Human Rights Policy and Nonprofit Organizational Development

Critiques of the Merida Initiative

In Policy Blog on April 30, 2009 at 7:11 pm

The Merida Initiative is a well-funded initiative, subtitled “Guns, Drugs and Friends,” ostensibly designed to address growing drug-related violence in Mexico and the U.S.’ responsibility for the problem.  Here’s a fairly favorable overview of the policy from the Woodrow Wilson Center.  

The policy has been heavily criticized by human rights activists and many others on both sides of the border.  One columnist points out that the bill will bring a wave of U.S. contractors to Mexico, calling the initiative a “Bureaucratic Invasion” (English translation of his article).

“Real security cannot be achieved without human rights. Both the US and Mexican authorities have the duty and power to ensure that international human rights standards such as the right not to be subject to torture, to a fair trial and to justice are protected and promoted. The safeguards under discussion in the US Congress advance these goals,” said Amnesty International.

The Washington Office on Latin America (WOLA)’s take on the Merida Initiative brings up several problems with the policy:

It is not clear whether there are well-defined objectives and indicators for success… [The policy] lacks built-in accountability measures.


WOLA feels that the initative’s success should be judged by whether it helps to address the structural weaknesses in the civilian security system that have allowed violence in Mexico to get so out of hand and which have served to justify the increased invovlement of the Mexican military in combatting drug trafficking and organized crime.

This gets to my primary concerns with the policy.  It is problematic to put the miliatry in a civilian law enforcement role, and runs contrary to the spirit of international humanitarian law.  It certainly doesn’t help assuage my fears that Mexico is vulnerable to being made into a police state with total executive control maintained through repression of dissent, torture, and extrajudicial execution and imprisonment.  These things already go on– but are often hidden from international (or even national) attention or censure, and such impunity is a dangerous trend.  And the virtually unchecked U.S. financial backing of the military in a civilian police role means that we are helping pay for human rights abuses and implicitly helping undermine the rule of law.

  1. […] orgs criticize the Merida Initiative In Policy Blog on June 8, 2009 at 7:55 pm I have written before about the Merida Initiative to fund the “war on drugs” in Mexico.  A few weeks ago, […]

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