Mexico’s foreign minister in an interview published Thursday declared that a years-long, $3 billion security initiative with the U.S. is “dead,” saying that officials are looking to develop a new agreement to better address growing concerns over crime.
Marcelo Ebrard told The Washington Post that the Merida Initiative, launched during the George W. Bush administration, has not done anything to address a “huge, huge increase in violence” and drug trafficking in Mexico, arguing, “We have to do something else.”
“The Merida Initiative is dead. It doesn’t work, OK?” he told the Post. “We are now in another era.”
Since 2007, the initiative has funneled money to Mexico with an initial goal of developing aircraft, helicopters and other technology for Mexican security forces.
The initiative has shifted, however, to primarily providing technical support and training for Mexico’s police force and justice system.
The Post said that Ebrard emphasized the importance of addressing Mexico’s homicide rates, which have quadrupled since the start of the program.
The foreign minister also argued that more efforts should be made to seize chemicals used to make fentanyl and other drugs, much of which have been smuggled across the southern border and contributed to the surge in drug overdose deaths across the U.S.
Ebrard further said that guns traveling into the U.S. from Mexico should be addressed in any new renegotiation of the Merida Initiative.
A senior State Department official, who spoke to the Post on the condition of anonymity to discuss U.S. foreign policy, said that the Biden administration hopes to “engender more robust cooperation” on security agreements with Mexico.
The official said that U.S. authorities have proposed a Cabinet-level meeting with Mexican diplomats to discuss a replacement for the Merida Initiative.
“We do want to see this sooner rather than later,” the U.S. official told the Post.
However, they rejected Ebrard’s argument that the 2007 initiative had failed, citing its training of thousands of police instructors, judges and other Mexican law enforcement personnel, as well as equipment to help curb drug trafficking.
Ebrard told the Post that Mexico and the U.S. would “draw up an action plan on the areas in which we agree.”
According to the Post, Mexican authorities said that potential ideas for a negotiation were discussed with top U.S. officials during Vice President Harris’s trip to Mexico in early June.
Harris has been tapped by President BidenJoe BidenSunday shows preview: Coronavirus dominates as country struggles with delta variant Did President Biden institute a vaccine mandate for only half the nation's teachers? Democrats lean into vaccine mandates ahead of midterms MORE to lead U.S. efforts to address the root causes of regional migration by engaging with Mexico and the Northern Triangle countries.
When reached for comment, a State Department official told The Hill that the Merida Initiative has been successful at coordinating law enforcement responses and strengthening the U.S.-Mexico security relationship.
However, the official did concede that an updated framework was needed to address current security challenges, confirming that the State Department was potentially working on planning a high-level meeting on the issue this fall.
Updated at 2:35 p.m.