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Drug War, Militarization, Violence and Human Rights Violations under the Peña Nieto Government

President Enrique Peña Nieto has continued the militarization of Mexican society that his predecessor began, increasing support to the armed forces for law enforcement to double 2007. Human rights violations including arbitrary detention, kidnapping, torture, and extra-judicial killings by security forces have continued. Even the U.S. Department of State’s 2013 Human Rights Report concludes: “Despite some arrests for corruption, widespread impunity for human rights abuses by officials remained a problem in both civilian and military jurisdictions.” Read More

Cover-up and Lie: The Peña Nieto Government’s Response to the Case of the 43 MIssing Students of the Ayotzinapa School

On September 26, six persons were assassinated and 43 students abducted by local police and forcibly disappeared in Iguala, Guerrero, a city of 110,000 located about 80 miles south of Mexico City. The case has sparked widespread demonstrations in Mexico and around the world calling for the safe return of the students, justice and the resignation of government officials involved, including President Enrique Peña Nieto. Read More

Peña Nieto’s Radical and Harmful Neoliberal Economic Agenda

Enrique Peña Nieto has centered his presidency on passing a series of neoliberal “reforms” – often criminalizing and repressing opposition in order to do so. This economic agenda involves significant structural law changes, introduced in late 2013, primarily in the areas of labor, energy, education, finance, and telecommunications. While celebrated by transnational business interests and international media, these “reforms” are opposed by a substantial majority of Mexican citizens. These laws favor economic and political elites at the expense of the Mexican people. Read More

Plan Mexico and the War on Drugs

The U.S. gives hundreds of millions of dollars to Mexico each year. The vast majority of this aid is funneled into the disastrous and failed war on drugs.

Plan Mexico (officially known as the Mérida Initiative) began as a three-year plan under the administration of George W. Bush in 2007 and was first funded by the U.S. Congress in 2008. Its stated goal is to support Mexico’s security forces, especially (but not exclusively) for counter-narcotics efforts, ostensibly aimed at disrupting the flow of drugs and dismantling drug trafficking organizations. President Barack Obama has extended Plan Mexico “indefinitely”.

Plan Mexico: The Facts

  • The Mérida Initiative has already cost U.S. taxpayers $2.4 billion dollars.
  • The Obama administration has requested another $115 million for Mérida in its FY2015 budget.
  • The Department of Defense has spent $214.7 million on the Mexican drug war just since 2011 (the years for which data are available).
  • Additional public funds for Mexico’s drug war come through the Department of Justice for extensive Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), and Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms (ATF) operations in Mexico.

The U.S. government has spent approximately $3 billion dollars since 2008 on the war on drugs in Mexico alone.

Between 2007 and 2012, the U.S. sold $4 billion in arms to Mexico as well.

What have been the results of Plan Mexico?

  1. More than 100,000 murdered in widespread drug war-related violence;
  2. More than 25,000 disappeared, hundreds of thousands forced to flee their homes, tens of thousands of orphans and incalculable psychological trauma;
  3. Numerous mass graves in Guerrero, Tamaulipas, Chihuahua and many other states – each with dozens, even hundreds of unidentified bodies;
  4. A dramatic increase in human rights violations committed by Mexican security forces, including thousands of documented cases of torture, disappearances and extrajudicial executions;
  5. A huge rise in violations of the rights and physical safety of transmigrants in the country; and an increase in violations of the rights of women and sexual crimes, including femicides.

These devastating consequences are typical of militarized drug war strategies like we have seen in Colombia and other countries – strategies that are not only ineffective at reducing drug use or diminishing drug supply, but are also proven to increase violence related to the drug trade.

The number of homicides, disappearances and displaced people related to the drug war has skyrocketed as a direct result of Plan Mexico. And the actual numbers are likely far higher than those figures reported by government and media sources, since more than 90 percent of crimes in Mexico go unreported, uninvestigated, unsolved and/or unpunished, and the complicity of security forces (who are often perpetrators of violence) has had a chilling effect on people coming forward to report crimes.

The billions of dollars in military aid also runs counter to U.S. law – which, under the Leahy Amendment, prohibits U.S. assistance “to any unit of the security forces of a foreign country if the Secretary of State has credible information that such unit has committed a gross violation of human rights.”

Plan Mexico Fuels the Political and Social Crisis in Mexico

In Mexico, the increase in violence and lawlessness that has accompanied the drug war has led to a political and social crisis. The case of the 43 college students from Ayotzinapa forcibly disappeared by police in Iguala, Guerrero was the breaking point. That crime comes on the heels of the killing of 22 youth in Tlatlaya, Mexico State, by an Army battalion, most of whom were apparently executed at close range after giving themselves up.

A group of mexican human rights organizations described the situation in an official report to the United Nations Special Rapporteur on Torture:

During the administration of Felipe Calderon, the total number of homicides per year tripled. According to the National Institute of Statistics, Geography and Information, 95,646 homicides were reported between 2007 and 2011, an annual average of 19,129 or more than fifty people a day. According to these figures, it increased by an annual average of 24%. The violence has grown in clear relationship to the militarization, leading to at least 100,000 people assassinated and more than 27,000 people disappeared, according to official figures. The indices of torture, false confessions, judicial errors and arbitrary arrests and displacement of at least 250,000 more people have shot up alarmingly in recent years. The war continues under the current administration, with more than 18,000 assassinations in its first year alone.

According to Amnesty International, allegations of torture by Mexican military and police forces increased by more than 600% between 2003 and 2013.

The number of army personnel occupied in public security tasks more than doubled during that same period, jumping from 45,850 in 2007 to 96,261 in 2011 (although it appears that that number may have been reduced in later years). The UN Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial executions has called for an immediate reduction in the use of armed forces.

Plan Mexico has NOT prevented drug use or stopped the flow of drugs into the U.S.

Despite billions of dollars in military aid, Plan Mexico has been an unmitigated failure. It has done nothing to stop the amount of drugs entering or being consumed in the U.S. According to the U.S. government’s own data:

Overall drug use has increased since the beginning of the Mérida Initiative. In 2007, when Plan Merida began, about 20 million people (or 8% of the population age 12 and older) reported using an illicit drug in the past month in the U.S.; by 2013 that number had increased to more than 24.5 million (9.4%).

Drugs are just as easily available on U.S. streets as before Plan Mérida. Policies aimed at reducing the supply of drugs – such as military aid packages like Plan Mexico – have failed for decades. A recent study published in the British Medical Journal found that, despite massive amounts of money spent by governments like the U.S. to reduce drug supply, most illegal drugs are cheaper, more potent and more widely available.

U.S. spending on illegal drugs has remained unchanged since Plan Mexico was launched. In other words, the size of the U.S. illegal drug market – valued at more than $100 billion dollars retail – has remained stable in spite of Plan Mexico.