Now is the time for action!
“The Merida Initiative is characterized by a lack of a human rights perspective, a human security approach that mistakes the security of states for the security of human beings…It is time for the international community to stop supporting short-sighted policies such as this one.”
Miguel Agustín Pro Juarez Human Rights Center
ON October 22, President Bush submitted the “Merida Initiative”, popularly known as Plan Mexico, to Congress. The initiative would destine $1.4 billion dollars to Mexico and Central America over a three year period, with the stated purpose of fighting drug trafficking and organized crime. The requested $500 million of funding to Mexico for 2008 is dominated by $206 million worth of military aircraft and $133 million of drug interdiction equipment and training. Most of these resources will go to the Mexican Armed Forces and police forces.
We know that arming foreign militaries will not solve our drug problem–a fact now painfully obvious in Colombia. After eight years and over six billion dollars of Plan Colombia, the massive counternarcotics experiment has failed. The goal of U.S. drug policy in Colombia was to see a 50 percent reduction in the production of coca, the raw material for cocaine. Today there is as much coca growing in Colombia as there was the year Plan Colombia began, and the flow of illegal drugs to the U.S. continues unabated.
There is no reason to believe that a new “war on drugs” centered on interdiction and enforcement will work any better in Mexico. But the long-term potential damage of a policy that militarizes Mexican society, increases drug-related violence, and creates a climate for violation of human rights and civil liberties is evident. The Merida Initiative includes no money for rehabilitation, addiction prevention or public education.
The Merida Initiative grew out of the Security and Prosperity Partnership of NAFTA. The talks were carried out with no public participation and even now the administration has not released details of the initiative. Hailed as a major step toward “regional security cooperation”, the initiative targets crackdowns on drug trafficking in Mexico without concrete commitments in the United States to reduce demand, eliminate corruption, prosecute money laundering, or reduce contraband of illegal arms. This is an approach that lacks real co-responsibility, entails high risks and has already been proven ineffective.
Let’s learn from our mistakes instead of repeating them.
TAKE ACTION NOW!
To prevent passage of this senseless military package, we need to pressure our Congressional representatives NOW. Hearings will be taking place in Congress and members need to hear from us.
Taking action against the Merida Initiative is simple:
1. Call the office of your representative and ask that the representative oppose the Merida Initiative. Use the talking points below. To reach the office, call the U.S. Capitol Switchboard at 202-224-3121. Ask to be connected to your House or Senate member (give your state and zip code if you’re not sure who it is).
2. Encourage key Congress members to take a stand against the Merida Initiative:
Representative Elliot Engel (D-NY), Chair of the Western Hemisphere subcommittee: 202-225-2464
Representative Howard Berman (D-CA), Chair of the Foreign Affairs committee: 202-225-5021
Representative Nita Lowey (D-NY), Chair of the Foreign Operations subcommittee: 202-225-6506
Senator Christopher Dodd (D-CT), Chair of the Western Hemisphere subcommittee: 202-224-2823
Senator Joseph Biden (D-DE), Chair of the Foreign Relations committee: 202-224-5042
Senator Patrick Leahy (D-VT), Chair of the Foreign Operations subcommittee: 202-224-4242
TALKING POINTS FOR OPPOSING THE MERIDA INITIATIVE
A. The initiative would not effectively combat drug-trafficking
The Merida Initiative would fail to have a lasting impact on drug trafficking for three key reasons:
1. Military interdiction efforts have a “balloon” effect. In Colombia, U.S. military efforts to stop coca production and trafficking in key locations have simply shifted production and trafficking to new locations. The resulting proliferation is evident: the number of coca-producing states in Colombia has jumped from 8 to 24 over the course of Plan Colombia. Plan Mexico would likely have the same effect on drug trafficking in Mexico, as well as creating more well-armed and sophisticated cartels.
2. The plan ignores a root cause of the problem: U.S. demand. Widespread drug use in the U.S. makes drug trafficking an estimated $23 billion a year business for Mexico alone. Colombia has taught us that so long as demand remains high, even a multi-billion dollar military solution will fail. Studies show that interdiction and enforcement models designed to stop supply are approximately 23 times less cost-efficient than domestic prevention and rehabilitation programs.
3. The Merida Initiative model fails to recognize poverty as a root cause of drug trafficking. Fifty million people in Mexico live in poverty, creating conditions for intense migration and powerful black markets. Minimum wage is barely five dollars per DAY, far short of assuring a minimum standard of living, and many people don’t even make that. The U.S. has played a role in shaping this desperate reality through structural adjustment and trade policies under NAFTA that exacerbate unemployment and out-migration. As long as such poverty persists in Mexico, some Mexicans will turn to drug-running or production as an alternative for survival. As long as the U.S. implements policies that perpetuate Mexico’s poverty, it will be working at odds with its own counternarcotics initiatives.
B. The initiative threatens human rights
Numerous Mexican and international human rights organizations have expressed concern that counternarcotics aid for Mexico’s military and police constitutes a recipe for unchecked human rights violations. The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights stated that Mexico’s fight against organized crime ‘must be won in the courts, not in the streets’ and warned that army participation in the drug war leads to increasing human rights violations among the civilian population.
Counternarcotics operations in Mexico have a recorded history of human rights abuses. Amnesty International reports that over the last decade it has documented “abuses committed by military personnel in counternarcotics operations in Chiapas, Guerrero, Oaxaca, Tamaulipas and Coahuila.” Espacio Civil, a civil society coalition comprised of 52 Oaxacan organizations, adds that in 2007 “the army committed severe human rights violations in their supposed counter-drug operations. We are concerned that the funding from the U.S. government will ultimately make this situation worse.”
C. The initiative could likely be used to suppress legitimate political expression
Many Mexican groups fear, with good reason, that the US military hardware and training in the Merida Initiative would be used directly against citizens participating in acts of legitimate political expression. Mexican military and public security forces have consistently been deployed to stop and often brutally repress popular protest. Perhaps the most alarming example of late is the crackdown of the Oaxacan social movement that began with a teacher’s strike in 2006. Federal and state security forces and armed snipers brought an iron fist down on the demonstrations, leaving a wake of human rights violations that include over 20 assassinations (including U.S. journalist Brad Will), and hundreds of arbitrary detentions, disappearances and torture. The cases against the security forces, which have been documented by Amnesty International and the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, remain unresolved. Much of the money from the Merida Initiative would support the very security forces responsible for these violations and others.
Our representatives need to know what you now know. Please do not delay in contacting them. Thank you for calling for a more just U.S. policy toward Mexico.
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