MEXICO CITY — For 11 years, the United States has tried to help Mexico fight narcotrafficking and other organized crime through a historic, $3 billion plan called the Mérida Initiative. Washington has sent helicopters, trained police and even helped redesign the justice system.
Now Mexico’s new president is saying: Basta.
Andrés Manuel López Obrador, who took office in December as Mexico’s first democratically elected leftist president, says he’d like to “reorient” the program away from crime-fighting and toward investment in social programs.
“It hasn’t worked,” he said this week in Mexico City. “We don’t want cooperation in the use of force, we want cooperation for development.”
The surprise announcement has injected a note of uncertainty into Mexico’s relations with the Trump administration. Until now, López Obrador has sought a cordial relationship with Washington, even as Trump has regularly bashed Mexico on immigration.
“This comes perilously close to upsetting the apple cart and really aggravating the United States,” said Eric Olson, a Latin America expert at the Seattle International Foundation, who has studied the Mérida program.
The U.S. Embassy downplayed López Obrador’s comments, noting in a statement that the initiative had evolved under different Mexican governments, and saying the Trump administration looked forward “to continued dialogue.”