Senior members of the Biden administration will meet with their Mexican counterparts in Mexico City Friday to discuss overhauling an existing security arrangement between the two nations.
U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken will lead high-level security discussions between the two nations.
“The United States and Mexico recognize the need to adapt our bilateral security cooperation to address the concerns and priorities of both governments,” senior administration officials told reporters during a call on Thursday. “Our security challenges are shared and so is the responsibility for resolving them.”
The focus of these talk will be over the multi-billion dollar Merida Initiative–a deal struck under the Obama administration in 2008.
These talks come as the U.S. and Mexico are dealing with an ongoing surge at their shared border thanks to migrants coming from further south in Latin America and most recently, Haiti.
The Merida Initiative sought to fight back against drug trafficking, cartels, and violence on both sides of the border. But, violence and murder rates in Mexico have only gone up in recent years.
Since 2006, crime-related violence has resulted in an estimated 150,000 deaths. By 2016, drug-related homicides had increased by 22 percent, according to the Council on Foreign Relations.
With that in mind, both U.S. and Mexican officials say it’s time to hash out a new security deal.
“After 13 years of the Merida Initiative, we’re really due for an updated look at bilateral security cooperation across the full range of issues and concerns for our governments and our peoples,” an administration official said.
Mexican Foreign Minister Marcelo Ebrard told reporters this week: “In matters of security, there has to be a new chapter.”
What is the Merida Initiative?
The Merida Initiative, through programs, training, and funding, sought to boost efforts to stop the flow of weapons, money, and drugs across the U.S.-Mexico border.
Both nations attempted to strengthen and modernize border security to curtail the illicit business and illegal migration. The programs offered by the Initiative also helped train Mexican law enforcement agencies and provided training and assistance to the offices of the country’s state attorneys general.
Despite this, the narcotics trade, violence, and border issues are still problems both nations are dealing with 13 years on.
One Biden administration official told reporters: “But that was – even that breadth of activities is much, more narrow than the things we’re looking at in the U.S.-Mexico Bicentennial Framework for Security, Public Health, and Safe Communities, and expanding to that broader area is what we’re doing now, is building on the work that we have done in the past and bringing it into a modern era to deal with the realities that we face.”
Details of what this new security agreement may look like are vague ahead of the meeting Friday.
The new security cooperation has a lengthy name though: the U.S.-Mexico Bicentennial Framework for Security, Public Health, and Safe Communities.
Administration officials during the call with reporters Thursday said the new plan will “make clear the commitment of both countries, of course, especially the United States in this regard to work, to deal with the flow of arms into Mexico.”