Latest Drug War News

GoodShop: You Shop...We Give!

Shop online at and a percentage of each purchase will be donated to our cause! More than 600 top stores are participating!

The Internet Our Website

Global and National Events Calendar

Bottoms Up: Guide to Grassroots Activism

Prisons and Poisons

November Coalition Projects

Get on the Soapbox! with Soap for Change

November Coalition: We Have Issues!

November Coalition Local Scenes

November Coalition Multimedia Archive

The Razor Wire
Bring Back Federal Parole!
November Coalition: Our House

Stories from Behind The WALL

November Coalition: Nora's Blog

November 15, 2007 - Los Angeles Times (CA)

House Panel Criticizes Latin America Anti-Drug Plan

Members Say That Bush's $1.4-Billion Merida Initiative Focusing on Mexico Would Spend Money Unwisely, That Supplies Could Be Misused, and That Congress Should Have Been Involved in Planning.

By Tina Marie Macias, Times Staff Writer

Return to Drug War News: Don't Miss Archive

WASHINGTON -- President Bush's proposal to send $1.4 billion worth of equipment to Mexico and six South American nations to combat drug cartels was met with hostility from members of a House committee that examined the plan for the first time Wednesday.

Although most agreed that an initiative to stop drug cartels was overdue, Bush's plan worried some members of the House Foreign Affairs Committee. They said they thought that more money should be spent to "curb the appetite" for drugs, feared that corrupt Mexican military and police would take and misuse equipment, and were angry that Congress had not been aware that such a plan was being considered.

"We first learned of the initiative from the media. For an administration which is not particularly noted for its bipartisanship, this cavalier disregard of congressional concern is deeply disturbing," said committee Chairman Tom Lantos (D-Burlingame).

Rep. David Scott (D-Ga.) said that by bypassing Congress' opinion, Bush was putting America's foreign relations in jeopardy.

"The Congress is not just a bank for the president to come to us for money. This kind of foreign policy is what put the U.S. in the position it's in worldwide," he said. "We're not just here to be a rubber stamp."

In October, after months of closed-door negotiations, Bush unveiled the Merida Initiative, named after the Mexican city where most of the negotiations were held. Mexico's Felipe Calderon has made the drug war the focus of his presidency, sending army troops to fight drug cartels that have killed 4,000 people in the last two years.

The initial $550 million for the plan is part of the administration's fiscal 2008 supplemental funding request for military spending in Iraq and Afghanistan. The first payment would allot $500 million to Mexico and spread $50 million among six South American countries.

The first payment would cover $208 million worth of helicopters for Mexico, and the rest would be used to train military personnel and provide equipment and technology.

The equipment would include a secure communications network, data management and forensic analysis tools, and information technology to improve migration databases and document verification, said David T. Johnson, assistant secretary of State for the Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs.

But many provisions of the plan were received skeptically by lawmakers from both major parties.

Twelve years ago, Lantos said, the U.S. gave 73 helicopters to Mexico. "They were used and did not work well, and we ended up with the Mexicans giving them back to us," he said.

Republicans focused on concerns about corruption.

"I read that two girls crossed the border for a concert and were kidnapped by the police and taken to the traffickers as a gift -- by the police," said Rep. Tom Tancredo (R-Colo.). "It's very worrisome for me that we're going to give them money and expect them to spend it correctly."

Rep. Ted Poe (R-Texas) displayed a photograph that he said showed traffickers dressed in Mexican military garb crossing the Rio Grande with AK-47s and "backpacks full of cocaine."

Most panel members agreed that more training was needed, but worried that many well-trained soldiers join drug traffickers' paramilitary groups, which pay more than the army, and use their knowledge of military secrets against Mexican forces. Equipment provided could also be stolen and used against Mexican police.

The Merida Initiative, a three-year aid program, is the largest aid plan to combat drug cartels in Latin America since Plan Colombia began seven years ago. That program has strengthened Colombia's judicial and police institutions, but has done little to halt the flow of cocaine.

U.S. officials estimate that drug traffickers transfer between $8 billion and $24 billion in profits from the U.S. to Mexico annually.

The legislators were split on how to approach the war on drugs, with some saying that attempts at the border had failed and that money should be spent on anti-drug programs. Others thought there had been success in recent years.

"The request comes at a unique time, when the transit zone efforts in Central America and Mexico are all starting to pay big dividends, particularly on the deadly cocaine front," said Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen of Florida, the committee's top Republican. She said the recent seizure in Mexico of more than 20 tons of cocaine, worth $2.7 billion, showed that "Mexico is serious about tackling this challenge."

For the latest drug war news, visit our friends and allies below

We are careful not to duplicate the efforts of other organizations, and as a grassroots coalition of prisoners and social reformers, our resources (time and money) are limited. The vast expertise and scope of the various drug reform organizations will enable you to stay informed on the ever-changing, many-faceted aspects of the movement. Our colleagues in reform also give the latest drug war news. Please check their websites often.

The Drug Policy Alliance
Drug Reform Coordination Network
Drug Sense and The Media Awareness Project

Working to end drug war injustice

Meet the People Behind The U.S. Sentencing Guidelines

Questions or problems? Contact