In a setback for the multibillion-dollar U.S. effort to help Mexico fight its drug war, the State Department has decided that Mexico failed to reach some human rights goals, triggering a cutoff of millions of dollars in aid, reports the Washington Post. The move affects a small portion of the annual anti-drug funds given to Mexico, but it is a clear sign of U.S. frustration. It comes as Mexico has been roiled by several cases of alleged abuses by security forces, including the disappearance of 43 students in the southern state of Guerrero last year. Through the Merida Initiative, a major U.S. program to support Mexico's battle against drug cartels, Congress has appropriated $2.3 billion since 2008 for equipment such as helicopters and border sensors and training programs for thousands of Mexican officials.
Fifteen percent of the money provided for the Mexican military and police is subject to provisions that the country make progress on protecting human rights, including enforcing rules against torture and prosecuting people for forced disappearances. To release that money, the State Department is required to show how Mexico is taking steps to address those problems. This year, officials chose not to write that report, and the 15 percent of the money for security forces, or $5 million, got diverted for coca eradication in Peru. The total Merida funding for the year was $148 million. “It's a big decision for them to have made,” said Maureen Meyer of the Washington Office on Latin America. “I think they basically decided we cannot honestly or in good faith say there's been enough progress made in Mexico. It shows how concerned the U.S. is about the human rights situation in the country.”