Following the brutal May 15 assassination of renowned Mexican journalist Javier Valdez — the sixth journalist slain in the country this year alone — United States aid to Mexico has come under fresh scrutiny.
While 114 killings of journalists have been recorded since 2000, only 48 have been investigated by the federal special prosecutor's office while 90 percent of crimes against journalists go unpunished. The targeted individuals usually devoted their efforts to the documentation of drug trafficking and political corruption.
As the Mexican people and press faced this dire humanitarian crisis, U.S. aid to Mexico consistently increased despite Washington's knowledge of complicity between the authorities and organized criminal gangs.
Since 2008, the U.S. government has distributed over US$2.6 billion to their Mexican counterparts under the auspices of the Merida Initiative for the purpose of militarizing the country and ostensibly combating organized crime, drug trafficking and money laundering. The aid came not only from the U.S. Department of State, but also from the Department of Justice and the Pentagon.
Social movements in Mexico and Central America saw the initiative as similar to the infamous Plan Colombia, allowing “U.S. imperialism to finance and purchase arms for national armies and police of the countries of the region, training the military and state security agencies while infiltrating their forces,” according to La Izquierda Diario, which noted that such militarization has resulted in hundreds of thousands killed, displaced and disappeared.
While the program was only meant to last three years, then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton drastically expanded the program, which primarily benefited the U.S. military-industrial complex in the form of contracts for surveillance aircraft, satellite systems, armed vehicles and Black Hawk helicopters. Weapons contractors alone reaped the profits of around a billion dollars per year in arms and equipment sales.
The United States insisted on the implementation of high-value targeting operations lifted from similar programs in Afghanistan, Iraq and other “counter-terror” theaters. The application of these tactics by corrupt local officials, however, resulted in certain cartel actors being killed or captured only to be replaced by other players in the vast system of cartels that lie extant across Mexico.
However, declassified and leaked correspondence from U.S. State Department officials working in the country, published by The Intercept on Thursday, prove that the United States was well aware of Mexican authorities' complicity in organized crime, as well as their role actively covering up rights abuses in the country.
U.S. Embassy officials reported in 2010 how cartels operated with “near total impunity” while facing no repercussions from “compromised local security forces” in the country's northeast, yet training and assistance continued unabated.
In Nuevo Leon, consular officials bluntly detailed local law enforcement agencies' complicity in the region's “gruesome violence” while the governor admitted that the security agencies had been largely taken over by the Zetas cartel. Even following the arrest of active-duty and former police who were providing protection and assistance to the cartels, the U.S. assistance never stopped.
U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency personnel likewise notified their superiors of the manner in which Mexican authorities sought to hide “the State's responsibility” in massacres that took place across the state of Tamaulipas in 2010 and 2011, while the State Department noted how local authorities sought to stymy investigations by splitting up victims' corpses “to make the total number less obvious and thus less alarming.”
Other reports have detailed how the Mexican Army have murdered innocents execution-style, physically abused and disappeared civilians. Turning a blind eye to the corrupt nature of the Mexican state, U.S. aid to compromised state security forces increased.
In the meantime, journalists and grief-stricken relatives of the victims have faced grisly murders and disappearances for their attempts to expose the role of Zetas and their state benefactors.
While the U.S. has noted the violence perpetrated against journalists, no attempt has been made to demand accountability from state actors or deploy investigators from bodies such as the United Nations or the Organization of American States.
Far be it from ensuring the human rights of the Mexican people, the U.S. State Department has primarily enabled their abuse at the hands of security forces through the provision of arms, training, logistical aid and expensive equipment, primarily to serve the economic and political interests of elites on both sides of the border.