Shannon K. O'Neil

Latin America's Moment

O'Neil analyzes developments in Latin America and U.S. relations in the region.

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The Famosa "Merida Initiative"

by Shannon K. O'Neil
October 22, 2007

So the long awaited “Plan Mexico” has finally been announced by President Bush. He is asking for $500 million for Mexico in the coming year, and $1.4 billion over the next two years. Smaller amounts of money – $50 million – will be provided to Central American countries. The package stresses equipment and training to bolster the Mexican government’s current fight against narcotraffickers.

Here in Mexico, there are worries about the strings attached to this agreement. While the Foreign Minister Patricia Espinosa has said that there will be no U.S. military officials brought in, that didn’t stop radio programs, other press, and public figures from worrying about potential concessions that have or will have to be made.

While U.S. Ambassador to Mexico Tony Garza is calling this a “fundamental shift” in U.S. policy, it is really more money for much of the same – improving security by combating drug cartels directly with better intelligence and firepower. Almost nothing has been said about the more fundamental problems that face Mexico – namely the weakness of the police and judicial institutions that are necessary to enforce the rule of law, be it against the illegal drug trade or any other sort of crime. Better equipment may only help in the short term. Unless Mexico can strengthen its institutions – to serve and protect its population, to professionally investigate crimes, and to prosecute and convict criminals – the influx of money and equipment will not resolve Mexico’s, nor the United States’, problems.

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