Central American, Mexican and U.S. officials have agreed upon a multi-year regional campaign to combat the corrosive effects of transnational criminal groups, including drug traffickers.
The effort, known as the Merida Initiative, for the Mexican coastal city where it was conceived, demonstrates a commitment by the governments of the United States, Mexico, Haiti, the Dominican Republic and nations in Central America to confront criminal organizations whose actions plague the region and spill over into the U.S.
The United States recognizes its shared responsibility to address the problems that flow from criminality and drug abuse. The Merida Initiative complements efforts in the U.S. to reduce demand for illegal drugs. The U.S. will also stop the flow of weapons being smuggled from the United States into Mexico used to kill police officers and innocent civilians, and to seize illegal cash proceeds that keep the transnational gangs afloat.
As part of this effort, the U.S. this year will provide $400 million to Mexico and $65 million for participating Caribbean and Central American nations for civilian law enforcement training and equipment and modernizing judicial systems. It will also fund programs designed to encourage greater accountability, transparency and respect for human rights. Additional funding will be requested for 2009 and 2010. This money will complement the ongoing and costly efforts of U.S. partners in the region.
News reports from the region provide proof every day of the need for such comprehensive action. Thus far this year in Mexico there have been more than 3,000 drug-related murders, including more than 300 police officers and soldiers killed in anti-drug operations.
As authorities cracked down on drug trafficking in recent years, the criminal organizations have responded with ever greater violence in the hope that they will be able to intimidate President Calderon, but he has refused waver. Instead, he has aggressively gone after these criminal organizations.
The transnational crime organizations are a danger to all of our countries. Fortunately, the governments of Mexico, Central America and the United States are working collaboratively to confront this regional threat with a well thought out strategy.