The so-called Bicentennial Understanding signed this Friday by the governments of Mexico and the United States is a security plan that pursues a new approach in the fight against organized crime. The strategy replaces the previous one, known as the Merida Initiative, achieved in 2008 and stalled for years. The central purpose is to reduce violence and assassinations, which ultimately means fighting the drug cartels that operate on both sides of the border. However, the design of the agreement goes beyond security in the strict sense, proposes a shift in the fight against consumption and includes the development of communities as a fundamental premise. The document consists of three objectives and 10 measures. These are some keys to the program, for now a draft that measures the real capacity for collaboration between the two countries.
The priorities of the Administrations of Andrés Manuel López Obrador and Joe Biden are the protection of the population, preventing cross-border crimes and prosecuting mafias and criminal networks. The commitment consists of “creating safer communities, with better health services that are also sustainable and benefit the citizens of both countries.” Prevention is another of the ideas to deal with “trafficking in drugs, weapons, people, wild fauna and flora, as well as human trafficking.” Added to that is the determination to dismantle the financial networks of criminal organizations.
What is the novelty?
The Merida Initiative was already exhausted, but the program signed at the end of George W. Bush’s second term involved the disbursement of more than $ 3 billion. The Bicentennial Understanding budget is not known, at the moment. However, the Mexican Foreign Minister, Marcelo Ebrard, explained that the new agreement marks a qualitative leap. “The first substantive difference is that the Mérida Initiative was, from Mexico’s point of view, focused on the thesis that the cartel bosses had to be captured and that was enough […]. Nowadays, what exists is a common strategy that is more complex than that ”, he affirmed. The background of the agreement has to do with development, the fight against drug use and the offer of opportunities to young people. “The success of this is not going to be measured because a capo is captured and a great press conference is held,” added the chancellor.
Exchange of information
The keywords of the plan are justice, intelligence and cooperation. The objective is ambitious because it tests the willingness of governments to collaborate and to do so without interference. Sovereignty is another of the central ideas of the plan. It is, according to a document released by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, seeking “a response driven by justice and the use of intelligence against organized crime and based on effective cooperation in law enforcement.” The different pace of extraditions and episodes such as the exoneration of former Defense Secretary Salvador Cienfuegos, accused of drug trafficking by the DEA, contributed to tense relations at the beginning of the year. Now Washington and Mexico have shown their intention to turn the page and have promised to work hand in hand under three premises: the protection of human rights, the exchange of information and the monitoring of the results.
Fight against consumption
The 10 concrete actions contemplated by the alliance emphasize public health and a change in philosophy in the culture of the fight against drugs. The countries aim to “prevent and reduce substance abuse, in parallel with limiting the harms associated with addiction; improve access to substance abuse treatment and recovery support; share best practices and lessons learned to better understand patterns of substance abuse; explore alternatives to incarceration for cases of substance abuse ”.
Prohibition and security
The Bicentennial Understanding goes beyond security policies. The idea is that “the structural causes of violence must be addressed,” while “the current drug policy, based on prohibition and criminalization of the user, has not been effective.” “The new Bicentennial Understanding mechanism,” reported the Foreign Ministry, “addresses not only the concrete and daily concerns that Mexico and the United States share, but also the interest in solving, at the root, the causes of problems tangential to that of security.” Starting with the support of rural and border communities in Mexico, which have for decades suffered from the abandonment of the authorities and a problem of structural violence that requires, according to the López Obrador government, a fundamental transformation.
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