Archive for December, 2009

So What’s The Hold-up?
December 3, 2009

The Government Accountability Office (Congress’ investigative arm) just released a report on the status of how we’re spending money for the War on Drugs. Specifically, the GAO’s report talks about how much money has been spent since the Merida Initiative was announced in October 2007. Merida is an unprecedented level of cooperation between the U.S., Mexico and Central America to fight drug trafficking. But here’s the rub…the U.S. earmarked $1.4 billion to help Mexico and Central America with money, training and assets to fight the cartels–to date $830 million has been obligated and only about $26 million has been spent. The GAO cites three areas for the slow spending. (1) Statutory Conditions–Congress requires reports from the State Department before money is obligated to Mexico and Central America. These reports require detailed accounts of how these governments are making progress on human rights issues. For example, whether reports of abuses by the Mexican federal police and Army are being thoroughly investigated (see my story  as to why this is hold-up). (2) Administrative Procedures–This applies to actually getting equipment to Mexico. Examples cited in the GAO report include taking three to six months to negotiate and sign a contract for the provision of an aircraft. Then it takes another 12 to 18 months to build a helicopter to specifications and 18 to 24 months for an airplane. (3) Institutional Capacity–In short, this means whether the country or region receiving funding or assets actually has the infrastructure to handle the help. This is a particular problem in Central America because of political instability. This also why the cartels are heavily expanding operations in those regions–not enough resources to fight the drug operations. To say the Merida is not working would be inaccurate. I’ve talked with several federal law enforcement sources who say one thing the initiative has created is an unprecedented level of cooperation. My sources say the level of intelligence coming from their Mexican counterparts is off the charts. Also, our government and the Mexican government can run coordinated/simultaneous search/arrest warrants. Something that was almost unheard of before Merida. If you want to read the entire GAO letter (or if you’re having trouble sleeping) you can find it here.