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U.S. Withholds Millions in Mexico Antidrug Aid

  1. Balzafire
    MEXICO CITY — The United States will withhold about $26 million promised for Mexico’s drug war because of concerns that the country has not done enough to protect its people from police and military abuse.

    It is the first time that the United States, citing human rights concerns, has held back a portion of the financing for Mexico under the Merida Initiative, a three-year-old, $1.4 billion effort to help Mexico and Central American nations fight drug trafficking organizations.

    Under the program, 15 percent of the money for Mexico is allotted on the condition that the country improve the accountability of the federal and local police; ensure civilian investigations and, if warranted, prosecutions of allegations of abuse by the police and the military; and ban testimony obtained through torture or other mistreatment.

    The State Department, in a report delivered to Congress on Friday, said it would release $36 million from earlier budgets. But it said it would withhold 15 percent of the $175 million allocated in the most recent budget.

    “No society can enjoy domestic peace and security without a functioning justice system supported by appropriately trained and equipped law enforcement and justice personnel who are respectful of human rights and rule of law,” said a State Department spokesman, Harry Edwards.

    The State Department called on the Mexican Congress to pass legislation strengthening the authority of the country’s national human rights commission and subjecting military service members accused of human rights abuses to civilian prosecution.

    The Mexican government, in a statement, called the findings an affront to its sovereignty. “The Merida Initiative is based on shared responsibility, mutual trust and respect for each country’s jurisdiction,” the statement said.

    Nik Steinberg, Mexico researcher for Human Rights Watch, said, “Any withholding of funds would be a step in the right direction, but given the total impunity for military abuses and widespread cases of torture, none of the funds tied to human rights should be released.”

    September 3, 2010


  1. Balzafire
    State Dept. approves $36M in anti-drug funds for Mexico despite human-rights record

    [imgl=white]http://www.drugs-forum.com/forum/attachment.php?attachmentid=16620&stc=1&d=1283575706[/imgl]The State Department has determined that Mexico can receive millions in anti-drug money that was contingent on its human-rights performance, but officials said Friday that they are withholding additional funds in hopes of seeing more progress.

    The money comes by way of the 2008 Merida Initiative, which has provided more than $1 billion for Mexico's narcotics fight. U.S. law requires 15 percent of certain accounts to be frozen until the State Department affirms Mexico is meeting human-rights standards.

    The report on Mexico's performance, sent to Congress on Thursday, will allow Mexico to receive $36 million, officials said.

    "The funds . . . are really critical to moving ahead on certain things with the Mexican government, [such as] equipment and training," said one State Department official, speaking on condition of anonymity because the report is not public.

    But, the official said, millions from the 2010 supplemental appropriation bill will remain frozen.

    "We did want to underscore we're going to be remaining engaged on human rights issues," the official said.

    Since Mexican President Felipe Calderon took office in 2006, he has deployed 50,000 troops to combat drug-related violence. That has led to a sharp increase in allegations of military abuses, including torture.

    Human-rights organizations have been especially critical of the Mexican military's legal system, which releases little information about its investigations of alleged abuses by soldiers.

    It is not clear how much money from the supplemental bill is being held up, but the decision to do so will have little practical effect, because U.S. and Mexican officials have barely begun planning how to spend it.

    Even so, Maureen Meyer of the nonprofit Washington Office on Latin America said that the move was symbolically important.

    "The U.S. is sending the message that you cannot fight crime with crime and you cannot fight drugs while tolerating abuses by your security forces," she said.

    Nik Steinberg of Human Rights Watch said the freeze on some funds was positive. "Nothing should have been released, because Mexico is simply not meeting the human-rights requirements," Steinberg said. "There are widespread and systematic abuses by the military, for which they have total impunity."

    By Mary Beth Sheridan
    Washington Post Staff Writer
    Friday, September 3, 2010
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