Plan Mexico Passed

by Kristin Bricker – May 22, 2008

It’s official: Congress has approved Plan Mexico.

The House of Representatives approved the Merida Initiative, also known as Plan Mexico, last week by a vote of 256-166. Excelsior reports that 244 Democrats and 32 Republicans voted for the bill and 7 democrats and 159 Republicans voted against it. The Senate approved a slightly different version today, although the specifics of the Senate version are still unavailable.

While Pres. George Bush requested $1.4 billion for Plan Mexico over a period of three years, Rep. Howard Berman (D-CA) proposed a bill that would authorize up to $1.6 billion. Since Plan Mexico passed, legislative analysts say it’s unclear what will come of Berman’s archaic authorization bill, which is currently languishing in the House.

While Bush requested $500 million in funding for Plan Mexico in 2008, the House approved $400 million over the next two years, and the Senate approved $350 million. Analysts expected deeper cuts to Bush’s proposal, but Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and Mexican Ambassador to the US Arturo Sarukhan rallied at the last minute, using the recent murder of Edgar Eusebio Millán Gómez, chief of Mexico’s national police force, the infamous Federal Preventative Police, as a pretext to argue for more funding for Mexico’s War on Drugs. Edgar Eusebio Millán Gómez was almost certainly killed by a drug cartel.

Plan Mexico will provide resources, equipment, and training to the Mexican government, police, and military. It will not give Mexico liquid funds. The US military, government agencies such as USAID, and US defense contractors such as mercenary firms and weapons manufacturers will receive funding to carry out Plan Mexico, Plan Mexico is yet another bill to line the pockets of the military industrial complex.

As passed by the House, Plan Mexico will provide $116.5 million over the next two years for training and equipment for the Mexican military, and for “strengthening of military-to-military cooperation between the United States and Mexico.” Bush’s request included eight helicopters and two airplanes for the Mexico military. While funding in this area was cut, Mexico can still expect a couple of new helicopters and/or airplanes.

While Plan Mexico specifically targets drug cartels, the initiative’s counterpart in Colombia, Plan Colombia, demonstrates that drug war equipment and training will inevitably be used against activists and insurgent organizations. Mexico has already demonstrated its propensity to use deadly drug war equipment donated by the US against insurgents and civilians. Following the Zapatista uprising in 1994, the Mexican military strafed Chiapan indigenous communities using helicopters donated by the US to combat drug trafficking and production.

Plan Mexico also includes $210 million over two years to expand the US’s draconian anti-immigrant policy to Mexico’s side of the border. Mexico is a portal to the US for undocumented Central American immigrants. The hope is that Mexico will detect and stop undocumented immigrants in Mexico before they reach the US. The $210 million will be used to modernize and expand Mexico’s immigration database and document verification system, establish secure communications for Mexican national security agencies, procure “non-intrusive” inspection equipment, and support interdiction efforts as well as institution building. $5 million of this money will be used to deploy US Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms (ATF) agents to Mexico to support and train their Mexican counterparts. Most alarmingly, at least $168 million of this funding is unspecified, meaning that the Democrat-controlled Congress waived its right to determine legislative policy in favor of giving Bush a free hand in Mexico’s immigration policies and police procedures.

House Democrats’ overwhelming support for Plan Mexico in the face of overwhelming Republican opposition is yet another example of Democrats’ refusal to stand up to George Bush, despite their mandate to do so as a result of the 2006 elections.

George Bush proposed Plan Mexico at the end of 2007 for two very apparent reasons:

  1. Plan Mexico is an indispensable component of the Security and Prosperity Partnership (SPP). Known as “NAFTA on steroids” or “NAFTA plus Homeland Security,” the SPP “calls for maximization of North American economic competitiveness in the face of growing exports from India and China; expedited means of resource (oil, natural gas, water, forest products) extraction; secure borders against ‘organized crime, international terrorism, and illegal migration;’ standardized regulatory regimes for health, food safety, and the environment; integrated energy supply through a comprehensive resource security pact (primarily about ensuring that the US receives guaranteed flows of the oil in light of ‘Middle East insecurity and hostile Latin American regimes’); and coordination amongst defense forces.”

    “Over 300 policies and agreements have been scheduled and/or implemented to realize these corporate priorities. Some examples of these agreements are the integration of military and police training exercises, cooperation on law enforcement, and the expansion of the North American Aerospace Defense Command into a joint naval and land defense command. This also includes redesign of armed forces for combat overseas and greater cooperation in global wars as part of the ‘external’ defense strategy of the security perimeter.”

    The SPP is NOT a legislative proposal; it is a plan hatched by the executive branches of Canada, the United States, and Mexico, and overseen by a board of corporate CEO’s. As such, the legislative branches of the three countries will never vote on the SPP as a policy.

    Mexican civil society organizations such as the Center for Economic and Political Investigation for Community Action in Chiapas oppose the SPP because they believe that “The United States is making it possible to force Mexico and Canada to change their laws, rules, and regulations in order to secure the economic (“prosperity”) and political (“security”) interests of its government and businesses… in order to appropriate our natural resources for themselves and to increase their profits.”

  2. Plan Mexico reflects the effort of one weak president, George Bush, to support another weak president, Felipe Calderon. George Bush can sympathize with Felipe Calderon. He knows what it’s like to steal an election and then have to rule a country with an iron fist while faced with enormous unpopularity. Seeing as though Calderon is one of only two friends George Bush has in Latin America (the other being Colombia’s President Uribe, also the recipient of mind-boggling military funding), George Bush had to act.

    When Felipe Calderon took office in 2006 despite massive protests against the electoral fraud that brought him to power, one of the first things he did was deploy the military to drug cartel-dominated states in the north, militarizing a large portion of Mexico without legislative approval. Mexicans and US organizations have argued that this strategy is Calderon’s attempt to bolster a weak president with a strong military alliance and warn that it could signal a return to the “dirty war” era. Plan Mexico represents the further militarization of Mexican society without legislative controls because it will provide US resources and training to the Calderon-controlled military without Mexican congressional approval.

Friends of Brad Will, the Center for International Policy, and Witness for Peace have criticized Plan Mexico for dumping more resources and controversial US training into the Mexican military and police. The Mexican military has a history of utilizing paramilitaries to terrorize leftists and communities in resistance. Paramilitaries in Chiapas are currently experiencing a renaissance unseen since the 1997 Acteal massacre that resulted in the violent deaths of 47 civilians, most of them women and children. The police’s report card is no better: in May 2006 police raped and sexually assaulted dozens of women they detained without charge during a protest in San Salvador Atenco against, ironically, police repression of the community. While some police were charged with “lewd conduct,” even these light convictions were overturned. US journalist Brad Will was murdered in October 2006 while working in Oaxaca City. He filmed his own assassination, and his video clearly shows that the shooters are off-duty police and government officials. After a “thorough” investigation, the Mexican government blamed his murder on Oaxacan activists.

While Friends of Brad Will and their allies argue that no human rights safeguards will be adequate to justify US funding for Mexican military and police under current circumstances, Amnesty International fought for human rights safeguards to be included in the House version of the bill rather than opposing it outright. The safeguards approved by the House are painfully inadequate. The so-called “safeguards” require that none other than Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice certify that the Mexican military and police have initiated reforms, that serious investigations into the rape of prisoners in San Salvador Atenco and Brad Will’s murder are undertaken by the US and Mexican governments, and that statements obtained through torture not be used in a court of law. The House bill also states that no police or military unit that is corrupt or engages in human rights abuses will receive aid under Plan Mexico, a laughable and unenforceable standard. If Rice is unable to certify progress in human rights and anti-corruption, a mere 25% of military and police funding will be withheld, meaning that the House of Representatives thinks it’s acceptable to give 75% funding to military and police forces even if Condoleezza Rice believes they are corrupt and brutal.

But the problem with human rights safeguards in Plan Mexico isn’t that they’re inadequate. Legislators included human rights safeguards in Plan Mexico to make military aid from one brutal right-wing government, the United States, to another brutal right-wing government, Mexico, palatable to the US public. Despite irrefutable proof of systematic human rights violations and torture in Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo, the CIA’s use of “extraordinary rendition” to disappear and torture suspects in “black sites,” and unlawful and immoral drugging of deportees with overdoses of dangerous psychotropic drugs, the United States still likes to think of itself as the principal defender of human rights globally. But let’s not fool ourselves; the rest of the world does not share the same rosy view of the US. In an editorial criticizing the human rights safeguards in Plan Mexico as a pretext for further US-mandated structural adjustment in the form of mandatory “judicial and legal reforms,” Mexico’s La Jornada also notes the irony of the US “promoting” human rights in other countries: “The United States’ demand to verify respect for human rights in other nations constitutes a grotesque and absurd pretension, taking into account that, on a global scale, the superpower is the principal violator of such rights.”

But Plan Mexico’s human rights safeguards were never meant to be taken seriously. They’re an excuse to slip in a few US-mandated judicial reforms without Mexican Congress’ initiative nor approval, and more importantly, they allow US lawmakers to sleep soundly at night despite the fact that they’ve just unleashed a nightmare on Mexican citizens.

More information on Plan Mexico and the Security and Prosperity Partnership:
The Security and Prosperity Partnership Agreement: NAFTA Plus Homeland Security by Harsha Walia and Cynthia Oka
A Primer on Plan Mexico by Laura Carlsen


One comment

  1. Victory Against the Merida Initiative

    Bush’s Merida Initiative Headed for Defeat

    Human Rights Concerns and Issue of Sovereignty Unite Across Borders

    NYC: Robert Jereski, 212-973-1782
    Washington, DC: Harry Bubbins, 646 641 5788

    Despite being rubber stamped by a pliant Congress, Bush’s “Merida
    Initiative” seems headed for defeat. The foreign policy scheme snuck
    into the Iraq Appropriations BIll to give hundreds of millions of
    dollars in military aid to Mexico’s police and military forces
    implicated in widespread human rights violations is subject to
    withering criticism from both sides of the border.

    Advocates first claimed victory for whittling the Bush proposal down
    by over $200 million in the course of oversight hearings. “The
    reduction in the gross amount of lethal aid is a big victory for grass-
    roots advocates in Mexico and the USA. Some members of Congress do
    understand the need to heed human rights concerns in our foreign
    expenditures, and we must continue to press them on this.” said Harry
    Bubbins of Friends of Brad Will (FoBW). The network of activists also
    noted the inclusion of specific language requiring regular updates
    from the U.S. State Department as to the progress of the investigation
    into the murder of the U.S. reporter.

    Advocates and government representatives in Mexico rightly denounced
    the Merida Initiative as a misguided effort to undermine Mexico’s
    sovereignty. A greater reliance on American military technology and
    mercenaries from Blackwater would lead to a client-state relationship
    and greater suppression of populist efforts to resist the neo-liberal
    economic privatization of public resources, such as the PEMEX national
    oil company coveted by multi-national interests.

    “This has never been about the failed drug war, or anti-terrorism,”
    stated Pabby Gonzalez of Friends of Brad Will, “This has been about
    arming the Mexican government further against the popular discontent
    with the Calderon regime and suppressing the activist and indigenous
    movements in Chiapas, Oxaca and even Mexico City.” Mr. Gonzalez
    went on to state that, “The human rights certification process
    inserted by Congress, though inadequate, is one very small step
    towards the realization that we should not be contributing to a
    corrupt security apparatus, and need to demand progress immediately on
    outstanding cases.”

    “We never believed that “human rights safeguards” were adequate.” said
    Harry Bubbins, of Friends of Brad Will “Given the outstanding crimes
    by Mexico, including the murder of U.S. reporter Brad Will, we need to
    see actual progress on these cases.” added Mr. Bubbins.

    The House and Senate are currently working to reconcile the
    differences in the versions they each passed,m and advocates are
    pressing to stop it entirely.

    Meanwhile, The International Forensic Program (IFP) of Physicians for
    Human Rights (PHR) recommends a thorough and wider inquiry following
    its comprehensive forensic review of the ongoing investigation by
    Mexico’s Attorney General (Procuraduria General de la Republica-PGR)
    into the October, 2006 death of 36-year-old American Brad Will.

    “The perpetrators of Brad Will’s homicide can best be held accountable
    if his death is investigated within the context of a larger pattern of
    violence,” says Schmitt, Director of the International Forensic
    Program at PHR.

    Friends of Brad Will is a nationwide network of activists, friends and
    family members of Brad Will, the U.S. journalist who was murdered by
    Mexican government paramilitaries in broad daylight in Oaxaca, Mexico
    in October 2006. Despite numerous eye witnesses and photographic/video
    evidence, no one has been held accountable. Friends of Brad Will has
    been educating, organizing, and pressuring the U.S. government to work
    on behalf of Brad Will and to reject the Merida Initiative.

    More on the Merida Initiative here:
    For more information, please visit:

    LASC Position on the Merida Initiative

    As Congress enters the final stages to approve the Merida Initiative,
    an aid package to Mexico and Central America that seeks to further
    militarize the region under the guise of the U.S.’s “war on drugs/war
    on terror,” we find manifold reasons to stand in opposition:

    1) Money for Central America through the Merida Initiative would mark
    a significant increase in funding for military/police equipment and
    training in the region at a time when the need is for anti-poverty and
    crime-prevention programs.

    The Merida Initiative, also known as Plan Mexico, builds on the
    troubling model of Plan Colombia, which has poured billions of dollars
    into a failed military approach to combating drugs while doing little
    to address rural poverty and urban unemployment. Central America has
    already become a satellite for U.S. military and police training in
    Latin America, despite the poor human rights records of some
    governments in the region. With the opening of the International Law
    Enforcement Academy (ILEA) in 2005, El Salvador?already the second
    largest recipient of military training in the region?became the hub of
    police training. The ILEA has the capacity to train 1500 students per
    year, more than the current Western Hemisphere Institute for Security
    and Cooperation, also known as the SOA. U.S. officials refuse to
    acknowledge the corruption, misconduct and human rights violations
    committed by the Salvadoran police. To the contrary, the Merida
    Initiative now proposes to further support ILEA and further equip
    those police. Meanwhile, the Initiative wholly ignores the root
    problems that continue to compel regional involvement in drug
    trafficking?poverty and unemployment.

    2) The Merida Initiative would further threaten human rights by
    supporting repression of the rights to free speech and protest. The
    money from the U.S. would be an open invitation for the Mexican and
    Central American governments to continue using “iron fist” and anti-
    terrorism laws to crack down on legitimate social movements.

    Over the last decade, Mexican police and military personnel have
    repeatedly committed human rights violations in attempt to silence
    civil dissent. Taking the most recent example, in 2006 security forces
    responded to civil society protest in Oaxaca with hundreds of
    arbitrary detentions, acts of torture, and over 20 assassinations.

    Numerous Mexican and international human rights organizations have
    expressed concern that Merida Initiative aid for Mexico’s military and
    police constitutes a recipe for unchecked human rights violations.

    Meanwhile, an “anti-terrorism” law passed by the Salvadoran
    legislature in 2006 uses language that, like the Iron Fist laws
    implemented in other Latin American countries, is very vague, leaving
    them open to a wide variety of repressive applications. The Salvadoran
    government has already used these laws to further criminalize protest
    tactics commonly used by social movements. The US Ambassador to El
    Salvador has expressed explicit support for police crackdowns,
    condoning the use of police force in protecting US trade interests.

    Through funding the ILEA ? in addition to other police training
    programs in Central America and the Caribbean ? the Merida Initiative
    would legitimize and justify such crackdowns . Vague human rights
    provisions in the bill would not change this reality.

    Finally, there is evidence that the countries receiving aid from the
    Merida Initiative are already working to militarize their police
    forces. The separation between police and military in El Salvador and
    Guatemala, the top two Central American recipients of Merida
    Initiative aid, has declined dramatically in the years since Peace
    Accords led to the demilitarization of police in those countries.

    There has also been a resurgence of death squad-style murders, some
    linked to the police, in both Guatemala and El Salvador.

    3) The Initiative would not effectively combat drug-trafficking.
    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, causing the number of coca-producing states to jump from 8
    to 24 over the course of Plan Colombia. The Merida Initiative would
    likely have a parallel effect on drug trafficking, simply diverting
    trafficking routes from one place to another and forcing cartels to
    become more sophisticated.

    Military interdiction efforts fail because they ignore a root cause of
    the problem: U.S. demand. Widespread drug use in the U.S. makes drug
    trafficking a lucrative business. Colombia has taught us that so long
    as demand remains high, even a multi-billion dollar military solution
    will fail. Even the right-wing RAND Corporation has concluded that far-
    flung attempts to stop drugs at their source is 23 times less cost
    effective than domestic drug treatment at home. While Merida proposes
    another step down the failed supply-side path, no parallel funds are
    being destined to state-side drug demand reduction programs.

    4) Programs like the Merida Initiative have a worrisome lack of
    oversight and transparency.

    Congress has not been given sufficient information about how the
    Central American and Mexican police will utilize the funding included
    for the region in the Merida Initiative. The examples of the ILEA and
    the SOA are instructive, in that officials at these institutions have
    actually blocked availability to basic information. Human rights
    groups that have sought to monitor the SOA and the ILEA have been
    denied documentation, such as course descriptions and names of
    students and instructors. Though backers of these military and police
    training programs promise conditions will be placed on the funds,
    given the history of poor oversight of such programs there is no
    guarantee this will occur.

    In addition, the process in Congress for assessing the Merida
    Initiative was rushed and unclear, preventing opposition voices from
    making themselves heard. By including the Merida Initiative in the
    Emergency Supplemental bill to fund the occupations of Iraq and
    Afghanistan, promoters of the initiative short-circuited the normal
    process of going first through authorization and then through
    appropriations, preventing all sides and viewpoints to be heard and

    5) US military and police training contributes to violence rather than
    diminishing it.

    Ample evidence gathered by SOA Watch and other human rights groups
    demonstrates that US training increases the level of official and
    extrajudicial violence in Latin America. There is no reason to believe
    that any of the structural problems have been addressed when it comes
    to police training. Reports from Mexico indicate that over 200
    soldiers and police trained and equipped by the US have used the
    skills they learned to join and prop up various drug cartels. The
    proliferation of repression tactics only perpetuates the cycles of
    violence. The governments of Latin America do not need more police and
    military equipment and training from the country whose training has
    only raised the level of violence in the hemisphere.

    The Latin America Solidarity Coalition demands:

    No funding for the Merida Initiative.

    Close the Western Hemisphere Institute for Security and Cooperation (SOA).

    Close the International Law Enforcement Academy for Latin America.

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