Below is a sign-on letter to oppose additional U.S. funds to the Merida Initiative for the disastrous drug war. We have already received an incredible response from all over the Hemisphere. We believe this is a critical juncture, as homicides and human rights violations increase in Mexico and citizens in both countries reject militarization as a strategy to weaken organized crime. This week is the fourth anniversary of the murder of journalist Brad Will, a classic case of impunity in Mexico. We urge you to join us and the hundreds of organizations and individuals listed below in signing this statement. The movement against the drug war enforcement/interdiction approach is getting stronger in light of the history of failure and enormous cost in lives and resources that it entails. It is unconscionable that the US government continues to support it. This is the time to make our voices heard.
Organization sign-ons: mail to firstname.lastname@example.org
Human Rights, Labor, and Religious Groups Call on Obama Administration and Congress to Uphold Human Rights, Halt Drug War Aid to Mexican Security Forces
Despite nearly 30,000 drug-related homicides, a huge increase in human rights violations by the armed forces and growing citizen opposition to the bloody “war on drugs”, the U.S. Congress is once again considering the allocation of U.S. public funds to Mexico to support the failed counter-narcotics policy. President Barack Obama’s proposed Fiscal Year 2011 budget contains $410 million for the Merida Initiative, a security aid package for Mexico, Central America and the Dominican Republic. Of that total, $310 million are allocated for Mexico. We question the Administration’s decision to extend indefinitely and unconditionally Bush’s three-year Merida Initiative in light of the violence and ineffectiveness of the strategy, and mounting calls for a new approach from citizens’ groups on both sides of the border.
Existing U.S. aid to Mexico under the Merida Initiative, amounting to more than $1.3 billion, does not include necessary safeguards to ensure that it does not contribute to systematic human rights violations. Only fifteen percent of the funding may be withheld pending a State Department report on Mexico’s progress toward meeting the human rights conditions of the bill. Furthermore, the Merida Initiative (also called “Plan Mexico”) includes no benchmarks for effective evaluation.
The Merida Initiative supports a reckless strategy that has led to massive bloodshed in Mexico and failed to achieve goals to reduce illicit drug flows, assure public safety or significantly weaken cartels. With 45,000 troops in the streets as the core feature of this militarization strategy, the Mexican armed forces have been implicated in murders, rapes and violations of human rights—the vast majority of which have never been prosecuted.
We are concerned that the State Department has ignored human rights abuses stemming from the Merida Initiative aid and continued impunity and corruption within Mexico, in favor of supporting a militarized approach in the “war on drugs” that has verifiably increased those abuses. The so-called human rights conditions included in the Merida Initiative provide no guarantee whatsoever of progress, and have merely served as lip service to serious concerns while permitting support of the overall strategy. There are no indications of a sustained reduction in the availability of illegal narcotics on the U.S. market that can even be used to justify the heightened violence caused by this strategy.
In particular, we would like to call attention to the case around the murder of U.S. citizen Bradley Roland Will as exemplary of the non-cooperation and impunity with which security forces, the government and the judicial system in Mexico have addressed abuses of human rights by the state. Will, an independent journalist, was shot to death in Oaxaca, Mexico on October 27, 2006, while documenting a series of protest demonstrations. Will was one of at least 26 people allegedly killed by government forces and hired thugs during statewide protests against corruption and impunity. The state has failed to successfully prosecute a single case in the assassinations. Since the drug war was launched in late 2006 Mexico has become a world leader in murders of journalists.
The initial release of Merida Initiative aid was accompanied by a U.S. State Department call for a “thorough, credible and transparent investigation” into Will’s killing. Evidence identifies police and local officials as the assassins in the Will case. However, the Mexican Attorney General’s wrongly imprisoned a protester for the murder. After Amnesty International, Physicians for Human Rights, the Mexican National Human Rights Commission and the Will family disputed the Attorney General’s claims, the protestor was freed due to lack of evidence and no one has been prosecuted for his murder or the murder of 25 Oaxacans killed in 2006. The U.S. State Department remained silent regarding the false charges and has since done nothing to ensure that Will’s actual killer(s) face justice.
Documentation exists of killings, torture, beatings and gender-based violence committed by security forces, including the cases of Atenco, Ciudad Juarez and repression of labor unions. The U.S. provision of lethal aid and training to these same security forces violates our principles as a nation, tarnishes our reputation and implicates the U.S. government in serious and widespread human rights abuses. The Obama Administration is surely aware of the fact that the purported goal of the Merida Initiative to help establish good governance in Mexico cannot be attained in a climate of impunity for human rights violations and a destabilizing drug war.
The U.S. government has the responsibility to ensure that taxpayer dollars are not used in the violation of human rights. Instead of providing training and funding to the military, police and civil institutions that have allowed and facilitated impunity in the Will case and other cases of abuse against Mexicans, the U.S. government should focus on attacking the causes and structures of organized crime within the United States—drug addiction and the demand for black-market drugs, international financial transactions and transborder corruption, arms trafficking–and aid Mexico in eliminating the roots causes of the spread of crime such as poverty, inequality, unemployment and the lack of opportunities for youth.
- Immediately review and re-orient the failed “drug war” strategy for Mexico.
- Suspend military and security aid pending an urgent public review of current and alternative strategy as well as the resolution of the Will case and other human rights cases.
- Establish clear objectives and benchmarks for U.S. taxpayer funded for counternarcotics programs to gauge the success (or failure) of these programs.
- Give priority funding to alternative responses to illicit drug trafficking and transnational organized crime, including treatment for addicts; harm reduction and community abuse prevention programs as well as selective decriminalization to reduce the profiteering of criminal gangs, banks, and corrupt politicians from illegal narcotics.
- Step-up financial crimes operations to identify and prosecute those in banks and other economic structures who enable the estimated $30 billion-dollar a year narcotrafficking industry to operate and launder money.
- Publicly denounce and actively push to end impunity in cases of murder, torture, rape and beatings including those in Oaxaca, Atenco, Ciudad Juarez, and civilian deaths at the hands of the armed forces, as well as the use of the army to violently repress labor rights.
CIP Americas Program
Friends of Brad Will
Kathy and Hardy Will
School of the Americas Watch
Centro de Derechos Humanos de la Montaña “Tlachinollan”
Witness for Peace
General José Francisco Gallardo, “Defensoría de Derechos Humanos General Gallardo,” por la Dignidad Ciudadana y del Soldado A.C.
Tom Hayden and The Peace and Justice Resource Center
Reporters Without Borders
Guatemala Human Rights Commission
Kathleen A. Staudt, Professor, Political Science, UTEP
John Ross, journalist
Otros Mundos AC/Amigos de la Tierra México
Convergencia de Movimientos de los Pueblos de las Américas (COMPA).
Movimiento Mexicano de Afectados por la Minería (REMA)
Southwest Workers’ Union (SWU)
Observatorio Latinoamericano de Geopolítica
Movimiento por la Paz, la Soberanía y la Solidaridad entre los Pueblos (Mopassol) de Argentina
Red Mexicana de Acción frente al Libre Comercio (RMALC)
CoecoCeiba/Amigos de la Tierra Costa Rica
Amigos de la Tierra América Latina y el Caribe (atlac)
Coordinación Nacional Agraria (CNA)/Colombia
Coalición de Tendencias Clacistas/Venezuela
Alianza Mexicana por la Autodeterminación de los Pueblos (AMAP).
Unión de Comunicades Indígenas de la Zona Norte del Istmo (UCIZONI)/México
Campaña por la Desmilitarización de las Américas (CADA)
Cindy Sheehan, Peace and Justice Activist, USA
Al Rojas and Frente de Mexicanos en El Exterior
Just Foreign Policy
Sirena Pellarolo, California State University Northridge, Eastside Café
Comité Cerezo México
Ma. Lourdes González (mamá de Pável Gonzalez) Comite Pavel Gonzalez
Red Solidaria Década contra la Impunidad
MUJERES SIN MIEDO, Mexico
Gruppe B.A.S.T.A., Münster, Alemania
Noam Chomsky, Professor, MIT
Consejo Cívico de Organizaciones Populares e Indígenas de Honduras
Consejo de Investigaciones e Información en Desarrollo CIID-Guatemala
Rede Social de Justiça e Direitos Humanos-Brasil
Servicio Paz y Justicia en América Latina (SERPAJ -AL)
Jubileo Sur Mexico
El Movimiento Popular Oscar Arnulfo Romero
Associção de Favelas de São José dos Campos
Organización Fraternal Negra Hondureña
This post is also available in: Spanish