This past Sunday, thousands rallied in Ciudad Juarez to call for peace in the wake of a recent surge of drug cartel-related violence. The U.S. needs to do its part as well, but the United States should not increase human rights violations by backing the army's role in domestic law enforcement.
This past Sunday, thousands rallied in Ciudad Juarez to call for peace in the wake of a recent surge of drug cartel-related violence. The U.S. needs to do its part as well – by halting the flow of arms trafficked from the U.S. into Mexico; reducing U.S. domestic drug consumption that fuels and finances Mexico's drug wars; and collaborating with Mexico to strengthen the rule of law and protect human rights. But the United States should not increase human rights violations by backing the army's role in domestic law enforcement.
And that's what could happen unless you say no.
Two bills that could set the course for U.S. counternarcotics aid to Mexico for the years to come may be considered by Congress as early as today. They fund at least part of the President's proposed "Merida Initiative," a three-year, $1.4 billion counter-narcotics aid package for Mexico and Central America. The Merida Initiative includes both programs we support – such as to strengthen judicial institutions and gang prevention programs – and those we oppose, such as helicopters for the Mexican military.
1) The Iraq Supplemental Appropriations Bill. The President requested that the first installment of funding for the Merida Initiative ($500 million for Mexico and $50 million for Central America), be attached to the Iraq Supplemental. Currently, we do not know how much of this will be included in the supplemental bill and whether the bill includes some of the military aid we oppose.
2) The Berman bill – Just yesterday, the House Committee on Foreign Affairs unveiled a bill authorizing $1.6 billion in counter-narcotics and other assistance programs for Mexico and Central America to be funded through the Merida Initiative over the next three years. The full name of this bill is the "Merida Initiative to Combat Illicit Narcotics and Reduce Organized Crime Authorization Act of 2008" (H.R. 6028). The bad news: This bill fully funds the White House's request for helicopters and other equipment for the Mexican military, which would perpetuate the dangerous and inappropriate role for the Mexican military in domestic counterdrug operations. The good news: It does add some human rights conditions and increases aid for the judicial system and gang prevention.
Chairman Berman's bill (H.R. 6028) was marked up in Committee today. It may move quickly to the floor. The Iraq Supplemental may come to the floor in both House and Senate within the next week.
While we support the measures to protect human rights and curb the illegal flow of weapons from the U.S. into Mexico included in the Berman bill, we oppose the bill because it fully funds the White House's military aid request and opens the door to a continued military aid program. Resources would be better dedicated to programs to strengthen judicial institutions and reform the police. As noted in other alerts, LAWG remains very concerned by the disturbing number of reported human rights abuses committed by the military in the course of these counter-narcotics operations, as well as the consistent failure of the Mexican authorities to hold the perpetrators accountable for these abuses.
We urge you to contact your member of Congress and encourage them to demilitarize any aid to Mexico. It is important that they hear from you.
Please call the capitol switchboard at (202) 224-3121 and ask to speak to your members of Congress in the House and the Senate. When you reach their offices, please say, "I am a constituent of Representative/Senator _______. I urge her/him to REMOVE any aid for the Mexican military in the Iraq Supplemental package [and the Berman bill, when calling your representative in the House]. I encourage them instead to direct valuable and limited resources towards long-term solutions that promote human rights and respect for the rule of law in Mexico. The U.S. needs to address the root of the problem, namely through enhanced drug treatment and prevention programs in the United States."
If you prefer, you can take the above message and send it in an email to your members of Congress as well. However, we recommend that you add a 'personal' note to your email for it to have a greater impact.
For talking points on this issue, click here.
Look forward to working with you. Thanks!