Obama Plans to Extend Merida Initiative in Drug War Fight

When Mexico's President, Felipe Calderon, came to Washington this week, he urged the U.S. to be more helpful in the war on drugs. He asked that Congress reinstate the assault weapons ban (for which Republicans like Sen. John Cornyn took him to task, saying "Moreover, the Second Amendment is not a subject open for diplomatic negotiation, with Mexico or any other nation.") Calederon also criticized Arizona's immigration law. And he said the U.S. has a moral obligation to help Mexico fight the cartels.

In 2007, former President Bush got Congress to approve the Merida initiative, designed to to combat drug trafficking and organized crime, with a whopping $1.3 billion budgeted for Mexico from 2008-2010, ten times the amount budgeted in prior years.

Merida is set to expire in September, 2010, and Obama is now asking to extend it a year and provide an additional $310 million for FY 2011.

So where did the money go? Mostly, it turns out, nowhere. [More...]

The AP reports state department spreadsheets show most of the $1.3 billion hasn't reached Mexico yet.

A report to the Senate Council on Foreign Relations released this week contains the spreadsheets (See Appendix III, p. 25 to 45.)

Was the Obama Administration even aware the money is stuck in bureaucratic wrangling? It's unclear, but Obama's response to President Calderon's plea for more help was to offer to speed up delivery of some helicopters.

Looking through the state department spreadsheets, it seems Mexico also got some drug dogs, some SUV's and some of its police force (viewed as completely corrupt in Mexico) got to go to DOJ school and learn things like how to interrogate suspects.

So since we haven't yet spent a fraction of the $1.3 billion Bush budgeted for the drug war, which apparently is sitting in U.S. agency bank accounts, why should we budget another $300 million?

The Merida plan is flawed to begin with. While we're repeatedly told increased drug use in the U.S. is largely responsible making the drug trade in Mexico so lucrative, not one dollar of the Merida money is going to drug prevention or rehabilitation programs in the U.S. Nor has Congress passed any legislation aimed at reducing demand for drugs in the U.S.

Second, everyone knows poverty in Mexico is rampant. 50 million of its citizens live in poverty (in part, some say, due to NAFTA trade policies.) Jobs are scarce, migration is difficult. What's left besides crime and drug-running? Conditions in Mexico make it easy for traffickers to prey on the poor. Where's the money to fix the root cause of the problem? Nowhere in the Merida plan.

The War on Drugs has been a failure for decades. Mexico is likely to be another failed effort like Columbia:

Through Plan Colombia, the US has spent over $5.6 billion on military aid and coca fumigations since 2000. After a decade of trying to stamp out the coca supply, more Colombian farmers are planting coca today than before Plan Colombia began. Military solutions to social problems have been proven to fail.

We never learn. Instead, we just keep throwing more money into misguided efforts like drug dogs, border control, and prosecutor and police training, that isn't going to change a thing.

Why is it so hard for legislators to grasp that throwing more money into law enforcement (especially in another country riddled with systemic corruption, poverty and human rights abuses) is not the right solution. Funding prevention and treatment at home and the causes of poverty in Mexico would be cheaper and far more productive.

While we're on the subject of money, have you seen the State Department's 790 page budget listing the money we're giving to every country in 2011? As I was skimming it, all I could think of was how much we must have paid in salaries to the hundreds if not thousands of people who compiled the budget requests and crunched the numbers, and then how much more for them to attend the many meetings that undoubtedly were held at which the plan for each country was debated and finalized, and so on and so on.

No wonder we have no money for health care and education. Between (1) budgeting $1.3 billion for a doomed anti-drug effort, (2) inter-agency bickering which leaves most of the money languishing in the bank (3) adding another $300 million to the project just for good measure, and (4) the huge amounts of money we give away to virtually every country in the world through a massive bureaucratic effort that takes 790 pages to outline, it's no wonder the U.S. is having a tough time on the economic front.

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  • Display: Sort:
    Phoney Patriots (5.00 / 2) (#2)
    by mmc9431 on Sun May 23, 2010 at 06:59:51 AM EST
    I hope our "blue ribbon" panel that's working on gutting Social Security and Medicare, as well as all those other soclialist programs, looks at the State Departments budget as well as all the Intel and defense budgets too.

    It sad that DC only considers the common good in terms of war, rather than the quality of life for it's citizens.

    Maybe the Plan Isn' to Combat Drug Use (5.00 / 0) (#7)
    by kaleidescope on Sun May 23, 2010 at 10:55:36 AM EST
    Maybe combating the drug trade is an excuse to cement military control over poor people.  

    The U.S. never gave a darn when the contras were selling coke here, when the Afghan Mujahedeen was selling opium and hash, or when anti-communist warlords loyal to Chiang Kaishek were selling heroin.

    The great sin in Colombia was that the wrong guys -- FARC -- were making money off of selling the drugs that found their way to the U.S. market.  No one in power in Washington would've cared if the Colombian dope dealers had been the right wing paramilitary muscle that Eric Holder's client Chiquita hired to kill union organizers.

    Obama, let's have a 'war' on the BP Spill instead. (none / 0) (#1)
    by FoxholeAtheist on Sun May 23, 2010 at 12:45:53 AM EST
    Throw our money at something that will actually benefit us for a change. (Delete if o/t here.)

    Yes Jeralyn (none / 0) (#3)
    by Militarytracy on Sun May 23, 2010 at 08:22:11 AM EST
    No wonder we have no money for healthcare and education.  Thank you for this write up.  I feel the same way.  And without healthcare and education we are only perpetuating a desperate "at risk" society.

    It isn't a handout (5.00 / 2) (#5)
    by mmc9431 on Sun May 23, 2010 at 09:01:22 AM EST
    We need to put an end to the right wing claim that these programs are handouts. We all pay for our way of life regardless of what they try to push down our throats. Every time you fill you tank with gas, purchase goods, turn on a light, or do just about anything there's a tax involved. And the federal government is right their with their fingers in the pie.

    Americans have gone along with this concept because it contributed to the standard of living in this country. Continue to lower the standards and all of the sudden it isn't such a good deal.  

    In spite of the apathy that we seem to be wallowing in, American isn't immune to civil unrest. We may be heading for some very turbulent times.


    Well, it's actual war that (none / 0) (#4)
    by observed on Sun May 23, 2010 at 08:29:13 AM EST
    takes up the most money.
    Imperialist countries cannot afford social welfare.

    Round up the usual suspects (none / 0) (#6)
    by Rojas on Sun May 23, 2010 at 10:49:34 AM EST
    Clinton, Schumer and Biden. We rewrote Plan Columbia to make sure boots were on the ground and birds were in the air.
    I spent several years in the Andean Region on localization programs for the automotive industry. We were going to build factories and teach them technology. In the end we didn't have the horsepower (cash) to pull it off.
    I fell in love with the region and the people down there.
    Most of the US citizens I met going in and out of Bogota were supporting the war effort in one way or another. It was a damn shame.

    i am curious about something. (none / 0) (#8)
    by cpinva on Sun May 23, 2010 at 03:12:59 PM EST
    just for the sake of discussion, what would happen if the mexican government were wildly successful, and totally eradicated all illegal drug activity in the country? you note 50 million impoverished citizens, would they all suddenly have decent jobs? if so, where would they miraculously appear from?

    absent the drug trade, would the entire governmental structure of mexico become instantly honorable? would the police and military convert from gov't thugs, to professionals?

    myself, i think the answer to these questions is a resounding no. mexico has been corrupt, since long before drugs were an issue. there's little infrastructure, outside of the main cities, and never has been. it's always had a huge population of impoverished.

    in short, mexico has always been (since its conquest by the spanish) a corrupt trainwreck, with or without the drug trade. what makes me think it will suddenly, radically improve, absent the drug trade?

    war on drugs is too useful to end (none / 0) (#9)
    by mcl on Mon May 24, 2010 at 07:28:18 AM EST
    The longer the war on drugs goes on, the more accustomed the American people become to heavily armed goons smashing down the doors of their houses and screaming at them to lie on the ground face down.

    After a few decades, the response becomes Pavlovian. Like battered wives, the American people reflexively cringe and crawl and grovel.

    Soon, of course, the war on drugs will expand to war on downloading (courtesy of ACTA) and the war on imported generic pharmaceuticals (old people hancuffed by burly SWAT team members for importing heart pills from Canada) and the war on political dissent (which has already successfully progressed through the courts in the Republican National Convention indictments and trials of protesters in Minneapolis).

    Think how useful this is for the pols in power. If crowds protest your policies, just unleash LRAD sonic cannons and taser-armed goons on 'em.  And everyone will applaud.

    If senior citizens fill the streets, up in arms against the high cost of health care, just unleash the SWAT teams against 'em. Everyone's been trained to applaud on command.

    And if teenagers get shot down like dogs by riot-armored DHS goons for downloading mp3s, news anchors will gravely intone that this is the price we must pay to preserve our way of life. After all, it's all just part of the war, isn't it?

    Look for massive expansions in the war on drugs. Coming soon to your house: the DHS breaking down your door because they spotted some salvia divinorum growing in your backyard.