Saturday, April 18, 2009

Merida Initiative: the United States' Bureaucratic Invasion

With the bilateral strategy's implementation, dozens of experts began to arrive in Mexico. They will collaborate with Mexican authorities in the fight against drug trafficking.

by Víctor Hugo Michel, Milenio
translated by Kristin Bricker

The United States government's presence in Mexico is growing. As part of the Merida Initiative, Washington is preparing an unprecedented bureaucratic invasion: it will bring dozens of new agents to carry out administrative work, intelligence, arms interdiction, prison reform, and anti-narcotics operations, amongst others.

In this way, the DEA and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms (ATF) offices in Mexico will receive an all-time high of personnel to confront the cartels not only with more resources, but also with more agents.

According "help wanted" ads issued by the State Department and the US Embassy, Washington has begun the transfer of about thirty officials who will be the backbone of the Merida Initiative.

The majority of the positions will be assigned to the Narcotics Affairs office in the Embassy, which will at the same time form part of the new Bilateral Office for Combatting Drug Trafficking, announced last March by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.

The Administrator

The arrival of officials includes administrators, advisers, numbers experts, security trainers, and aides of various rank, all in charge of administrating and operating the new bilateral programs against organized crime.

According to the contracts, the State Department's Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs (INL) has opened up amongst its new positions a "financial management adviser" who will be in charge of managing Merida Initiative funds.

"This position will be assigned to the embassy in Mexico. The incumbent will serve as financial adviser to the director of Narcotics Affairs (NAS) and will administer the 12 projects that the Anti-Narcotics Affairs Office in Mexico currently has," explains contract PSC-09-024-INL.

Here it is revealed that under the Merida Initiative the number of Washington's anti-narcotics projects in the country will triple to 30 in 2009 and 2010.

Other agencies will have a presence in Mexico for the first time ever, such as the Federal Bureau of Prisons and the Postal Service's Investigation Service, who will send officials to support the reform of two penitentiary systems.

According to contract PSC-09-018, the Federal Bureau of Prisons will have a "Corrections Reform Program Coordinator," which will be delegated the task of aiding the Mexican Ministry of Public Security in the reform of the national penitentiary system.

"The CRPC-M provides technical corrections expertise on behalf of the NAS and INL in interagency settings, to assist the Government of Mexico reach its stated Goals and Objectives in reforming the corrections/prisons system in Mexico. The CRPC-M offers assistance in a variety of areas, to include technical assistance, contingency planning and development, training and equipment needs. S/he serves as a resource to the NAS Director and the Mexican Sub-Secretariat for Penitentiary Systems on corrections issues bringing together expertise from the United States, as well as other countries having innovative corrections projects and programs that could be considered by the Government of Mexico."

The tasks on his or her agenda include training prison guards, prison security, human rights, and supervision or construction of new jails.

The increase in the concentration of new personnel includes support from private companies that have been contracted by the State Department to bring their own specialists, known as private service contractors.

As of now, the Dyncorp company has contracted three employees to administrate its participation in the Merida Initiative, one of whom will be in Mexico City and will help the Narcotics Affairs Office in the Embassy to "maintain good contact with Mexican security agencies."

Arms and Drugs

Considered to be a vital piece in combatting arms trafficking from the United States to Mexico, the ATF office in Mexico will nearly double its size: it will go from its current five agents to a total of nine, which will turn it into one of the agencies with the largest budget and most personnel after the DEA.

Meanwhile, the DEA, through the Narcotics Affairs office, will be one of the most strengthened agencies in terms of an increase in personnel. It will have nine officials in areas such as drug interdiction and border security.

In reference to drug interdiction, according to contract PSC-09-011-INL, last January the embassy hired an adviser who will help the Mexican government devise its strategy for interdicting drugs sent from South America to Mexico or from Mexico to the United States.

"S/he will provide assistance and support in the implementation of the interdiction projects (...) S/he will help in the implementation of projects designed to improve the Mexican government's interdiction operations and will serve as a link between federal, state, and municipal authorities to counsel in regards to activities that encourage drug interdiction, institution-building, better training, and support to special programs."

Regarding border security, Washington sent out contract PSC-09-021-INL to recruit a Deputy Coordinator for Border Security, whose job will be to work with Cisen [the Mexican intelligence agency], Immigration, the Attorney General's Office, Hacienda [the tax office], the Public Security Ministry, Foreign Relations, and the Navy in projects that will improve border security.

The contracts PSC-09-010-INL and PSC-09-019-INL were offered to two specialists in training Mexican police and military personnel, particularly police, inspectors, judges, and prosecutors.

The consultant will "conduct an analysis of Mexican law enforcement institutions and in consultation with NAS management, the Country Team and the GOM develop a short, medium and long-term training strategy for the Mexican law enforcement and judicial sectors, specifically police recruits, investigators, prosecutors, and judges."

Translator's note: The job descriptions quoted above were translated from English to Spanish in the original Milenio article. Not all of the job descriptions were available to include exact quotations from the English job descriptions. Some of the job descriptions were translated from English to Spanish and back to English again.

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