Recent statements by congressional leaders and the Obama Administration indicate that Congress is poised to send hundreds of millions of additional dollars of counternarcotics assistance for Mexico, including helicopters, planes, and other hardware, as part of a supplemental appropriations bill.
We believe that the United States must indeed partner with our neighbor Mexico as it contends with the terrible drug and organized crime-related violence that has resulted in more than 6,000 deaths in 2008 alone. But this problem will not be solved by sending military hardware and helicopters. This conviction was resoundingly underscored in a clear statement sent to U.S. congressional leaders this morning in which over 70 Mexican human rights organizations voiced their opposition to U.S. assistance for the Mexican military, urging the United States to instead support aid and policies that address the root causes of the violence and build long-lasting institutional change, including strengthening judicial institutions. To read their letter, click here. Para leer la carta en español, haga clic aquí.
We agree, as their letter states, that efforts to assist the Mexican government should not encourage or fund a role for the Mexican armed forces in domestic law enforcement. While Congress may be making some efforts to direct the supplemental funding towards the police rather than the military, which is preferable, we do not see adequate safeguards in place to ensure that this is how the aid would be used.
Moreover, any and all assistance directed to Mexican security forces must include meaningful human rights safeguards—which we are concerned have been left out of the supplemental bill. The United States can best help Mexico not by blindly praising the Mexican government’s efforts, but by speaking honestly to the Mexican government about changes that must be made to improve respect for human rights and the rule of law.
Above all, the United States can best help by cleaning up our own house. The refreshing rhetoric of shared responsibility proclaimed by President Obama, Secretary Clinton and other high level U.S. officials must be backed by policies and adequately funded programs. We and the Mexican NGOs in this letter call on the U.S. government to dedicate serious resources to expand high-quality drug treatment and evidence-based prevention programs in the United States, and to enforce and improve the laws that would control the “iron river” of arms and ammunition flowing across our borders to the drug cartels.