threat to Mexicans’ human rights. From 2007 to 2009, Mexico’s National Human Rights Commission received 3,388 reports of human rights violations committed by Mexico’s military, a sixfold increase over pre-Merida levels. During the same time period, Congress awarded that military over $1 billion in taxpayer dollars. Taxpayers should not have to continue supporting such unchecked abuses.
The Mérida Initiative has also failed at its other key objective: reducing U.S. drug consumption. Our contributions of Black Hawk helicopters and night vision to Mexico’s security forces have done nothing to restrict the flow of drugs onto our streets or wean addicts off of illegal substances.
These dual failures stem from a lack of resolve to address the drug trade's roots: poverty in Mexico and demand in the U.S. Though Secretary of State Clinton stated in March that the Obama Administration’s request for 2011 Mérida funding would work to “spur social and economic development,” only 3% of the requested $310 million is slated for “economic support.” The remaining 97%, for “military financing” and “law enforcement,” would perpetuate Mérida’s failure to recognize that Mexican impoverishment fosters reliance on the drug trade. Also, while I welcome the President’s proposal to increase funds for demand reduction here in the U.S., much more financing will be needed to adequately supply and staff the drug rehabilitation and treatment programs needed to curb domestic addiction.
After fruitlessly spending over a billion taxpayer dollars on Mérida, the time has come for a change. Please work to divert the proposed 2011 Mérida funds to the reduction of Mexican poverty and U.S. demand so as to more effectively and responsibly curtail the addiction and violence afflicting our two countries.