The Merida Initiative is a 2008 partnership between the United States and México designed to fight organized crime and its associated violence. The first Letter of Agreement (LOA) for the Merida Initiative was signed on December 2008. The agreement was initially signed by presidents Calderon and Bush, the Merida Initiative continues under Presidents Peña Nieto and Trump.
The scheme fosters respect for human rights and the rule of law. The initiative is based on principles of common and shared responsibility for drug abuse, mutual trust, and respect for sovereign independence. The Merida Initiative attempts to transform the U.S.-México bilateral relationship.
The Merida Initiative recognized that to disrupt the organized criminal groups operating on both sides of the border, the United States and México must institutionalize reforms to sustain the rule of law and support for human rights, create a 21st century border, and build strong and resilient communities.
The U.S. Congress appropriated $2.9 billion since the Merida Initiative began in Fiscal Year 2008.
The partnership activities included:
Mexico’s implementation of a comprehensive justice reform system supported through training justice sector personnel, including: police, investigators, prosecutors, and defense counsel; the development of correction systems; judicial exchanges; and support to Mexican law schools to continue supporting Mexico’s on-going transition to a new accusatory criminal justice system.
Capacity building for police via courses for Mexican law enforcement including crime investigation, criminal intelligence, professionalization, tactics and firearms, forensics, strategic analysis, and specialized training for anti-corruption, anti-gang, anti-trafficking in persons, anti-money laundering, and anti-kidnapping units.
The establishment of anti-corruption programs that include vetting of police personnel, establishment of citizen observer units to inform and advise crime victims of their rights, and the creation of trained internal affairs units.
Ongoing engagement with México and civil society to promote the rule of law and build stronger and more resilient communities to increase the knowledge of, and respect for, human rights; to strengthen social networks and community cohesion; to address the needs of vulnerable populations (youth and victims of crime); and to increase community and government cooperation.
Augment air mobility of Mexican police forces through the delivery of specialized aircraft and training for pilots and technicians to enable the México to confront criminal organizations that try to leverage difficult terrain.
Provide for training and equipment to enhance the Mexican government’s ability to detect illicit goods at internal checkpoints and ports of entry.
The delivery of over 400 canines trained in the detection of narcotics, weapons, explosives, ammunition, currency, and human remains to Mexican federal agencies, including the Federal Police, the Office of the Attorney General, and Customs.
The establishment of a secure, cross-border telecommunications system between ten U.S. and Mexican border sister cities to provide public security forces on both sides of the border with the capability to request and exchange information on active criminal investigations.
Create interagency task forces incorporating trained personnel from municipal and state police and state attorney general offices in key Mexican states to better share information, develop actionable intelligence, and foster greater coordination in law enforcement operations.
Provide support for efforts by Mexican prisons working to achieve independent accreditation from the American Correctional Association (ACA).
The establishment of Drug Treatment Courts across five Mexican states. These highly-specialized courts approach addiction as a public health issue and provide a viable alternative to incarceration for drug abusers.
These activities were put into four sections that encompassed the initiative.
The Strategic Framework for implementing the myriad of Merida Initiative activities and programs is referred to as the Four Pillars, each of which pulls together Merida Initiative programs under specific strategic objectives.
Diminish the power of Mexican organized criminal groups by systematically capturing and incarcerating their leaders and by reducing drug trade revenues by interdicting drugs, stopping money laundering, and diminishing production. Through equipment, technology, and training, the Merida Initiative will support better investigations, more captures and arrests, successful prosecutions, and shipment interdiction.
Pillar One Deliverables:
1. Four CASA 235 maritime surveillance aircraft, valued at $50 million each, were delivered to the Mexican Navy (SEMAR) and one Dornier 328 surveillance aircraft, valued at $21 million, was delivered to the Federal Police.
2. A secure, cross-border telecommunications system between ten U.S. and Mexican border sister cities, valued at $13 million dollars, has been established. This system provides public security forces on both sides of the border the capability to request and exchange information regarding active criminal investigations. Additionally, through a $17 million-dollar Merida Initiative project, secondary inspection points for persons who warrant additional scrutiny has been established in ten international ports of entry.
3. Nine UH-60M Blackhawk helicopters were delivered, three to SEMAR and six to the Federal Police. These aircraft have proven invaluable in confronting criminal organizations who would otherwise have used the advantage of difficult terrain to operate with impunity.
Enhance the capacity of Mexican public security, border and judicial institutions to sustain the rule of law. Merida Initiative programs will strengthen the capabilities of key institutions to improve internal controls, further professionalize the military and police, reform corrections institutions, and assist in the transition to the New Criminal Justice System.
Pillar Two Deliverables:
1. The Merida Initiative Corrections Program aids prisons throughout Mexico working to achieve international accreditation. 42 Mexican correctional facilities have received accreditation.
2. The Merida Initiative has provided $24 million of training and equipment support to the national vetting, internal affairs and kardex programs, an effort by México to stamp out corruption and build trustworthy institutions.
3. The Merida Initiative has committed over $247 million in support of Mexico’s transition to the New Criminal Justice System. The wide range of projects includes state-level attorneys general exchanges; forensic lab assessments, training, certification, accreditation, and equipment; and law school seminars for professors and students. The support also includes courtroom IT equipment packages essential for oral trials and training for prosecutors, investigators, and other justice sector personnel.
4. The Merida Initiative is providing assistance to professionalize Mexican federal, state, and municipal law enforcement agencies and to increase the capacity of their specialized investigative units. This assistance covers a range of training, including instructor development for federal and state police academy instructors, leadership and supervision, basic police skills, and specialized investigative skills. Over $5 million has been invested in infrastructure improvements and equipment donations to academies in five states, with more donations planned for both state and federal academies.
Facilitate legitimate commerce and movement of people while curtailing the illicit flow of drugs, people, arms, and cash. The Merida Initiative will provide the foundation for better infrastructure and technology to strengthen and modernize border security at northern and southern land crossings, ports, and airports. Professionalization programs will transfer new skills to the agencies managing the border and additional non-intrusive technologies will assist in the detection of criminal activities.
Pillar Three Deliverables:
1. The delivery of over 300 canines trained in the detection of narcotics, weapons, ammunitions, and currency to the Federal Police, the Attorney General’s Office, and Mexico’s Customs Agency. Each of these agencies is in the process of building or remodeling their own K9 team training facilities. Additionally, trainers are being certified to train officers in Mexico.
2. The acquisition and use of non-intrusive inspection equipment (NIIE) continue to be a critical component to securing the borders of Mexico in the fight to detect and prevent the flow of illicit goods. Through the Merida Initiative, the Border Security program has contributed $112 million in technology including NIIE, improvement of infrastructure, and personnel training in the areas of border security.
Strengthen communities by creating a culture of lawfulness and undercutting the lure and power of drug trafficking organizations. By implementing job creation programs, engaging youth in their communities, expanding social safety nets, and building community confidence in public institutions, Merida Initiative assistance will test new initiatives to strengthen Mexican communities against organized crime.
Pillar Four Deliverables:
1. The Merida Initiative Drug Demand Reduction (DDR) programs seeks to increase Mexico’s capacity to reduce illegal drug consumption. Since 2009, DDR programming has provided technical assistance for the creation and expansion of drug treatment courts (DTCs) in Mexico and contributed $2.5 million to the Organization of American States to implement new courts in additional Mexican states. Currently, five states in Mexico have DTCs, including the State of Mexico, Chihuahua, Nuevo León, Morelos, and Durango.
2. The Merida Initiative Culture of Lawfulness (COL) programs aim to instill a sense of individual responsibility to uphold the rule of law in Mexico, with the larger goal of reducing crime and corruption. COL education is now part of the junior high school curricula in all Mexican states. During the academic 2013-2014 academic year, 856,348 students received COL training as part of their education. COL programs supported the placement of citizens’ watch booths in 73 local offices of the Mexico City district attorney, a program now also operating in Puebla and the State of Mexico. Citizens monitoring the booths provide information to people reporting crimes, advise them of their rights, and invite them to file criminal complaints, which has led to greater accountability and increased customer service in district attorneys’ offices.
US FY 2007
$11.4 million from the Economic Support Fund
$36.7 million from the International Narcotics Control and Law Enforcement Fund
$0 from the Foreign Military Financing Program
Total FY 2007: $48.1 million
US FY 2008
$20 million from the Economic Support Fund
$263.5 million from the International Narcotics Control and Law Enforcement Fund
$116.5 from the Foreign Military Financing Program
Total FY 2008: $400 million
US FY 2009
$15 million from the Economic Support Fund
$406 million from the International Narcotics Control and Law Enforcement Fund
$39 from the Foreign Military Financing Program
Total FY 2009: $460 million
US FY 2010
$9 million from the Economic Support Fund
$365 million from the International Narcotics Control and Law Enforcement Fund
$265.2 from the Foreign Military Financing Program
Total FY 2010: $639.2 million
US FY 2011
$18 million from the Economic Support Fund
$117 million from the International Narcotics Control and Law Enforcement Fund
$8 from the Foreign Military Financing Program
Total FY 2011: $143 million
US FY 2012
$33.3 million from the Economic Support Fund
$248.5 million from the International Narcotics Control and Law Enforcement Fund
Total FY 2012: $281.8 million
US FY 2013
$32.1 million from the Economic Support Fund
$190.1 million from the International Narcotics Control and Law Enforcement Fund
Total FY 2013: $222.2 million
US FY 2014
$35 million from the Economic Support Fund
$143.1 million from the International Narcotics Control and Law Enforcement Fund
Total FY 2014: $178.1 million
US FY 2015
$33.6 million from the Economic Support Fund
$110 million from the International Narcotics Control and Law Enforcement Fund
Total FY 2015: $143.6 million
US FY 2016
$39 million from the Economic Support Fund
$100 million from the International Narcotics Control and Law Enforcement Fund
Total FY 2016: $139 million
US FY 2017 (Estimate)
$49 million from the Economic Support Fund
$90 million from the International Narcotics Control and Law Enforcement Fund
Total FY 2017: $139 million (Estimate)
US FY 2018 (Requested by Trump Administration)
$25 million from the Economic Support Fund
$60 million from the International Narcotics Control and Law Enforcement Fund
Total FY 2018: $85 million (Requested)
Sources: U.S. Department of State, Agency for International Development (USAID) and Congressional Justification for Foreign Operations, FY2018
In 2016, Mexico’s security budget was $15 billion.
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