President López Obrador wants to end the Mexico-United States security cooperation agreement known as the Mérida Initiative, declaring that “it hasn’t worked” and contradicting earlier comments by his secretary of security.
Instead of the crime-fighting agreement, the president hopes to direct U.S. funding to development programs and job creation in Mexico’s south and southeast, as well as in Central America.
“We don’t want the so-called Mérida Initiative,” López Obrador told reporters yesterday at his daily press conference.
“The proposal that we’re putting forward is for a development plan for the southeast [of Mexico] and Central American countries,” he added.
“We don’t want armed helicopters. We don’t want resources for other kinds of military support, what we want is production and work. We’re seeking cooperation for development, not for the military, not for the use of force.”
Launched in 2008, the Mérida Initiative has directed about US $3 billion to Mexico to assist in the fight against drug trafficking and other forms of organized crime. Funding has also helped to train Mexican security forces and supported justice programs.
The United States Congress approved funding of US $145 million in fiscal 2019 under the initiative, according to the U.S. Congressional Research Service. The money is particularly aimed at stopping opioids such as heroin and fentanyl reaching the United States.
The president’s remarks contradicted comments by Public Security Secretary Alfonso Durazo, who told the newspaper Milenio that the government wanted the United States to agree to Mérida Initiative funding to be partially used for the “growth and consolidation of the National Guard.”
With regard to the new security force, however, López Obrador said “we have a way to finance it without needing those funds.”
He also said Mexico doesn’t need assistance from the United States to train the Guard, stating “the army is capable, it has training academies.”
Asked whether the United States government would agree to the redirection of funding to development, the president said, “we’re making progress on that,” noting that the United States recently pledged to invest in development in the region as part of the strategy to curb migration flows.
Some opposition lawmakers called on the president to rethink his proposal to redirect the Mérida funding, warning that it could disappear altogether.
Citizens’ Movement Senator Samuel García said United States President Donald Trump was unlikely to accommodate López Obrador’s “whim,” adding “that’s why I ask for more caution and not to risk [the funding].”