On a visit to Mexico City April 29, US Defense Secretary Robert Gates urged Congress to approve the pending $500 million anti-drug program for Mexico, telling reporters, “Failure to do so would be a real slap at Mexico and would be very disappointing and it clearly would make it more difficult for us to help Mexican armed forces and their civilian agencies deal with this difficult problem.”
President Bush proposed the three-year, $1.4 billion Merida Initiative (unofficially dubbed “Plan Mexico“) last October, and has put an initial $500 million segment for Mexico in the administration’s fiscal 2008 supplemental request for Iraq and Afghanistan war funding. Gates, only the second US defense chief ever to visit Mexico, said he hoped Congress would vote to approve the program by the end of May.
The initial segment, which also includes $50 million for Central America, would provide the Mexican armed forces with helicopters, surveillance planes and inspection equipment. Later segments would provide assistance to Mexican law enforcement and judicial agencies that US critics say are riven with corruption. (Reuters, April 29)
Gates’ visit comes as the Mexican government ordered more than 3,000 soldiers and federal police to Tijuana following a new escalation of violence in the border city. (Reuters, April 29)