[Senate Prints 110-35]
[From the U.S. Government Publishing Office]

110th Congress                                                  S. Prt.
                            COMMITTEE PRINT                     
 1st Session                                                    110-35


                         THE MERIDA INITIATIVE:
                      ``GUNS, DRUGS, AND FRIENDS''


                          A REPORT TO MEMBERS

                                 OF THE


                          UNITED STATES SENATE

                       One Hundred Tenth Congress

                             First Session

                           December 21, 2007


39-644                      WASHINGTON : 2007
For Sale by the Superintendent of Documents, U.S. Government Printing Office
Internet: bookstore.gpo.gov  Phone: toll free (866) 512-1800; (202) 512�091800  
Fax: (202) 512�092104 Mail: Stop IDCC, Washington, DC 20402�090001


                JOSEPH R. BIDEN, Jr., Delaware, Chairman
CHRISTOPHER J. DODD, Connecticut     RICHARD G. LUGAR, Indiana
JOHN F. KERRY, Massachusetts         CHUCK HAGEL, Nebraska
RUSSELL D. FEINGOLD, Wisconsin       NORM COLEMAN, Minnesota
BARBARA BOXER, California            BOB CORKER, Tennessee
BILL NELSON, Florida                 JOHN E. SUNUNU, New Hampshire
BARACK OBAMA, Illinois               GEORGE V. VOINOVICH, Ohio
BENJAMIN L. CARDIN, Maryland         JIM DeMINT, South Carolina
ROBERT P. CASEY, Jr., Pennsylvania   JOHNNY ISAKSON, Georgia
JIM WEBB, Virginia                   DAVID VITTER, Louisiana
                   Antony J. Blinken, Staff Director
            Kenneth A. Myers, Jr., Republican Staff Director


                            C O N T E N T S

Letter of Transmittal............................................     v

Background on United States Counter-Narcotics Assistance to 
  Mexico.........................................................     1

Overall Recommendations..........................................     2

Analysis.........................................................     3

    The Merida Initiative, How It Came To Be and Why Now.........     4

    A Committed Friend: Calderon's Efforts to Fight Narcotics....     6

    Areas for Improvement: North-South Arms Trafficking and 
      Funding for Central America................................     9

        North-South Arms Trafficking.............................     9

        Central America..........................................    10


Discussions With Individuals in Mexico...........................    13

The Merida Initiative Security Assistance Proposals--Budgets and 
  Item Breakdown.................................................    15

The Central America Security Assistance (CASA) Proposals--Budgets 
  and Item Breakdown.............................................    51

Security Strategy for Central America (Translation)--Estrategia 
  de Seguridad de Centro America (Original)......................    79



                         LETTER OF TRANSMITTAL


                              United States Senate,
                            Committee on Foreign Relations,
                                 Washington, DC, December 21, 2007.
    Dear Colleagues: From November 6-8, 2007, I directed my 
senior Senate Foreign Relations Committee (SFRC) staff member 
for Latin America, Carl Meacham, to visit Mexico City to assess 
a $500 million supplemental budget request for Mexico. This 
request is intended to support regional efforts to address 
common threats to our nations by combating transnational crime 
and drug trafficking.
    The Merida Initiative, as this proposal is called, is an 
attempt to seize the opportunity created by Mexico's 
invigorated anti-crime campaign. The Initiative would fund key 
programs and build stronger cooperation with the United States.
    The proposal recognizes that 90 percent of the cocaine 
entering the United States transits Mexico and that our efforts 
to combat this drug flow and associated criminal activities 
depend on a partnership with the Mexican government. It also 
recognizes that Central America is the primary transit point 
for people and drugs destined for the United States and Mexico 
from South America. This illicit activity threatens regional 
stability, weakens national economies and exacerbates illegal 
migration to the United States.
    The legislative process to pass the authorization of the 
Merida Initiative began after President Bush submitted his 
supplemental request of $45.9 billion to the U.S. Congress on 
October 22, 2007. The President made this request to continue 
the Global War on Terror and address other urgent national 
security needs. Five hundred million dollars for the Merida 
Initiative was included as part of this request. In response to 
the President's proposal the SFRC held a full committee hearing 
on the Merida Initiative on November 15, 2007. Mr. Meacham's 
attached report provides significant insight into this 
initiative. While his report's primary focus is assistance to 
Mexico, appropriate analysis of Merida's counterpart program in 
Central America, or Central American Security Assistance 
(CASA), is also provided.
    I hope you find it helpful as the U.S. Congress considers 
support for the supplemental request for Mexico and Central 
America. I look forward to continuing to work with you on these 
issues and welcome any comments you may have on this report.
                                          Richard G. Lugar,
                    Ranking Member, Committee on Foreign Relations.

                        THE MERIDA INITIATIVE: 
                      ``GUNS, DRUGS, AND FRIENDS''


    From November 6-8, 2007, Senate Foreign Relations Committee 
minority staff traveled to Mexico City, Mexico on an official 
oversight visit to assess President George W. Bush's 
supplemental budget request of $500 million for Mexico. During 
this trip, staff met with senior officials of the Government of 
Mexico (GOM), Members of the Mexican Senate, a senior official 
of the Guatemalan Foreign Ministry, officials from the Mexican 
human rights community, members of the Mexican press, and 
senior officials at the United States Embassy in Mexico City. 
(See Appendix I for complete list of meetings.)
    At the request of Senator Lugar, the purpose of the trip 
was to:

   Assess the process through which this proposal was 

   Assess the effectiveness of the current proposal and 
        identify areas for improvement.

             Background on United States Counter-Narcotics
                          Assistance to Mexico

    According to the National Drug Intelligence Center 
somewhere between 530 and 710 metric tons of cocaine departed 
South America bound for the United States in 2006. In that 
year, Mexican and U.S. law enforcement estimate that 12.7 tons 
of heroin was freshly produced within Mexico, to be shipped 
northwards. That accounts for more than a 58 percent increase 
in production from the year before. The United States has been 
engaged in efforts to combat the flow of narcotics into the 
United States from Mexico and Central America for many years.
    According to the Congressional Research Service (CRS), 
between fiscal years 2000 and 2006, the U.S. government has 
provided over $250 million for counter-narcotics assistance to 
Mexico. The State Department provided the bulk of this 
assistance--$169 million--for port and border security, law 
enforcement assistance, interdiction and eradication support, 
aviation support and training. USAID provided $30 million for 
rule of law and anti-corruption training. The remainder ($58 
million) was provided by the Department of Defense through its 
``section 1004'' authority (Section 1004 of the National 
Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 1991 authorizes the 
Department to provide support to counter-drug activities of 
other federal agencies overseas). The Drug Enforcement 
Administration also expended $124 million during this period to 
support its field offices in Mexico.

                Overall Conclusions and Recommendations

    American politicians on both sides of the aisle have become 
increasingly concerned about inattention to Latin America. Yet 
when President Bush recently announced details about the Merida 
Initiative, the proposal was greeted with Congressional 
    Some members have complained about a lack of information 
and consultation in the formulation of the proposal and have 
voiced concern over corruption and alleged human rights abuses 
in Mexico. Others feel more must be done domestically, both in 
addressing the underlying demand for drugs in the United States 
and the treatment for drug offenders. There are also those in 
the U.S. Congress who feel that the proposal for Central 
America does not go far enough in funding and equipping efforts 
to deal with land, air, and maritime narcotics trafficking. 
These are all valid concerns. On human rights, specifically, we 
are assured that there would be continued efforts in the 
context of this initiative.
    But the risks of proceeding with this agreement are small 
compared to the large potential payoff of authorizing this 
proposal which would include creating the institutional 
framework for dealing with many of the problems mentioned by 
Democrats and Republicans alike. Mexico's historic mistrust of 
its northern neighbor has long prevented closer ties that could 
benefit both sides. President Calderon has taken considerable 
political risk in reaching out to the United States. He has 
done this because it is in Mexico's best national security 
interest and because combating this transnational threat 
requires closer collaboration. Furthermore, Central American 
willingness to act together in favor of their collective 
security is an important development that should not have been 
overlooked by the Bush administration in putting together their 
funding request.
    The Merida Initiative represents a rare opportunity to 
build a base for sustained cooperation with Mexico on a shared 
agenda. To pass on this opportunity would represent a 
significant blunder that would have a negative impact on the 
bilateral relationship, as well as broader U.S. interests in 
the region. In order to increase the effectiveness of this 
initiative the following recommendations should be considered.
    (1) In cooperation with the Mexican government, the U.S. 
Secretary of State should:

   Define a comprehensive strategy aimed at disrupting the 
        traffic of arms to Mexico, which emphasizes preventive 
        initiatives, effective controls of the sale of weapons 
        in gun shows, especially along the border.

   Improve effective and timely exchange of intelligence on 
        major U.S. based trafficking of weapons organizations 
        with links to Mexican and Central American criminal 

   Work with the Secretary of Homeland Security to direct the 
        Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives 
        (ATF) to work closely with other law enforcement 
        agencies, such as Immigration and Customs Enforcement 
        (ICE), in operations to interdict weapons crossing U.S. 
        borders and devise new programs to share tracing 
        capabilities with the appropriate Mexican authorities, 
        close-off trafficking corridors, expand actionable, 
        real-time intelligence cooperation, and aggressively 
        pursue prosecutions, interdictions and arrests of 
        individuals seeking to move firearms across the border.

   Establish a specific program to trace and disrupt the 
        trafficking to Mexico of high powered weaponry such as 
        .50 mm rifles, grenades and grenade launchers.

    (2) The Merida Initiative will achieve modest results 
should substantial assistance for public security, law 
enforcement, specialized police training, air, land and 
maritime interdiction and interception equipment not be 
provided for Central American Security Assistance (CASA). 
Organized crime and narco-trafficking in Central America could 
directly threaten gains made against the drug cartels in 
Mexico. In order to promote a real reduction of violence and 
drug trafficking in Central America and ensure broader success 
in combating the drug trade in North and Central America, the 
Bush administration should find additional funds for Central 
America in the FY09 appropriations cycle (funding in the 
supplemental request for CASA is $50 million).


    Along the border between the United States and Mexico, and 
far into Central America, there is a war raging. Drug 
trafficking, arms smuggling, money laundering, and violence 
connected to organized crime are rampant. In the last 10 months 
alone more than 2,600 Mexicans have lost their lives in police 
action against the drug trafficking organizations active 
throughout Central and North America. In response, Mexican 
President Felipe Calderon and the Mexican Congress have 
authorized nearly $3 billion and 30,000 troops to help combat 
the violence.
    In Central America, drug trafficking and its kingpins 
exacerbate the declining stability of law and order. Regional 
street gangs, which the United States Central Command has 
estimated may total 70,000 members, are a major source of 
violent crime in a region where the numbers of at risk youth 
are staggering.\1\ In Guatemala, 70 percent of the population 
is under the age of 29; 50 percent are under 15 and thus highly 
susceptible to inducement into criminal behavior when not 
presented with better economic opportunities.\2\
    \1\ Other estimates, such as USAID's ``2006 Central America and 
Mexico Gang Assessment'' report, cite regional gang membership to be 
anywhere from 50,000 to 305,000 individuals.
    \2\  According to the Government of Guatemala, the typical entry 
age to these gangs is 13. It asserts there have been cases of children 
as young as 8 involved in extortion, drug distribution and 
    The Merida Initiative was envisioned to help address these 
issues. Details of the supplemental request released by the 
Department of State include:

   Non-intrusive inspection equipment, ion scanners, canine 
        units for Mexican customs, for the new federal police 
        and for the military to interdict trafficked drugs, 
        arms, cash and persons.

   Technologies to improve and secure communications systems 
        to support collecting information as well as ensuring 
        that vital information is accessible for criminal law 

   Technical advice and training to strengthen the 
        institutions of justice, such as vetting for the new 
        police force, case management software to track 
        investigations through the system to trial, new offices 
        for citizen complaints and professional responsibility, 
        and witness protection programs.

   Helicopters and surveillance aircraft to support 
        interdiction activities and rapid operational response 
        of law enforcement agencies in Mexico.

          (See Appendix II for complete breakdown of the Merida 
        Initiative Mexico.)

    According to U.S. State Department officials 59 percent of 
the proposed assistance would go to civil agencies responsible 
for law enforcement, and a smaller share, 41 percent, to 
operational costs for the Mexican Army and Navy. While the 
initial cost for equipment and hardware that the military 
required is high, it is expected that future budget requests 
will focus increasingly on training and assistance to civil 
    While this request includes equipment and training, it does 
not involve any cash transfers or money to be provided directly 
to the Government of Mexico or private contractors. ``We won't 
be given one cent,'' one Mexican official remarked in this 
regard. ``This proposal provides specific equipment, training 
and intelligence sharing, it is not a blank check.''

          the merida initiative, how it came to be and why now

    Since President Calderon assumed office on December 1, 
2006, he has conveyed a deliberate interest in working 
collaboratively with the United States in combating mutual 
threats. In this context, it does not come as a surprise that 
the Bush administration would respond to this interest through 
an emergency supplemental budget request rather than through 
the regular budget appropriations cycle.
    Recognizing that the Bush administration is nearing the end 
of their term in office, administration officials wanted to 
move quickly and seize this window of opportunity. State 
Department officials are keenly aware that their time is 
running out and that Calderon's willingness to work with the 
United States is unprecedented on issues of security, crime, 
and drugs. Coupled with the record number of trade agreements 
signed during his administration and a proposal on biofuels 
with Brazil, there is a desire to do as much as possible 
regarding Latin America. ``The President sees Latin America as 
his legacy,'' mentioned one State Department official.
    If authorized by Congress, the Merida Initiative could lay 
the groundwork for deeper cooperation between the United 
States, Mexico and Central America. This would start to correct 
an imbalance in U.S. policy that has arisen since the September 
11, 2001 attacks, when most U.S. focus was directed towards the 
Iraq War and Afghanistan. In addition, this proposal could also 
counter some of the resentment that many Mexicans and Central 
Americans feel regarding the U.S. Congress' failure to enact 
comprehensive immigration reform.
    In this regard, interest in pursuing this initiative 
expeditiously through a supplemental request is understandable. 
Though well intended, this approach has sparked suspicion and 
intense criticism in a Democratic-controlled U.S Congress.
    Many believe that concern pertaining to the proposal stems 
from lack of information and consultation involved in its 
formulation. Little information about these negotiations was 
made available to either the U.S. or Mexican Congresses until 
the proposal became public on October 22, 2007, which 
exacerbated partisan suspicion in Washington and popular 
suspicion in Mexico. Though difficult to understand from a U.S. 
legislative branch perspective, from the Calderon 
admistration's standpoint, secrecy regarding the formulation of 
this proposal was imperative since cooperation with the United 
States entails certain political sensitivities.
    Mexican Embassy officials in Washington assert that they 
have briefed their Congress on the proposal, but that the 
Merida Initiative is not a treaty or a formal agreement or 
convention, so it is not subject to Mexican Congressional 
    State Department officials only briefed U.S. Senate Foreign 
Relations Committee staff in mid-September after staff 
threatened to delay the nomination of David Johnson to be 
Assistant Secretary of State for International Narcotics and 
Law Enforcement. During the September 22, 2007 briefing, State 
Department officials provided only an outline of the type of 
assistance contemplated and refused to provide detailed 
information or budget data.
    Staff learned about this initiative in the media in the 
late summer of 2007, but the process had started much earlier.
    According to GOM sources, during his visit to Washington in 
November of 2006, President-elect Calderon expressed interest 
in strengthened bilateral and regional cooperation against drug 
trafficking and organized crime. This was followed up by a 
March 2007 Bilateral Presidential Summit held in Merida, 
Mexico, where the presidents decided to move forward to develop 
a specific plan for enhanced cooperation. Mexican interagency 
coordinating meetings were held between April and May 2007 
where the Mexican Government developed its proposal. On May 22, 
2007, U.S. and Mexican foreign ministers met in Washington to 
begin bilateral discussions on the basis of the Mexican 
    \3\ ``Road Map leading to the Merida Initiative,'' Government of 
Mexico, November 2007.

    November 2006: During his visit to Washington President-Elect 
Calderon expresses interest in strengthened bilateral and regional 
cooperation against drug trafficking and organized crime.
    March 2007: Bilateral Presidential Summit held in Merida. 
Presidents decide to move forward to develop a specific plan for 
enhanced cooperation.
    April-May 2007: Mexican interagency coordinating meetings to 
develop Mexican proposal.
    May 22, 2007: Foreign ministers meet in Washington to begin 
bilateral discussions on the basis of Mexican proposal.
    July 13 2007: President Bush calls President Calderon with positive 
    July 26-27 2007: First bilateral inter-agency meeting held in 
    August-September 2007: Four thematic technical meetings held in 
Mexico City.
    September-October 2007: Select consultations are held between the 
Calderon administration and select members of Mexican Congress.
    October 22, 2007: Supplemental request presented to Congress and 
release of Joint Statement on the Merida Initiative.
    On Capitol Hill, as a result of the information gap during 
the run-up to the proposal's introduction to the U.S. Congress, 
ill will prevails, especially among Democrats. Many question 
why they should work with the White House on this initiative in 
the first place. Many believe the proposal needs major changes. 
Others ask why not wait until a new administration--what's the 
    ``This is a necessary proposal that suffered from poor 
marketing,'' stated a member of Mexico's legislative branch. 
``The focus of this plan is to help Mexico do a better job 
fighting the drug traffickers who send cocaine, heroin, 
marihuana and precursor chemicals for methamphetamine into the 
United States, it's in all of our interests to do this.''


    The motivation for president Calderon's invigorated anti-
crime campaign is in large part domestic: drug-related violence 
is on the increase, with an estimated 2,650 killings so far 
this year already surpassing last year's total of 2,120. 
Equally important, Mexico has become a drug consuming nation. 
Narcotics' corrosive impact has led to an alarming rise of what 
Mexicans call narco-menudeo--small-time drug dealing by 
ordinary citizens, poor and middle-class alike.
    The Merida Initiative is intended as a vital complement to 
President Calderon's own stepped-up efforts against drugs which 
he launched when he took office nearly a year ago. Under his 
leadership, the GOM has accomplished a great deal in the 
interdiction and eradication of illegal drugs, stepping up 
efforts already underway in the previous administration. For 
example, the policies of manual eradication have continued, 
while at the same time interdiction efforts have greatly 
increased, aided by the new resources devoted to this mission.
    Results include the seizure on October 30, 2007 of more 
than 23.5 tons of cocaine in the port city of Manzanillo, 
Colima. This is the largest single seizure of cocaine ever 
recorded. Earlier that same month another 12 tons were 
interdicted in the city of Tampico.\4\
    \4\ ``Mexican Authorities Seize the Largest Shipment ever of 
Cocaine in the State of Colima.'' Mexican Embassy, Washington D.C. 
November 2007.
    U.S. officials also are seeing better law enforcement 
cooperation with Mexico--79 criminals have been extradited to 
the United States this year, including drug cartel kingpins. 
But much work remains to be done especially regarding the 
reform of the judicial system within Mexico that some in the 
human rights community argue ``has encouraged the coercion of 
confessions often through the use of torture.''
    All together, such reform efforts by the GOM have resulted 
in clear security benefits for the United States. The National 
Drug Intelligence Center (NDIC) has noted that ``cocaine 
availability decreased in several U.S. drug markets during the 
first half of 2007, most likely because of a combination of 
factors that included large cocaine seizures in transit toward 
the United States.'' However, reforms have also caused a 
response. It is estimated that the major drug trafficking 
organizations are currently reorganizing and readjusting to the 
new challenges facing their trade; as a result, drug 
availability is once again on the rise.
    One recent development is the consolidation of many of the 
smaller drug trafficking organizations into powerful alliances, 
escalating the violence between the groups vying for control of 
the most lucrative smuggling corridors into full fledged turf 
wars. A notable example of such coalition building is ``The 
Federation,'' led by representatives from the Sinaloa, Juarez 
and Valencia cartels.\5\
    \5\ Cook, Collen W., ``Mexico's Drug Cartels,'' Congressional 
Research Service Report for Congress, October 16, 2007.

    Source: United States Embassy, Mexico City, Mexico, 
November 2007.

    In general, the major drug trafficking organizations have 
reached a high level of sophistication. Most now maintain their 
own paramilitary groups or enforcer gangs; violent rivalry 
between these gangs accounts for a majority of drug related 
deaths in Mexico. Targeted assassinations of police and 
military personnel are also high. Over 200 police have been 
killed so far this year. In several instances these 
organizations--the Gulf Cartel's Zetas perhaps the most 
infamous--draw on considerable expertise from former members of 
law enforcement and special forces units.\6\
    \6\ Ibid.
    Source: United States Embassy, Mexico City, Mexico, 
November 2007.

    The scale of corruption in the federal police forces has 
been used as justification for the increased use of the 
military in more traditional law enforcement roles, especially 
in States that have seen increased levels of drug-related 
violence as noted in the slide above. This move has been 
criticized by several human rights organizations. In Mexico, 
however, the military remains highly respected among the 
general populace; and for its part, the military has accepted 
every recommendation put forth by Mexico's National Commission 
for Human Rights (CNDH), including training on human rights, 
drug and alcohol testing for personnel and a commitment to full 
investigations and prosecution.\7\
    \7\ U.S. Embassy, Mexico City, November 2007.
    President Calderon and military leadership know that the 
military's participation in domestic law enforcement is 
temporary. And in order to hasten a transition of law 
enforcement responsibilities back to traditional law 
enforcement agencies Calderon has moved to purge those police 
units most heavily laden with corruption and to reorganize the 
federal police entirely. In a relevant CRS report entitled 
``Mexico's Drug Cartels,'' the level of penetration from drug 
cartels observed is startling, with ``some agents of Mexico's 
Federal Investigative Agency (AFI) believed to work as 
enforcers for the Sinaloa cartel, and the Attorney General's 
Office (PGR) report[ing] in December 2005 that one-fifth (1,500 
of 7,000) of its officers are under investigation for criminal 
activity.'' \8\
    \8\ ``Mexico's Drug Cartels.''

                            CENTRAL AMERICA

    The Merida Initiative is an attempt to seize the 
opportunity created by President Calderon's invigorated anti-
crime campaign. The Merida portion, and the funding for Central 
America through CASA, recognizes that successful efforts to 
combat drug trafficking depend on a partnership with the 
Mexican government and the Governments of Central America. 
Though staff believes these proposals are long overdue, they 
fall short of what is required in two important areas: stopping 
north-south arms trafficking, funding, and assistance for 
Central America.
North-South Arms Trafficking
    Important concerns remain regarding how the Merida 
Initiative would halt arms trafficking from the United States 
to Mexico. Though assurances have been made by officials from 
the U.S. State Department that more will be done to formulate 
agreements to stem the traffic of weapons south of the border, 
the problem is worsening as highlighted by the chart supplied 
by the GOM of confiscated weapons and ammunition below:

                       North-South Arms Trafficking--December 1, 2006 to November 7, 2007
                               (Information provided by the Government of Mexico)
                                                        SSPF     SHCP  (AGA-                 Joint
    Concept       PGR (AFI)      SDN        SM-AM       (PFP)       ACIFA)      Others    Operations     Total
Short Weapons            60         417           1          39            1          61         251         830
Short Weapons      2341,199           7         102         169          632         287       2,630
Assault Weapons          38         746           0          26            0          29         382       1,221
Assault Weapons          73       1,511          17          42          274         106         318       2,341
Ammunition            6,626     134,634          10       3,569           96       3,537      53,855     202,327
Ammunition (OC)      11,096     191,289       4,826       2,892      115,780      11,618     109,940     447,441
Grenades                 10         408           0           3            1           7          99         528
PGR: Procuradura General de la Republica
AFI: Agencia Federal de Investigacion
SDN: Secretaria de la Defensa Nacional
SM-AM: Secretaria de Marina--Armada de Mexico
SSPF: Secretaria de Seguridad Publica Federal
PFP: Policia Federal Preventiva
SHCP: Secretaria de Hacienda y Credito Publico
DRC: Drug Related Crimes
OC: Other Crimes.

    American guns pass into Mexico through land ports of entry 
at the border every day. According to a Mexican government 
official, as many as 2,000 weapons enter Mexico each day and 
fuel an arms race between Mexican drug cartels.
    Mexican government officials suspect that corrupt customs 
officials (on both sides of the border) help smuggle weapons 
into Mexico. The weapons are often bought legally at gun shows 
in Arizona and Texas mostly.
    Taking these weapons out of the hands of organized crime 
now would allow Mexican law enforcement to fight drug 
trafficking in Mexico before they reach the U.S. border; more 
importantly, into U.S. communities. It also takes the Mexican 
military out of the law enforcement role it has been assigned.
    According to a high level SEDENA (Secretaria de la Defense 
Nacional, Mexican Armed Forces) official, ``the military does 
not want to be involved in law enforcement any more than it has 
to, but it has no choice, regular police cannot compete with 
Ak-47s and grenade launchers.'' As one GOM official noted: ``We 
understand your Second Amendment, but along the border states 
thousands of gun shows occur a year, and little is done to make 
sure that those guns stay in the U.S.''
    American Embassy officials in Mexico confirmed that the 
U.S. is a major source of weapons for Mexican gangs and drug 
    As the Merida Initiative goes forward, U.S. agencies must 
work closely with Mexican officials to address this problem. It 
is not in the U.S. interest to create a self-defeating 
situation in which a critical foreign assistance program meant 
to assist a neighbor and enhance U.S. security is being 
undercut by an illegal flow of weapons originating from within 
our own borders.

Central America

    The Bush administration has requested $50 million in 
equipment and training for Central America. Over half of this 
amount ($25.7 million) is currently designated for public 
security and law enforcement. Within that category, $12.6 
million is for the implementation of anti-gang strategies 
throughout the region. Another $13.1 million is for specialized 
police training and equipment. Early estimates of a country-by-
country breakdown suggest Guatemala would be the largest 
recipient ($9.2 million). Honduras would receive $7.4 million; 
El Salvador, Costa Rica, Panama, Nicaragua and Belize would 
each receive less than $5 million. These tabulations do not 
include some $20 million that has been designated for regional 
use or non-country-specific expenditures. (See Appendix III for 
complete breakdown of CASA.)
    As highlighted by the slide below, Central America is the 
primary transit point for cocaine destined for the United 
States and Mexico from South America. Though drugs are brought 
into Mexico by sea and land, this slide highlights the severity 
of the problem by air.

    Source: United States Embassy, Mexico City, Mexico, 
November 2007.

    Central American officials feel that they will not be able 
to confront threats effectively without more assistance. They 
fear that gang members and drug traffickers will flee Mexico 
for Central America where it will be easier to operate. As one 
senior Central American government official stated: ``In this 
case Mexico's gain could be our loss.''
    Central America ``has among the highest homicide rates in 
the world, and in recent years murder rates have been 
increasing in several countries,'' according to a recent CRS 
Report. ``Latin America's average rate of 27.5 homicides per 
100,000 people is three times the world average of 8.8 
homicides per 100,000 people. Based on the most recent crime 
trend surveys (CTS) data available from the United Nations 
Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), Guatemala and El Salvador 
are among the most violent countries in the world for which 
standardized data has been collected.'' \9\
    \9\ Seelke, Clare Ribando, ``Gangs in Central America,'' 
Congressional Research Service Report for Congress, August 2, 2007.
    Gangs have emerged as major social forces in the region, 
and they have been expanding their influence in relatively 
ungoverned areas that they exploit for their drug trafficking 
operations. Drug lords now openly finance political campaigns 
and in some instances have shown interest in running for public 
office themselves.
    Many of these gang members are prison-hardened former 
members and associates of U.S. street gangs who were deported 
directly back to their home countries in Central America after 
serving their sentences. Central American leaders and public 
opinion--especially in Guatemala, El Salvador and Honduras--
have characterized this situation as a regional emergency 
requiring an urgent response.
    In the past, political wrangling and resource constraints 
have hampered Central American governments' response to the 
drug trade.\10\ Recognizing that they all share these problems, 
Central American countries have agreed to strengthen regional 
security through the Central American Integration System 
(CICA). Together they have produced an unprecedented 
comprehensive regional security strategy demonstrating a new 
found political will to work to guarantee their collective 
security. Unfortunately, the U.S. financial response has not 
been commensurate with current Central American political will 
to come together and fight the drug trade. (See Appendix IV for 
Central American comprehensive regional security strategy--
original and English translation.)
    \10\ The United States provided a total of $139.4 million in 
counternarcotics assistance to Central America from FY2000 to FY2006. 
Just over $77 million in assistance was administered by the Department 
of State's Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement 
Affairs (INL). This total includes money provided for Latin America 
regional programs. State Department does not provide a breakdown of 
which countries benefitted from overall Latin America regional 
assistance. Of the money administered by INL, just over $47 million was 
provided through the International Narcotics Control and Law 
Enforcement (INCLE) account and nearly $30 million was provided through 
the Andean Counterdrug Initiative (ACI) account.
    Nearly $63 million in counternarcotics assistance was provided 
through the Department of Defense under its section 124. Section 124 
authority designated the Department of Defense as the lead agency for 
the detection of aerial and maritime drug shipments.

                           A P P E N D I X I



    Staff held discussions with the following individuals in 
Mexican Government Officials
    Sigrid Arzt, Office of the President of Mexico (cabinet-
level anti-drug adviser to President Felipe Calderon)

    Marcela Celorio (Centro de Investigacion y Seguridad 

    Juan Carlos Foncerrada (CISEN)

    Jose Luis Santiago Vasconcelos (Procuraduria General de la 

    Carlos Rico (Secretaria de Relaciones Exteriores--SRE)

    Cecilia Romero Castillo (Instituto Nacional de Migracion-- 

    Senior level officials (Secretaria de la Defensa Nacional--
Mexican Legislative Branch
    Sen. Luis Alberto Coppola Joffroy (Partido de Accion 
Nacional, PAN)

    Sen. Eloy Canta Segovia (Partido Revolucionario 
Institucional, PRI)

    Sen. Sen. Tomas Torres (Partido de la Revolucion 
Democratica, PRD)
Officials from Foreign Governments
    Luis Fernando Andrade, Deputy Foreign Minister for the 
Republic of Guatemala

    United States Department of State, U.S. Embassy Mexico 
City, Mexico

    Tony Garza,  U.S. Ambassador to Mexico (DCM, POL, NAS, 
Mexican Human Rights Organizations
    Comision Nacional de Los Derechos Humanos

    Centro de Derechos Humanos Miguel Agustin Pro Juarez

    Mexico Unido contra la Delincuencia

    Centro de Estudios e Investigacion en Desarrollo y 
Asistencia Social A.C.
Mexican Media
    Dr. Jorge Chabat, El Universal Newspaper

    Ana Maria Salazar, El Universal Newspaper
Consultants and Collaborators
    Peter Hakim, The Inter-American Dialogue
    Armand Peshard-Sverdrup, Center for Strategic and 
International Studies (CSIS)
    Alex Currie, Staff Assistant, U.S. Senate Committee on 
Foreign Relations (SFRC)

                           A P P E N D I X II



                          A P P E N D I X III


                             ITEM BREAKDOWN

                           A P P E N D I X IV


                 SEGURIDAD DE CENTRO AMERICA (Original)