Washington, DC – Chairman Howard L. Berman (D-CA) of the House Foreign Affairs Committee today introduced legislation to authorize the Merida Initiative, a proposed U.S. counter-narcotics assistance package for Mexico to help combat the flow of illegal drugs and the violence that the drug trade has spawned along the U.S.-Mexico border.
“The illegal drug trade is giving rise to ever more violence, and not a week goes by without news of another sickeningly violent incident related to drug traffickers in Mexico or Central America,” Berman noted. “Drug cartels have been blamed for 6000 deaths in two and a half years of this battle in Mexico alone. Last month a drug-related shootout claimed 15 lives just across the border from San Diego, shocking many of us in Southern California. Last week, the chief of Mexico’s federal police, the public face of his country’s counter-narcotics effort, was shot nine times. And over the weekend, the deputy police chief of Ciudad Juarez on the U.S.-Mexico border was gunned down.
“The United States needs to step up and address this explosion of violence, as well as the illegal southward flow of arms and our nation’s expanding domestic demand for drugs, which fuels the whole terrible cycle. Congress should give its full support to the proposal hammered out in Merida last year with the Mexican government and our friends in Central America to confront this scourge together.”
The legislation (H.R. 6028) authorizes $1.6 billion over three years for counter-narcotics work for law enforcement modernization, fighting organized crime, institution-building and support for the rule of law. Responding to a significant request from Mexican authorities, the bill authorizes almost $74 million to bolster U.S. efforts in stemming the illegal flow of arms going south by significantly expanding ATF’s Project Gunrunner.
The legislation contains significant human rights safeguards, including a stringent requirement to investigate allegations of human rights violations committed by anyone receiving assistance under the Merida Initiative. It prohibits cash payments of any kind, concentrating resources instead on equipment and training. And it creates a position for a coordinator to harmonize both responsibility and accountability for the Merida Initiative’s wide-ranging programs.
“Perhaps most importantly, this legislation recognizes that the spread of illicit drugs through this region and into the United States and the violence that accompanies it cannot be halted without a comprehensive interdiction and security strategy planned and executed jointly with our southern neighbors,” Berman said.
Click here to read the bill (H.R. 6028)