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Bush War Funding Request Includes Mexico and Central America

Just finished reading the newest War Funding Request by the Bush Administration (because I have very little else to do with my time) and found this little gem embedded into the mix:

"$500 million for Mexico and $50 million for Central American countries, in their unprecedented cooperative efforts to address common threats to our nations by combating transnational crime and drug trafficking."

There are two questions that immediately rise to the forefront here:

  • Why is this being attached to the War Funding Request?
  • What exactly is the US buying from Mexico for 500 million dollars?
Lets begin with this announcement reported on by the New York Times on October 5, 2007:

Mexico: U.S. Plans $1 Billion in Aid to Fight Drugs

Published: October 5, 2007
The United States would give Mexico $1 billion in aid over the next two years to fight drug cartels under an aid package that will need Congressional approval, said Carlos Rico, the Mexican under secretary for North American affairs. For months, the two governments have been holding discussions about a program that would provide the Mexican police and prosecutors with training, equipment and advanced technology from the United States. Details of the negotiations have not been made public, and aides in the United States Senate and the House of Representatives said lawmakers had yet to be briefed. Judith Bryan, a spokeswoman for the United States Embassy in Mexico City, said a final agreement had not yet been reached.

So this $500 million is the first payment of a $1 billion contract with Mexico known as the "Merida Initiative" in Mexico. The details, although somewhat vague, include no actual exchange of money only equipment and training. But critics in Mexico have questioned whether this is an attempt by both governments to introduce American military forces into Mexico.

Patricia Espinosa, spokesperson for Mexican Foreign Relations, assures that "at not point was it ever contemplated to have foreign troops, government agents, or American industries in Mexican national territory involved in actions against organized crime and narco-trafficking " [Niega cancillería presencia militar de EU por Iniciativa Mérida]

Still if military equipment is involved in the trade, there will be American troops on Mexican soil, just like in Plan Colombia, the U.S.-Colombian deal that fed Colombia's War Against Drugs. If advanced military technology is traded then American military trainers will have to train the Mexican military. Also, and maybe this is splitting hairs here, but Espinosa never says that there will not be American troops on Mexican soil, she says there will not be any "involved in actions against organized crime and narco-trafficking". The statement is qualified.

The first question is why is this tucked into the War Funding Request handed to Congress? Either Bush doesn't want this to be handled as a separate manner by Congress, or this is somehow connected to the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. There is an ongoing battle for supremacy just south of the US-Mexico border between Mexican Federal forces and the local drug cartels, but that has been ongoing for a while, and if Bush were really concerned about it he would not have recalled the national guard from the border.

I'm speculating now, but with the European Union watching for illegal American prisons within member countries, and media attention tuned to the ongoings at Guantanamo, and there being nowhere else that has the perfect combination of isolation, security, and accessibility, could the details of the "Merida Initiative" include a Guantanamo-like prison on Mexican soil? This would explain its appearance on the War Funding Request. Which would also explain question #2.

All we can say is that from both sides of the border there is much more to this than meets the eye. Oh, and as far as the $50 million going to Central America, if I were Daniel Ortega, I'd be watching my back.

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