HomeNewsAnalysis10 Years of the Mérida Initiative: Violence and Corruption
ANALYSIS

10 Years of the Mérida Initiative: Violence and Corruption

MERIDA INITIATIVE / 26 DEC 2018 BY ANNA GRACE EN

The Mérida Initiative celebrates its tenth anniversary this year. Yet since it began providing funding for security in Mexico, problems to do with violence and institutionalized corruption have worsened, suggesting flaws in both the approach and implementation of the Initiative.

The origins of the Mérida Initiative, a bilateral security cooperation agreement between Mexico and the United States, hark back to 2007 when former president Felipe Calderón appealed to the administration of President George W. Bush for assistance in tackling drugs and arms trafficking.

Since signing the agreement, the Mexican government has received nearly $2.9 billion in assistance from the United States. This assistance has supported the purchase of military equipment; training for judiciary personnel and improvement of courtroom infrastructure; military training along Mexico’s southern border; and the implementation of crime prevention programs.

Critics state that the Initiative focuses too heavily on the use of military forces to tackle organized crime. US aid to the program supported former President Felipe Calderón’s war on drugs, which led to a spike in homicide rates across the country that continue to rise today.

SEE ALSO: Mexico News and Profiles

The Mérida Initiative is also known for the hand it played in implementing widespread judicial reform in Mexico.

The reforms introduced an adversarial public trial system in which two advocates argue their cases in front of an impartial body in a formal, public courtroom. Previously, Mexico had relied on a less transparent inquisitorial system, with all trials taking place behind closed doors. However, corrupt practices remain a huge obstacle under the new system.

InSight Crime Analysis

Despite ambitious aims and heavy financial investment, the Mérida Initiative has so far proven ineffective in improving security in Mexico, and the future does not look much brighter.

The Mérida Initiative has failed to tackle two pervasive obstacles to security in Mexico: widespread violence and institutionalized corruption.

Firstly, the initiative has continuously supported violent and aggressive tactics for fighting organized crime.

Fighting fire with fire has led to an escalation in the number of deaths in Mexico since the initiative began. Kingpins have fallen, yet major transnational criminal organizations remain at large.

“Declaring a war on drugs seems logical from the US perspective, but not from the Mexican,” Guadalupe Correa-Cabrera, associate professor at the Schar School of Policy and Government, told Insight Crime.

The high-profile trials of kingpins such as Joaquín Guzmán Loera, alias El Chapo, appear to be a proactive step in the fight against organized crime. However, the removal of kingpins fragments criminal groups, sending the criminal underworld into chaos. New groups such as the infamous Jalisco Cartel New Generation (Cartel Jalisco Nueva Generación – CJNG) have formed as a result of the fracturing of older cartels.

Secondly, the initiative seems to have done little to root out existing corruption within Mexican institutions.

Last year, the arrest of Javier Duarte, the former governor of Veracruz, provided an example of one of the worst cases of institutionalized corruption in Mexico’s history. Recently, the Attorney General’s office announced investigations into federal magistrates related to the case, as the network of corrupt officials expands further.

The initiative did aim to tackle corruption in the courtroom, with the implementation of a new judiciary system. However, this attempt at reform was marred by practical issues, as the attempt to force American-style legal processes onto the corrupt and inefficient Mexican judiciary system proved taxing.

Resources lacked to provide police and prosecutors with the training needed to adapt to their new roles in the system. Weak institutions struggled to handle the demands of implementing the vast reforms as progress at state-level varied greatly.

“The problem is there was no homogeneity with regards to implementation. The framework was well thought through but, really, positive results have not yet been visible,” Professor Correa-Cabrera told Insight Crime.

Recent U-turns by president-elect Andrés Manuel López Obrador suggest that such issues will not improve any time soon.

López Obrador intends to create a national guard, indicating that the focus of his security policy will not shift away from militarization, despite campaign promises to the contrary. The president-elect has also announced that he will grant pardons to those suspected of corruption under previous governments, an indication of continued impunity for many.

share icon icon icon

Was this content helpful?

We want to sustain Latin America’s largest organized crime database, but in order to do so, we need resources.

DONATE

What are your thoughts? Click here to send InSight Crime your comments.

We encourage readers to copy and distribute our work for non-commercial purposes, with attribution to InSight Crime in the byline and links to the original at both the top and bottom of the article. Check the Creative Commons website for more details of how to share our work, and please send us an email if you use an article.

Was this content helpful?

We want to sustain Latin America’s largest organized crime database, but in order to do so, we need resources.

DONATE

Related Content

HUMAN RIGHTS / 13 MAY 2022

The death of two indigenous leaders in Guerrero, Mexico, has again drawn attention to the government’s negligent protection of indigenous…

HUMAN SMUGGLING / 17 MAY 2021

A boat that capsized off California’s shores carrying some 30 people who paid more than $15,000 each to be shuttled…

COCAINE / 13 APR 2021

A successful Detroit telecommunications businessman secretly bankrolled the development and construction of an underwater drone, which could have been used…

About InSight Crime

LA ORGANIZACIÓN

Extensive Coverage of our Chronicles of a Cartel Bodyguard

23 SEP 2022

Our recent investigation, A Cartel Bodyguard in Mexico’s 'Hot Land', has received extensive media coverage.

THE ORGANIZATION

InSight Crime, American University Host Illegal Fishing Panel

19 SEP 2022

InSight Crime and the Center for Latin American & Latino Studies (CLALS) at American University discussed the findings of a joint investigation on IUU fishing at a September 9 conference.

THE ORGANIZATION

Impact on the Media Landscape

9 SEP 2022

InSight Crime’s first investigation on the Dominican Republic made an immediate impact on the Dominican media landscape, with major news outlets republishing and reprinting our findings, including in …

THE ORGANIZATION

InSight Crime Sharpens Its Skills

2 SEP 2022

Last week, the InSight Crime team gathered for our annual retreat in Colombia, where we discussed our vision and strategy for the next 12 months.  During the week, we also learned how to…

THE ORGANIZATION

Colombia’s Fragile Path to Peace Begins to Take Shape

26 AUG 2022

InSight Crime is charting the progress of President Gustavo Petro’s agenda as he looks to revolutionize Colombia’s security policy, opening dialogue with guerrillas, reforming the military and police, and…