Congressman Paul Cook

Representing the 8th District of California
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Cook, Sires, McCaul, Castro Request GAO Review of Mérida Initiative

May 29, 2018
Press Release

Washington, D.C. – Rep. Paul Cook (R-CA-08), Chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee’s Subcommittee on the Western Hemisphere, Ranking Member Albio Sires (D-NJ-08), Rep. Michael McCaul (R-TX-10), Chairman of the House Committee on Homeland Security, and Rep. Joaquin Castro (D-TX-20) sent a letter to the Government Accountability Office urging a review of the Mérida Initiative as it has been more than a decade since the Initiative begun, and evidence from Congressional oversight efforts has demonstrated a need for an independent impact assessment to ensure the Mérida Initiative is meeting U.S. objectives.

In the letter Cook, Sires, McCaul, and Castro say, “In 2017, Mexico recorded more than 29,000 homicides, making it the most violent year on record. This violence stems, in part, from transnational criminal organizations (TCOs) operating in Mexico and their use of armed groups. These TCOs have also engaged in theft of oil pipelines, money laundering, and trafficking people, arms, and drugs, which has contributed to our country’s opioid epidemic through heroin and fentanyl trafficked into Mexico from China. In 2008, the U.S. and Mexico launched the Mérida Initiative, a partnership between both countries to counter the threats from Mexican drug cartels. While we strongly support the Mérida partnership between the U.S. and Mexico, we believe that this Initiative requires continued vigilance to achieve maximum effectiveness.”

Full text of the letter is available below or here:

May 25, 2018

The Honorable Gene L. Dodaro
Comptroller General of the U.S.
U.S. Government Accountability Office
441 G Street, NW
Washington, DC 20548

Dear. Mr. Dodaro:

            In 2017, Mexico recorded more than 29,000 homicides, making it the most violent year on record. This violence stems, in part, from transnational criminal organizations (TCOs) operating in Mexico and their use of armed groups. These TCOs have also engaged in theft of oil pipelines, money laundering, and trafficking people, arms, and drugs, which has contributed to our country’s opioid epidemic through heroin and fentanyl trafficked into Mexico from China. Given these developments, Congress has a key interest to ensure that all U.S. efforts dedicated to combatting violence and drug trafficking in Mexico are effective, and we would like to request that the U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) conduct a review of the Mérida Initiative.

In 2008, the U.S. and Mexico launched the Mérida Initiative, a partnership between both countries to counter the threats from Mexican drug cartels. Over the last decade, Congress has appropriated $2.9 billion in security assistance to Mexico to support this Initiative. U.S. assistance has provided Mexico’s state and federal security forces with technical support and equipment to support Mexico’s justice system, professionalize the courts, and reduce corruption. As a result, the U.S. and Mexico have strengthened cooperation, which has led to increased extraditions from Mexico and the establishment of new national training standards for police, investigators, prosecutors, and judges in Mexico and the implementation of an accusatorial justice system at the federal and state level. Mexico has also led efforts to seize more than $4 billion in illicit drugs and currency and apprehend more than 400,000 Central American migrants.

Yet, continued violence, government corruption and low conviction rates, human rights abuses, and increasing drug production and trafficking in and through Mexico remain challenges. While we strongly support the Mérida partnership between the U.S. and Mexico, we believe that this Initiative requires continued vigilance to achieve maximum effectiveness. Evidence from Congressional oversight efforts has also demonstrated a need for an independent impact assessment to ensure that the Mérida Initiative is meeting U.S. objectives. As it has been more than a decade since this Initiative began, we believe that a review of this program is timely. We ask that the GAO review of the Mérida Initiative include the following:

1.       Examine the extent to which the Mérida Initiative is meeting its stated objectives under each of its four pillars to disrupt the capacity of organized crime to operate, institutionalize capacity to sustain the rule of law, create a 21st century border structure, and to build strong and resilient communities and any changes that have been instituted to these objectives since the program’s creation in 2008;

2.       Assess the efficiency of the interagency process and information-sharing between the U.S. Departments of State, Defense, Justice, Homeland Security, and USAID related to the Mérida Initiative and U.S. interaction with relevant Mexican government ministries, in the design, implementation, and tracking of projects implemented with Mérida funding;

3.       Assess the process that each of the relevant U.S. government agencies uses to evaluate and measure the results and outcomes of projects implemented under the Mérida Initiative;

4.       Examine the wider effect that the Mérida Initiative has had on countering Mexican drug cartels, impacting the security situation in Mexico, including improving human rights and the country’s rule of law and justice systems, and resulting in changes to the flow of drugs from Mexico to the U.S.;

5.       Provide a breakdown of U.S. vs. Mexican contributions to the Mérida Initiative;

6.       Assess the impact of the Mérida Initiative and related efforts in combating illicit activities, including thefts of oil pipelines, money laundering, and trafficking people, arms, and drugs;

7.       Provide recommendations on ways to improve the Mérida Initiative’s implementation and effectiveness.

If you have any questions, please contact our staff, Rebecca Ulrich (Rep. Cook, 202-226-9980), Sadaf Khan (Rep. Sires, 202-225-7919), Brandon Batch (Rep. McCaul, 202-225-2401), or Sid Ravishankar (202-225-3236).

Sincerely,

Col. Paul Cook, Ret. (CA-08)
Chairman  
Subcommittee on the Western Hemisphere
House Committee on Foreign Affairs    
     
Albio Sires (NJ-08)
Ranking Member
Subcommittee on the Western Hemisphere
House Committee on Foreign Affairs

Michael McCaul (TX-10)
Chairman
House Committee on Homeland Security                                          

Joaquin Castro (TX-20)
Member of Congress

*NOTE: The Western Hemisphere Subcommittee held a hearing on transnational criminal organizations in the Western Hemisphere on May 23, 2018.