May 18, 2010

U.S.-Mexico Drug and Organized Crime Fighting Efforts Making Progress but Still Need Bolstering, New Report Says

U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Committee Ranking Member Dick Lugar today released a report on the progress of U.S.-Mexican efforts to defeat organized crime and drug trafficking.

The report, "Common Enemy, Common Struggle: Progress in U.S.-Mexican Efforts to Defeat Organized Crime and Drug Trafficking," will be formally published by the Government Printing Office later this week. Lugar will meet with Mexican President Felipe Calderón on Thursday, following the president’s address to a joint session of Congress.

“This report highlights the need to deepen the partnership between the United States and Mexico in a way that respects our mutual sovereignty and yet addresses the shared problems caused by criminal organizations operating on both sides of the border.  By history, by geography, and by family ties, the United States and Mexico are natural partners.  Our policies toward Mexico should reflect our common interests and objectives,” Lugar said.

“In the run-up to Mexican President Felipe Calderón’s state visit on May 19-20, I hope this report will help stimulate broader debate on the importance of building a closer partnership that will improve our capacity to address shared challenges.

“Though we still have a long way to go, it is clear that efforts to fight the common threat posed to our societies by drug traffickers and organized crime are showing positive results and should be bolstered.”

According to the report: “As the violence increases, public criticisms of President Calderón’s strategy and of the Mérida Initiative grow in number and intensity.  A poll conducted in March 2010 by Milenio newspaper found that 59 percent of Mexicans believe organized crime is winning the drug war, while only 21 percent believe the government is.

“At the direction of Senator Lugar, this study examines the current state of U.S.-Mexican security cooperation.  Its focus is on efforts to improve border security and modernize Mexico’s police forces, as these key areas will contribute to the success of the Mérida Initiative.  The chief conclusion is that the Mérida Initiative is delivering results, but must be bolstered in order to achieve its aims.  While the dramatic surge in violence is an expected upshot of the aggressive campaign against drug trafficking organizations, the risk is that political support for expanded cooperation may not survive daily news reports of brutal homicides and kidnappings.  The Mérida Initiative is thus entering a critical period, with important implications for the national security of both the United States and Mexico.

The full report may be found via the Government Printing Office. The report argues:

• Little progress has been made on a framework for organizing the 2,022 state and local police forces spread among 31 states and the Federal District.  Reform of these state and local units is essential to the success of Mexico’s anti-crime initiatives because they constitute more than 90 percent of Mexico’s police strength.

• Though much remains to be done, as a result of the Mérida Initiative we are witnessing the clear strengthening of institutional capacity building in Mexico—police, intelligence, courts, and in the inter-agency process. Today, relevant security agencies on opposite sides have strengthened cooperation, are establishing regular, secure communications and routinely exchanging information at an operational level. This leap forward in collaboration along the border has resulted in dramatic progress in drug seizures and extraditions.  But most importantly, our assistance has helped Mexico develop stronger institutions to fight organized crime and drug trafficking.

• In the short term, strengthening and institutionalizing cooperation on border security issues, intelligence   sharing, and the support of Mexican efforts to reform law enforcement are the best ways to protect U.S. security from the threats posed by organized criminals in Mexico and by those who work with them in the United States.


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