AMLO wants US to shift Merida Initiative funds to development


The president of Mexico, Andrés Manuel Lopez Obrador, speaks during a morning press conference on May 7, 201, at the National Palace, in Mexico City, Mexico. EPA-EFE/Mario Guzmán

MEXICO CITY.- President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador said Tuesday that he asked the United States to change the focus of the Merida Initiative, a regional pact aimed at fighting drug trafficking and other forms of transnational organized crime, to development programs aimed at job creation and halting forced migration.

«We want to change the Merida Initiative completely, because it hasn’t worked. We don’t want aid for the use of force, we want it for development,» the president, popularly known as AMLO, said during his daily press conference at the National Palace.

The regional security cooperation pact was crafted by former US President George W. Bush’s administration in 2007 to help Mexico, Central America, Haiti and the Dominican Republic fight drug trafficking and other forms of transnational crime.

Since the launch of the Merida Initiative, the US has disbursed an estimated $3 billion in bilateral aid focused on strengthening security in Mexico and Central America.

«We want investment to be devoted to productive activities and job creation. We don’t want resources for military support,» AMLO said.

The president said he was in talks with the US on ending the Merida Initiative and recalled that the White House announced several weeks ago its intention to invest billions of dollars in southern Mexico and Central America.

Lopez Obrador, founder and leader of the leftist National Regeneration Movement (Morena), vowed that his government would not use US funding for Mexico’s National Guard, the new public safety force he is creating, contradicting information published by Milenio newspaper based on an interview with Public Safety Secretary Alfonso Durazo.

«We have a way to finance the National Guard without requiring these resources,» AMLO said.

The president said the UN Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC) has helped his government craft a comprehensive development plan for Mexico and Central America to stop the flow of migrants toward the US.
«ECLAC helped us create a development plan for the entire region. To address the migration flow we need to develop jobs and the economy in Mexico and Central America,» AMLO said.

The president met Tuesday with the Foreign Secretary Marcelo Ebrard to discuss the migration problem.

The northbound movement of Central American migrants has continued unabated since AMLO took office Dec 1 and thousands of travelers are waiting in southern Mexico to receive transit permits.

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