Background Briefing En Route To Mexico City, Mexico

Special Briefing
Senior Administration Officials
En Route Mexico City, Mexico
March 23, 2010

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL ONE: In this climate, where we’re dealing with the actions of these cartels or – I love the way – the nomenclature of these sorts of things for – criminal organizations. And the concern, of course, is not only the escalation of the situation in Juarez, but also signs that if we don’t accelerate, improve, strengthen our collaborative work, that the situation in Northern Mexico is serious.

And so the fundamental point, however, is what I wanted to start out with. And that is that this is an indication of our strong commitment to Merida and to the renewal or to the recasting of what Merida was originally. Remember that when Merida was first put on the table, it addressed some of the concerns that the Mexicans had for increased capacity to deal with the criminal organizations, including hardware and equipment.

As the conversations with the Mexicans have evolved on this issue, we have been addressing a series of other elements, including ways in which we can better cooperate among our agencies on things like intelligence-gathering and other things like that. And at the same time, see how we can contribute to the strengthening of some of the Mexican institutions that need to be strengthened in order for them to address this issue. And this means, for example, working very significantly with the federal police, but also paying some attention to how the national institutions in Mexico – the federal police and others – work more effectively with local police and local organizations, looking at the importance of the judicial system, the rule of law, and various things like that.

So it’s going to be kind of an overview of the state of play between our two countries on these various dimensions. [Senior Administration Official Two] is actually going to speak so --

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL TWO: Yeah. Let me build off of that for a second. I think it’s to understand kind of the deliverable, and the focus today is to put this into context. This is the culmination of a process that began, quite frankly, before President Obama was President. He met with one foreign leader as president-elect. That was President Calderon of Mexico. They met in January – January 12th of 2009 – in Washington.

And then you had a series of visits by the officials who are traveling today to Mexico as a group, having come in over the course of time. The President obviously has been to Mexico twice to meet with President Calderon. Secretary Clinton has been to Mexico. And all along, there’s been a working process between the two governments across the whole of the United States Government and the whole of the Mexican Government to broaden the notion of what security cooperation means between our two countries.

And I think one of the things you see in the group that is going from the United States Government with agencies that are – of domestic agencies, if you will – the Department of Justice, obviously, which has a role through DEA and others internationally, Department of Homeland Security, the Office of the Director of National Drug Control Policy – those – what you will see here is a recognition both in fact and symbolically by the United States Government of the role that we have to play in the United States to support efforts against Mexican DTOs and their effects in the United States and in Mexico, and the need to coordinate across the whole of the Mexican Government.

And as the security cooperation with Mexico gets discussed today, it’s not strictly what has traditionally been the Merida Initiative, which started with an equipment and – an equipment piece – I mean, also a training piece. But you’re also expanding out the agenda to talk about the training, the institute – fostering institutions, also a modern conception of the border, recognizing it as something that needs to be secure but also fluid to enable competitiveness so you have secure flows across these borders of people and goods. And also looking at the socioeconomic aspects of being successful against the DTOs and undermining the fertile ground that these organizations find in societies where socioeconomic development is a key piece of moving forward.

So I think what you’ll see today is the culmination of a lot of work. There have been two working level, assistant secretary level meetings that led into this back last October and – October and November, first in Washington, then in Mexico City. There was a deputies-level meeting, a bilateral meeting that took place in January in Washington, D.C., all in preparation of this meeting, kind of this reaffirmation of this expanded cooperation and expanded partnership to deal with the challenges that DTOs pose to the United States and to Mexico, with an understanding, as the President has said, as all the secretaries who are traveling with us have said on a number of occasions – that for Mexico to be successful, we need to be a part of the answer. We recognize that. We need Mexico to be successful, and this is another step in the process of making sure that our efforts are coordinated across our government and throughout the Mexican Government.

And that’s why you’re getting the kind of high-level interagency presence in Mexico City today, in part, a symbol of what is going on day to day between our two governments. But also it’s good to get the principals from both sides together for them to have an opportunity to make sure we’re headed in the right direction, to make sure that we’re cooperating and coordinating to the fullest extent possible bilaterally, and using all aspects of the resources available to us on both sides of the border to effectively go after DTOs that affect both sides of the border.

PRN: 2010/T26-4