Workers World | Mar 6, 2011
The Merida Initiative
Is ‘another Egypt’ brewing in Mexico?
By Teresa Gutierrez
In part one, Gutierrez explained how U.S. imperialism has seized on the “war on drugs” to intervene in Mexico, but its real target is the huge mass movement that is building against intolerable conditions there.
To justify intervention, the U.S. government went all out to characterize Mexico in terms similar to those used in its war on Iraq.
U.S. propaganda has gone from referring to Mexico as a “close ally” to it being a “failed state,” “narco-haven” and “threat to national security.” Mexican workers forced to come to the U.S. as a result of NAFTA, the “free trade” agreement with the U.S. that bankrupted local producers, are lumped together as “potential terrorists.”
These phrases are used to justify the militarization of Mexico and the southern U.S. border. This began in earnest with the implementation of Plan México — now called the Merida Initiative.
The State Department website says the Merida Initiative is a multiyear program that “demonstrates the United States’ commitment to work in partnership with governments in Mexico” as well as Central America, the Dominican Republic and Haiti “to confront criminal organizations whose illicit actions ... erode the rule of law and threaten the national security of the United States. It provide(s) equipment and training in support of law enforcement.”
The Merida Initiative goes back to NAFTA, specifically the “Security and Prosperity Partnership” set up under the Bush administration. Just like Plan Colombia, it is the armed wing of U.S. economic policies.
The New York Times wrote on Feb. 1 that the Obama administration “will face renewed scrutiny to account for the $1.4 billion, multiyear Merida Initiative.”
Clearly the $1.4 billion spent on the Merida Initiative — money squeezed out of the people of the U.S. — has been used against the Mexican people. It has gone to protect the drug industry, not stop it.
More than 45,000 Mexican troops have been deployed into the communities. Human rights groups call this repressive trend the “criminalization of protest.” More tham 35,000 people have been killed in the drug war, many of them innocent bystanders or low-level runners, desperate for an income. There have been beheadings and killings as part of the drug cartels’ infighting. People in the resistance and struggle for change have also been targeted.
As an example of Mexican government complicity, one of the main leaders of the Sinaloa drug cartel was allowed cell phone use while in a maximum security prison. He also got the best food available and visits from women and others. No other prisoners got this royal treatment.
Suspiciously, this drug runner escaped the high-security prison. Activists and journalists in Mexico say he was allowed to escape because a sector of the Mexican government is in an unholy alliance with one of the drug cartels, resulting in assassinations against government officials for taking sides.
An academic from the University of Guadalajara writes that the drug activity in Mexico generates a whopping $20 billion annually and employs half a million people. This enormous sum of money amounts to an ocean of blood to a ravenous insatiable vampire. There is absolutely no way that the U.S. banks that launder this incredible amount of money or the corrupt customs agencies that reap its benefits will stop the flow of drugs into the U.S.
The U.S. and Mexican war on drugs is really a war on the people. Leaders of the workers, peasants and Indigenous movement are framed on drug charges. People in Chihuahua who were picked up under guidelines of the Merida Initiative on three-year-old warrants were charged not with drugs but with organizing anti-NAFTA protests!
An area in Mexico where the violence has been especially brutal is Ciudad Juarez.
On Jan. 31, U.S. Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano went to El Paso, Texas, just across the border from Ciudad Juarez. That same weekend the movement held an event commemorating the massacres of 18 young people in Juarez a year earlier.
Napolitano mentioned not a word of those killings nor of the more than 400 women workers, mainly employed in the “free trade zone” plants called maquiladoras, who have disappeared or been savagely beaten to death in the area.
Instead, she praised the Mexican government for its war on drugs and extended the U.S. government’s backing.
But no amount of praise or endless funding for repression will be able to stop the tide of resistance in Mexico. Even in the epicenter of violence, Ciudad Juarez, the people are organizing. A slogan in Mexico declares: “No nos rendimos, no nos callamos, no los olvidamos” (We will not give up, we will not shut up, we will not forget).