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.
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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