Responding to a growing sense that Mexico's military-led fight against drug traffickers is not gaining ground, the U.S. and Mexico have set their counternarcotics strategy on a new course by refocusing efforts on strengthening civilian law enforcement institutions and rebuilding communities crippled by poverty and crime, reports the New York Times.
A $331 million plan includes many elements meant to expand on programs under way as part of the Mérida Initiative started by the Bush administration three years ago, such as cooperation among American and Mexican intelligence agencies and American support for training Mexican police officers, judges, prosecutors, and public defenders. Under the new strategy, American and Mexican agencies would work together to refocus border enforcement efforts away from building a better wall to creating systems that would allow goods and people to be screened before they reach crossing points. The plan would also provide support for Mexican programs intended to strengthen communities where socioeconomic hardships force many young people into crime. The most striking difference between the old strategy and the new one is the shift away from military assistance. More than half of the $1.3 billion spent under Mérida was used to buy aircraft, inspection equipment and information technology for the Mexican military and police.