<!-- IMAGE -->
The United States has joined forces with the Dominican Republic in a multi-year campaign to combat gangs, organized crime, firearms and narcotics trafficking from operating across international borders.
The effort, known as the Merida Initiative, named for the Mexican coastal city where it was conceived, demonstrates a strong commitment by the U.S. and its neighbors in Mexico, Central America, the Dominican Republic and Haiti to confront criminal organizations whose actions plague the region and spill over into the U.S.
On June 26, U.S. Charge d'Affaires Roland Bullen and Dominican Minister of the Interior and Police Franklin Rancier together signed a letter of agreement for their 2 countries to implement the campaign. Under the initiative, the Dominican Republic will receive more than $2.5 million to fund seven special projects aimed at combating criminal gangs and the trafficking of narcotics and firearms. They include improving border security with Haiti, developing a national criminal database, aid and new equipment for the nation's Financial Analysis and Navy Intelligence units, assistance to combat money laundering, and police and drug control reform projects. A 2nd letter of agreement to be signed in the future will provide additional funding to these and other projects including the targeting of at-risk youth and anti-gang programs, community policing and reducing the demand for illegal drugs.
Over the years, as Central America has become a transshipment point for South American narcotics bound for sale in the U.S., organized crime groups have learned to take advantage of the different law enforcement and legal systems in the region and exploit their weaknesses. Lack of border control is also a problem, particularly in some of the remote areas straddling Guatemala and Mexico.
The U.S. recognizes its shared responsibility to address the problems that result from criminal activities and drug abuse. The Merida Initiative will provide aid for all its partner nations in Central America and the Caribbean so they may better communicate and work together in partnership with the U.S. to combat a common challenge.