Latin American Program in the News: U.S. officials await signal from new Mexican government on security ties

Dallas News

Apr 29, 2013

In its scope and goals, the Mérida Initiative is often compared to the North American Free Trade Agreement, which changed the economic relationship between the two countries, leading to $500 billion in annual U.S.-Mexico trade. Security matters, however, pose a more delicate question. Some Mexican law enforcement officials have expressed concern that over the years U.S. intelligence officials have become too comfortable on Mexican soil.

The Peña Nieto administration has publicly stated that it is reviewing and revamping federal agencies. For instance, it dismantled the Ministry of Public Security and brought the federal police under the control of the Interior Ministry. Administration officials have stressed their commitment to deepening cooperation with the U.S.

But Eric Olson, a longtime security expert at the Washington-based Woodrow Wilson Center’s Mexico Institute, said the waiting game has U.S. officials increasingly antsy about future cooperation. Some Obama administration officials have sought to reassure the Mexican government by expressing support for Peña Nieto’s narrative for Mexico, which highlights the country’s economic development over security problems.

“Nevertheless, there is also a growing sense that the Peña Nieto government is not simply reviewing the security relationship with the U.S., but looking to give it new form and substance,” Olson said. “What that new form and substance will be is not entirely clear yet and becomes increasingly worrisome for the U.S. with each passing day. My hunch is that this will be very much on the agenda behind closed doors when both presidents meet.”

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