Monday, 09 June 2008

Bush Plan Rewards Corruption, Shorts Border Protection

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President BushIn March 2007, President Bush joined Mexico’s President Calderon in Merida, Mexico, for a three-day visit aimed at advancing the economic and political convergence agenda of the North American Security and Prosperity Partnership (SPP). In October, President Bush announced his “Merida Initiative,” a scheme to give $1.4 billion in aid to Mexico’s police and military over three years, ostensibly to fight Mexico’s notorious drug cartels.

The Merida package also proposed a $50 million aid package for Central America for similar purposes. The administration attached the Merida funding to a larger funding measure for the Iraq War and veterans benefits. On May 15, the Democrat-controlled U.S. House of Representatives voted 256-166 to approve the Bush plan, but reduced the 2008 total from the $500 million proposed by the White House to $400 million, and transferred some of the funds from the Mexican military to the Mexican judiciary and other institutions.

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The Senate, which has its own version of the Merida plan, is expected to vote on the legislation before the end of May. The House and Senate versions will then have to be reconciled. However, the Merida scheme has proceeded thus far with very little media attention and little public awareness. With immigration and border security again assuming central importance in the election cycle, the plan could run into serious problems if voters become aware. Some key points that may sink Merida: