Cuellar Meets With President Calderon in Mexico City
Congressional Leaders Meet with Mexican Government to Discuss Future of the Merida Initiative and Ongoing Border Security
Congressman Henry Cuellar (TX-28) returned late Wednesday from a senior congressional delegation visit to Mexico City for meetings with President Felipe Calderon and other high-ranking government officials to discuss the future of the Mérida Initiative, ongoing border security and the recent escalation in southern border violence along the Rio Grande. House Permanent Select Intelligence Committee Chairman Silvestre Reyes (D-TX) led the delegation visit with Congressman Cuellar and Senior House Appropriations Committee member Congressman Ed Pastor (D-AZ).Congressman Henry Cuellar (TX-28) returned late Wednesday from a senior congressional delegation visit to Mexico City for meetings with President Felipe Calderon and other high-ranking government officials to discuss the future of the Mérida Initiative, ongoing border security and the recent escalation in southern border violence along the Rio Grande. House Permanent Select Intelligence Committee Chairman Silvestre Reyes (D-TX) led the delegation visit with Congressman Cuellar and Senior House Appropriations Committee member Congressman Ed Pastor (D-AZ).
Congressman Cuellar, Chairman of the Subcommittee on Border, Maritime and Global Counterterrorism, plans to make official recommendations for the future of the $1.3 billion commitment to Mexico, known as the Mérida Initiative, during an April 15th meeting with State Department officials in Washington who are responsible for overseeing the program.
“During our meeting with President Calderon, we discussed the future of Mérida and what we can do in Washington to immediately move resources faster to Mexico,” said Congressman Cuellar. “Looking forward, we need to explore how we can establish longer-term assistance to Mexico through an expansion of Mérida. But first, we have to streamline what we have now.”
On the heels of the visit, Congressman Cuellar will hold an official congressional hearing in April to receive testimony from the State Department on the status of the Mérida program which began in 2007. The three year commitment is now in its final year and Cuellar believes Congress needs to discuss a longer-term strategy for handling drug-related violence and the future stability of Mexico.
It has been widely reported that of the estimated $830 million that Congress has appropriated for military equipment and training to Mexico through Mérida, an estimated $128 million worth of equipment has been received. On March 23, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton announced a new strategic vision to streamline Mérida’s future centered on building more resilient communities by strengthening institutions, law enforcement, judicial systems and updating border technology to 21st century standards.
“The consensus between the United States and Mexico is that we need a forward-thinking strategy built on more interoperability between our law enforcement and more direct investments in stabilizing local Mexican communities,” said Congressman Cuellar. “President Calderon said we’ll begin to see a similar initiative unfold in Ciudad Juarez that is centered on strengthening rule of law and expanding investments in social and economic infrastructure.”
Congressman Cuellar has long advocated for more legitimate trade and commerce investments in the nations’ land ports as a way to create more economic strength in Mexico.
In 2009, he authored legislation calling for the creation of a high-level U.S. Mexico Commission that would streamline law enforcement initiatives between the two nations and increase interoperability between information-gathering agencies. President Obama signed his legislation into law last year.
During this visit, Congressman Cuellar and Mexican officials also discussed the political situation in Mexico and the upcoming 2012 elections following the end of President Calderon’s term. The President of Mexico serves one six-year term in office and is not eligible for reelection. The next presidential election in Mexico is scheduled for July 1, 2012.
“Our mutual security relies on political stability in Mexico,” said Congressman Cuellar. “This is why we have to consider how we can create institutional stability in Mexico between now and 2012 to ensure a smooth political transition in the future. It’s time to plan ahead.”
Moving forward, Congressmen Cuellar, Reyes and Pastor will continue to make recommendations to Congress regarding Mexico and the Mérida Initiative program, in addition to matters related to ongoing southern border security.