US Study Finds Serious Lag in Anti-Drug Aid

A government study has found that Washington has been far behind in implementing the Merida Initiative, a USD 1.3 billion anti-drug security aid appropriated for Mexico.

The General Accounting Office, the investigative arm of Congress, said in a Thursday report that the US had spent only USD 26 million — a mere 2 percent — of what was originally guaranteed to help Mexico fight drug cartels.

“Few programs have been delivered and limited funding has been expended to date,” GAO investigators said, according to the Washington Post.

They noted that State Department officials “could not tell us when they planned to deliver the majority of Merida goods and services.”

According to the report, the delays stem from congressional restrictions as well as a lengthy process of preparing US and Mexican agencies for bilateral assistance.

Based on the Merida Initiative signed by former US president George W. Bush and Mexican leader Felipe Calderon in 2007, the US is obliged to provide its southern neighbor with Black Hawk helicopters, night-vision goggles and drug-sniffing dogs as well as a more robust anti-drug partnership with Mexico.

Meanwhile, the new US ambassador to Mexico, Carlos Pascual, moved to refute the report by saying that it creates a “misimpression.”

He claimed the US has actually spent USD 222 million. “Due to the idiosyncrasies of federal reporting and contracting,” many up-and-running programs have not yet shown up on the books as money “spent,” he said.

During the past three years, more than 15,000 Mexicans have died as the country has involved in a bloody war against drug cartels to stop the massive flow of illicit drugs to the US.

– Article from Press TV on December 4, 2009.