Merida Initiative funds mired in red tape: GAO report
On July 21, Rep. Eliot Engel (D-NY), chair of the House Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on the Western Hemisphere, released a report he commissioned from the Government Accountability Office (GAO) on the Merida Initiative. Western Hemisphere Subcommittee ranking member Connie Mack (R-FL) joined Engel's request for the report, which argues that current evaluation mechanisms for the Merida Initiative need improvement. The report also finds that Merida funding funding has been mired in bureaucratic hurdles, but is now moving to Mexico and Central America at a much more rapid pace.
Said Engel: "Nearly three years and $1.6 billion after the announcement of the Merida Initiative, our counternarcotics assistance to Mexico and Central America lacks fundamental measurements of success. While I strongly support our efforts to combat narco-violence in Mexico and Central America, our long history of counternarcotics spending in the Western Hemisphere demands that we better define our goals."
In December, the GAO issued a report on the slow speed of Merida Initiative assistance. In the news study, the GAO notes that the Obama administration has picked up the pace significantly. Added Engel: "I commend President Obama and Secretary Clinton for cutting through our government’s red tape to get the Merida Initiative moving. We must continue to expedite Merida assistance to Mexico and Central America." (Eliot Engel press release, July 21 via )
Engel's applause was echoed by Adam Isacson, senior associate at the Washington Office on Latin America (WOLA), a human rights and research group. "When you consider the urgency with which politicians talk about violence in Mexico and the threat it poses to us, to have only delivered 9% after two years is pretty remarkable," Isacson said. (Bloomberg, July 22)
Car bomb in Ciudad Juárez
The report comes after Mexico suffered its first car bomb attack in the fast-escalating cartel wars, leaving four dead in Ciudad Juárez on July 16. The blast targeted a federal police outpost. Two officers and two medics answering an emergency were killed. Authorities said the attack was retaliation for the arrest this week of a leader of "La Linea" faction of the Juárez Cartel. (LAT, July 17; BBC News, July 16)