DoD to Increase Counter-Narcotics Support for Mexico 17-Fold Despite Mexican Security Forces Committing Unlawful Killings

By Edwin Mora | April 13, 2011 | 5:21 PM EDT

A protest against the continuing tide of drug-related killings brings a crowd to the streets of Mexico City on Wednesday, April 6, 2011. (AP Photo/Alexandre Meneghini)

Washington ( - The Department of Defense (DoD) will increase its counter-narcotics support to Mexico by 17-fold from funding levels of $3 million per year before 2009 to $51 million in fiscal year 2011, according to a top Pentagon official.

DoD will use the funds for “training, equipment, and information sharing as well as indirect support to units of the Mexican armed forces with counter-narco terrorism missions,” William Wechsler, deputy assistant secretary of defense for counter-narcotics and global threats, stated in remarks prepared for the Senate Armed Services Emerging Threats and Capabilities Subcommittee.

The Pentagon will increase its monetary support to Mexico’s security forces engaged in that country’s drug war despite the recent State Department human rights practices report stating that Mexico’s security forces were involved in unlawful killings and corruption.

The Mexican military has assumed the leading role in Mexican President Felipe Calderón's efforts against drug cartels that began in December 2006. More than 35,000 people have died in Mexico’s drug war since the crackdown began.

Mexico’s “security forces, acting both within and outside the line of duty, killed several persons, including minors” in 2010, revealed the State Department in its 40-page report on Mexico, which was released on April 8 along with reports on other countries.

Last year, the report noted, the Mexican “government continued to deploy as many as 45,000 military troops dedicated to counternarcotics activities to assist civilian law enforcement authorities.”

The report also highlighted that “in several cases of reported disappearances, security forces had detained the missing persons incommunicado for several days.”

Furthermore, the report stated that “corruption at the most basic level involved paying bribes for routine services or in lieu of fines to administrative officials and security forces.”

Nevertheless, Wechsler testified yesterday [April 12] that DoD will allocate “over $50 million” in counter-narcotics support for Mexico in fiscal 2011, which will run from Oct. 1, 2011 to Sept. 30, 2012.

In his prepared remarks, Wechsler indicated that the “approximately $51 million” that DoD will allocate in counter-narcotics support to Mexico will mark a 17-fold increase from the funding levels prior to 2009 of $3 million per year.

“Mexico continues to confront escalating drug fueled violence particularly along its northern border with the United States,” the top Pentagon official told senators, adding in his prepared remarks that “gunmen associated with drug trafficking organizations routinely carry out sophisticated attacks against Mexican law enforcement and military personnel.”

“When I entered office we were spending very close to zero in this [counter-narcotics] area and now we are allocating over $50 million dollars every year in this area,” he later added while testifying. “I would consider this to be one of those emerging issues.”

Under the subtitle “emerging threats” found in his prepared remarks, Wechsler went into more detail about the amount of money that has been allocated for this effort in the past and how the funds will be spent.

DoD’s counternarcotics support to Mexico “includes training, equipment, and information sharing as well as indirect support to units of the Mexican armed forces with counter-narco terrorism missions,” the Pentagon official stated.

The Defense Department is working “to develop a joint security effort in the border region of Mexico, Guatemala, and Belize,” he continued. “Most of DoD’s cooperation with Mexico falls under the Department’s counternarcotics program, and we expect to allocate approximately $51 million in FY2011 to support Mexico.”

“This allocation is a dramatic increase from previous funding levels for Mexico,” he further stated. “Before 2009, for example, funding for Mexico was closer to $3 million a year.”

The money that DoD will allocate to support Mexico’s war on drugs is separate from the funds appropriated under the State Department’s Mérida Initiative launched in late 2007, which refers to a $1.6 billion multi-year program aimed at supporting law enforcement activities by providing training and equipment.

Of those funds, 80 percent will go to Mexico. A January 2011 report issued by the Congressional Research Service (CRS) revealed that with the FY2010 supplemental appropriations, “Total U.S. assistance to Mexico under Mérida reached roughly $1.5 billion.”

“Another $500 million worth of equipment and training are to be provided in 2011,” the report added.

Last year, the State Department for the first time since the inception of the Mérida Initiative withheld funds over human right abuses by Mexico’s military in its war against drug cartels, cutting $26 million from the $175 million aid payment for Mexico that year.

According to a July 2010 report by the Government Accountability Office (GAO), DoD counter-narcotics funding to Mexico was approximately “$34.2 million in fiscal year 2009, and $34.5 million in fiscal year 2010.”

DHS Secretary Janet Napolitano has repeatedly said to the American people on numerous times that the southwest border is more secure than ever. Meanwhile, DOD is planning to increase its monetary support for Mexico’s war on drugs.