Ten years after the Mexican government launched an aggressive, military-led campaign against drug trafficking and organized crime, violent crime continues to threaten citizen security and governance in parts of Mexico, including in cities along the U.S. Southwest border. Organized crime-related violence in Mexico declined from 2011 to 2014 but rose in 2015 and again in 2016. Analysts estimate that the violence may have claimed more than 100,000 lives since December 2006. Social protests in Mexico against education reform and gas price increases have also resulted in deadly violence. High-profile cases—particularly the enforced disappearance and murder of 43 students in Guerrero, Mexico, in September 2014—have drawn attention to the problem of human rights abuses involving security forces. Cases of corruption by former governors, some of whom have fled Mexico, also have increased concerns about impunity. Supporting Mexico’s efforts to reform its criminal justice system is widely regarded as crucial for combating criminality and better protecting citizen security in the country. U.S. support for those efforts has increased significantly as a result of the development and implementation of the Mérida Initiative, a bilateral partnership launched in 2007 for which Congress appropriated more than $2.6 billion from FY2008 to FY2016. U.S. assistance to Mexico focuses on (1) disrupting organized criminal groups, (2) institutionalizing the rule of law, (3) creating a 21st -century border, and (4) building strong and resilient communities. Newer areas of focus have involved bolstering security along Mexico’s southern border and addressing the production and trafficking of heroin.
U.S. intelligence has helped Mexico arrest top crime leaders, including Joaquín “El Chapo” Guzmán
As of November 2016, $1.6 billion of Mérida assistance had been delivered to Mexico. Inaugurated to a six-year term in December 2012, Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto has continued U.S.-Mexican security cooperation. U.S. intelligence has helped Mexico arrest top crime leaders, including Joaquín “El Chapo” Guzmán—the world’s most-wanted drug trafficker—in February 2014. Guzmán’s July 2015 prison escape was a major setback for bilateral efforts, but he was recaptured in 2016 and is scheduled to be extradited. The Peña Nieto government met a 2008 constitutional mandate to transition to an accusatorial justice system by June 2016 but has struggled to comply with international recommendations on preventing torture, enforced disappearances, and other human rights abuses. Mexico’s adoption of a national anticorruption system and its transition from a presidentially appointed attorney general’s office to a more independent prosecutor general’s office selected by the Mexican Senate have become the focus of efforts to combat corruption.