Joint Statement of the Merida Initiative High-Level Consultative Group on Bilateral Cooperation Against Transnational Criminal Organizations

Reference: United States Department of State

1. The Merida Initiative High-Level Consultative Group held its fourth meeting today, under the leadership of Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton and Secretary of Foreign Affairs Patricia Espinosa, to review the results of bilateral cooperation Mexico and the United States have undertaken to address the multiple challenges posed by transnational organized crime which operates in both countries.

2. In October 2007, the governments of the United States and Mexico announced our decision to expand and deepen our cooperation to maximize the effectiveness of our efforts to confront transnational organized crime, in the interest of security and the well-being of citizens of both nations. To achieve this goal, we developed the Merida Initiative, a bilateral cooperation framework based on the principles of shared responsibility, mutual trust, and full respect for the sovereignty of each country. The High-Level Consultative Group, comprising cabinet secretaries from each government, reviews progress and provides direction and guidance for these efforts.

3. The Merida Initiative represents a paradigm shift with respect to our cooperation on law enforcement and security. It has contributed to a deeper and more candid bilateral dialogue, and the strengthening of the overall relationship. The authorities of the United States and Mexico not only deepened our communication and mutual trust, but committed to strengthen the fight against organized crime, including arms trafficking and money laundering, in our respective countries in an unprecedented manner.

4. Mexico has continued to make substantial investments in excess of $10 billion, aimed at strengthening its security and justice sector institutions. In particular, there has been progress in strengthening the legal framework, including legal protections for human rights, increasing the transparency of public institutions, enhancing accountability, and fighting corruption through institutional restructuring, enhanced training, and the use of internal controls for law enforcement forces. In addition, the Mexican government is currently undertaking the reform of the criminal justice system. In support of those efforts, the United States has appropriated $1.9 billion.

5. Working together under the Merida Initiative to complement through collaborative actions the significant efforts made by the Government of Mexico to confront transnational criminal groups, the United States and Mexico have:

  • increased information sharing on transnational drug trafficking organizations, which has disrupted the operations of transnational criminal organizations (TCOs) and supported the Mexican government in removing major drug traffickers;
  • strengthened the extradition relationship between the two countries, resulting in record totals and numerous high level targets being brought to justice;
  • improved border security and inspection capabilities, in part through the deployment of more than $97 million in fixed and mobile non-intrusive inspection equipment (NIIE) and small detection devices;
  • worked to secure supply chains and expedite the flow of legitimate trade and travel by establishing complementary trusted traveler and shipper programs;
  • provided training, capacity building, and equipment to more than 5,000 prison staff and administrators and supported the efforts of the Mexican government to expand the federal prison capacity from 6,400 inmates to 20,000 inmates as well as to establish a federal penitentiary academy;
  • trained more than 7,500 federal and 19,000 state justice sector personnel in different aspects of Mexico’s new accusatorial judicial system;
  • supported the efforts by the Mexican government to improve the efficiency of its judicial system, especially in states and areas where judicial reform has been implemented;
  • strengthened investigation of cross-border financial flows, money laundering, and financial crimes by providing state of the art equipment and training and by setting up a Bilateral Illicit Finance Working Group;
  • supported training for more than 4,400 police investigators of the Public Security Secretariat (SSP) who are deployed throughout Mexico; and
  • transferred 21 aircraft to Mexican security forces to confront criminal organizations.

6. The broad parameters of our partnership under Merida have followed from the four strategic areas of cooperation Presidents Barack Obama and Felipe Calderon identified in August 2009 in Guadalajara, and reaffirmed during the State Visit of President Calderon to Washington, D.C., in May 2010: disrupting the capacity of criminal organizations by weakening their operational, logistical, and financial capabilities; strengthening public institutions that underpin the rule of law; developing a secure and competitive border; and restoring the social fabric in vulnerable communities.

7. In connection with the fourth strategic area, we have agreed to implement programs to help strengthen the social fabric of vulnerable communities in the cities of Tijuana, Ciudad Juarez, and Monterrey. In coordination with local authorities and community leaders, we are taking actions to reduce and prevent drug demand, recover public spaces, work with children and youth, and support community networks for crime prevention. The United States and Mexico are cooperating to strengthen crime prevention and reduce criminal activity at the state and local level. We have initiated programs to strengthen police training and police academies, including in the states of Chihuahua, Tamaulipas, and Nuevo Leon, with equipment and training courses. We have also jointly established a program to link 334 prevention and primary care centers across the country, plus 32 state centers, into a national drug use observatory that will enable real-time monitoring of consumption patterns and trends for specific, targeted interventions.

8. With respect to the security of our common border, we have taken steps to improve cooperation between the authorities responsible for preventing and responding to border incidents. In this context, we highlight the adoption of the Border Violence Prevention Protocols.

9. In the five years since we announced the Merida Initiative, our efforts have led to major quantitative and qualitative advances in bilateral cooperation against transnational organized crime. This has helped to establish a solid foundation of trust and coordination between U.S. and Mexican authorities responsible for preventing and combating crime.

10. Recognizing that the United States and Mexico face common challenges, the High-Level Group confirmed its commitment to harness the enormous potential of enhanced cooperation between our countries. Based on the principle of shared responsibility that governs our cooperation, we seek long-term solutions that allow us to deal with transnational criminal organizations and increasingly offer our citizens better conditions for development and security. Moreover, recognizing the global reach of the criminal organizations, we also agreed on the importance of continuing to work with our partners and neighbors in the region to meet this shared challenge.

11. In reaffirming this strategic partnership, the United States and Mexico recognize it is in our common interest to continue to build on and institutionalize the cooperation the Merida Initiative has established.

12. In attendance at the HLG for the United States: Secretary Hillary Rodham Clinton, Attorney General Eric Holder, Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano, Assistant to the President for Homeland Security and Counterterrorism and Deputy National Security Advisor John Brennan, Director of National Intelligence James Clapper, Deputy Secretary of Defense Ashton Carter, Vice Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff ADM James Winnefeld, Ambassador of the United States to Mexico E. Anthony Wayne, Treasury Assistant Secretary for Terrorist Financing and Financial Crimes Daniel Glaser, USAID Deputy Administrator Donald Steinberg, Drug Enforcement Agency Administrator Michele M. Leonhart, and White House Office of National Drug Control Policy Deputy Director for Supply Reduction Marilyn Quagliotti.

13. In attendance at the HLG for Mexico: Secretary Patricia Espinosa Cantellano, Secretary of Governance Alejandro Poire Romero, Secretary of National Defense General Guillermo Galván Galván, Secretary of the Navy Admiral Mariano Francisco Saynez Mendoza, Secretary of Public Security Genaro García Luna, Attorney General Marisela Morales Ibañez, Secretary of Health Salomon Chertorivski Woldenberg, Director General of the Center for Investigation and National Security (CISEN) Jaime Domingo Lopez Buitron, Chief of the Tax Administration System (SAT) Alfredo Gutierrez Ortíz-Mena, Head of the Financial Intelligence Unit of the Secretariat of Finance José Alberto Balbuena, Commissioner of the National Council against Addictions (CONADIC) Carlos Tena Tamayo, Ambassador of Mexico to the United States Arturo Sarukhan, and Undersecretary for North America of the Secretariat of Foreign Relations Julian Ventura.