The United States and Mexico will discuss an overhaul in their joint effort to fight drug cartels during the visit of US Secretary of State Antony Blinken, Friday (8/10).
President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador said Mexico no longer wanted helicopter gunships and other weapons to fight drug traffickers, and instead urged the United States to invest in regional economic development.
Ahead of Blinken’s visit, his first to Mexico as a top US diplomat, Washington indicated it was ready to revamp a 13-year-old program called the Merida Initiative that provides Mexico with military weapons, technical support and security training.
“We believe it is time for us to review our bilateral security cooperation,” State Department spokesman Ned Price told reporters.
He said Washington would like to see the significant progress that has been made in the Merida Initiative maintained, and that cooperation was deepened by adopting a new approach that takes into account today’s threats.
The Mexican government itself is calling for an end to the Merida Initiative. Lopez Obrador argues that investing in development projects is even more beneficial because it will help fight not only drug trafficking but also the flow of migrants — another major challenge facing both countries.
Under the Merida Initiative, the United States has provided Mexico about $3 billion since 2008 for law enforcement training and procurement of equipment such as Black Hawk helicopters.
At the same time, US authorities have focused on helping Mexico catch drug lords like Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman and send them to the United States for trial.
Blinken, accompanied by US Secretary of Homeland Security Alejandro Mayorkas, will meet with Lopez Obrador and other top Mexican officials, including Secretary of State Marcelo Ebrard, during his one-day visit.
Mexico will use the talks to push for steps to speed up extradition between the two countries and reduce the flow of arms from the United States, Ebrard said this week.
In August, Mexico filed an unprecedented lawsuit against major US arms manufacturers in a Boston court over the illegal cross-border flow of arms accused of fueling drug-related violence.
Mexico has been beset by cartel-related bloodshed that has seen more than 300,000 people killed since the government deployed the military in its war on drugs in 2006.
Many experts believe that the militarization strategy has failed because it has resulted in the cartel being fragmented into smaller and more violent cells, while drugs continue to flood the United States.
The new security framework will focus “not only on crime, but also on the underlying causes of crime,” said a senior US administration official.
“We will look for ways to increase joint efforts to reduce the demand for narcotics,” he said.
The two countries will continue to hunt down the cartels, including their laboratories and supply chains, the official said.
The new strategy would place greater emphasis on stopping the flow of firearms and drug money from the United States to Mexico, to prevent the cartels from gaining revenue, he added. [ab/uh]