As allegations of human rights abuses reportedly committed by police and military forces have persisted in Mexico, the U.S. has started to withhold aid payments. For many years, the U.S. has been providing security aid to Mexico, much of it through the Mérida Initiative as a way to counter the efforts of violent drug cartels.
The budget Congress approved in early December 2015 awards roughly $146 million in security aid to Mexico, according to the Huffington Post. That figure is the lowest since 2011 and amounts to about three-quarters of the funding Congress authorized in 2014.
“For a close country like Mexico, if their aid for a program is cut off 25 percent, that’s a pretty huge deal,” said Robert Naiman, policy director of the membership organization Just Foreign Policy. “By Washington’s standards, that’s a pretty big slap on the wrist.”
The value of military assistance provided to Mexico by the U.S. Department of Defense (DOD) has also been reduced, down to $45 million in 2014 from $63 million in 2013. Although the DOD has not released assistance figures for 2015 yet, based on the timing of funds released so far, military assistance to Mexico this year is likely to amount to totals considerably lower than 2014.
While the exact reasons for the aid reductions are not immediately clear, drug war observers point to the decreased importance of the counterdrug-focused Mérida Initiative and ongoing allegations of human rights abuses occurring in Mexico—a situation well documented every year by Human Rights Watch. The government mishandling of the disappearance of 43 students in Mexico’s Guerrero state over a year ago has been widely cited as a prime example of its inability to control criminal groups and police corruption.
Adding to awkwardness is the State Department’s decision to not issue a report this year on the progress that Mexico has made on human rights, a requirement for disbursing 15 percent of the funding Mexico receives under the Merida Initiative. According to The Washington Post, this decision prevented the disbursement of the relatively small aid sum of $5 million, but still came across as a rebuke.
Adam Isacson, an analyst with the Washington Office on Latin America who tracks foreign aid to Mexico, told the Huffington Post that human rights scandals this year have made U.S. officials more cautious about who receives the hundreds of millions of dollars in foreign aid to the country. “The human rights issue is a shadow hanging over U.S. cooperation with Mexican police and military forces,” he said.
Sylvia Longmire is a service-disabled veteran, border security expert, and Contributing Editor for Breitbart Texas. You can read more about cross-border issues in her latest book, Border Insecurity: Why Big Money, Fences, and Drones Aren’t Making Us Safer.