Office of the Spokesman
December 19, 2008
Joint Statement of the Merida Initiative High-Level Consultative Group
Following is the joint statement issued by the Secretary of State, the Secretary of Defense, the Attorney General, the Deputy Secretary of Homeland Security, and the Director of National Drug Control Policy of the United States and the Secretary of Foreign Affairs, the Secretary of National Defense, the Attorney General, the Secretary of Public Security, and the Under Secretary of the Navy of Mexico, who together with other senior government officials met December 19, 2008, as the Merida Initiative High-Level Consultative Group:Released on December 19, 2008
Presidents Felipe Calderon and George Bush met in Merida, Mexico in March 2007 and reviewed the broad range of issues affecting our two countries. The Joint U.S.-Mexico Communiqué issued on March 14, 2007 recognized the threat posed by organized crime and drug trafficking to both nations and our shared responsibility to address this threat. Moreover, the Presidents reaffirmed the commitment of our two countries to establish a lasting partnership to expand and intensify cooperation in what we have come to call the Merida Initiative. The Merida Initiative High-Level Consultative Group held its inaugural meeting today to discuss progress to date on these critical issues, and to chart a course for future cooperation.
Since the 2007 Summit in Merida, the Government of Mexico has taken bold and unprecedented steps to confront organized crime and violence, often at great cost. As his administration enters into its third year, President Felipe Calderon has reiterated and clearly demonstrated his commitment to combat, head-on, drug-trafficking and organized crime. The Government of the United States has supported this effort by increasing the provision of information and technical assistance and by complementary steps to stop the trafficking of illegal weapons from the United States, impede bulk currency smuggling across our border, reduce the domestic demand for illicit drugs, and combat drug trafficking and organized crime in the United States.
To provide resources for an enhanced security cooperation partnership as set forth in the 2007 Summit, President Bush sought funding from Congress for the “Merida Initiative.” The Supplemental Appropriations Act of 2008, signed by President Bush on June 30, provided $400 million to fund training, equipment and other assistance under the Merida Initiative in Mexico, an initial installment of a multi-year, $1.4 billion program of support. On December 3, Mexico and the United States signed a Letter of Agreement (LOA) making available the first $197 million of this package.
Even before the signing of the LOA, Mexico and the United States have taken steps to strengthen our law enforcement and security cooperation by accelerating existing efforts and by focusing previously agreed upon assistance in areas that will advance the objectives of the Merida Initiative. In this regard, we have already:
- enhanced forensic capabilities, including the inauguration of a new forensics lab in Mexico;
- strengthened ties to investigate cross-border financial flows and combat money laundering;
- expanded collaboration to trace weapons and stop the illegal export of arms used by drug organizations;
- developed technical requirements for the transfer of counter-drug aviation assets;
- increased the number of fugitive apprehensions and extraditions;
- deployed X-ray equipped vans and radiation monitoring technology; and
- increased intelligence sharing on transnational drug trafficking organizations.
The breadth and depth of the cooperation between the United States and Mexico in confronting transnational organized crime and security threats requires new institutional mechanisms to ensure effective coordination, the timely use of operational intelligence, and the efficient use of resources. Our governments intend therefore to establish before the end of 2009, a bilateral follow-up and implementation mechanism in Mexico City where officials of the United States and Mexico will work together to carry out mutually agreed assistance projects, monitor results, and revise and update cooperative activities under the Merida Initiative.
In the meantime, we direct our agencies to convoke a bilateral working level meeting in Mexico City to discuss implementation over the next 12 months. This meeting should establish priorities and identify potential problem areas and specific solutions. This meeting should take place as early as practical in 2009 to ensure activities under the Merida Initiative unfold smoothly.
We intend to continue working on key issues that affect the national security of our countries and developing specific dialogue mechanisms with a view to strengthen cooperation and information exchanges.
Future meetings of the High-Level Consultative Group are important to provide guidance, chart the way forward, renew priorities, review accomplishments, and consider new or revised objectives. We recommend that the Consultative Group meet again during the second half of 2009.
We also recognize the importance of close engagement with the countries of Central America and the Caribbean in addressing the common threats emanating from organized crime. A successful Merida Initiative must have a strong regional and hemispheric component, and we intend to explore ways to ensure that our bilateral U.S.-Mexico partnership addresses this dimension.
Criminality and violence threaten the security and prosperity of both Mexico and the United States. Our success in confronting organized crime and narcotics trafficking depends on our continued cooperation and our ability to strengthen this new strategic partnership. The Merida Initiative reflects this spirit of renewed collaboration based on the principle of joint responsibilityand provides us with a mechanism to ensure our cooperation is effective and successful.
The Merida Initiative is a first and important step towards a common strategy to confront transnational security threats. We are confident that it will serve as the foundation for deeper and wider cooperation on joint security challenges.