Hemisphere Focus: A Farewell to Arms: Managing Cross-border Weapons Trafficking
September 9, 2008
On June 30, President George W. Bush signed into law a 2008 supplemental budget bill that included $465 million for a project called the Mérida Initiative: a multiyear billion dollar program aimed at combating the increasingly urgent threat of drug trafficking and related crime. The money will be used for equipment, training, and intelligence sharing, with the majority of the funds going to civil agencies responsible for law enforcement. President Bush has described the initiative as one of “shared responsibility.” More than simply another aid package, Mérida is recognition of the necessity for a multilateral approach to confront the transnational challenges that originate on both sides of the border. The escalating number of deaths due to drug-related violence has made the commitments in Mérida critically important. Fulfilling Mérida’s purpose, however, necessitates looking beyond headline violence. Supply and demand drive the hemisphere’s drug wars in an interchange that intimately involves not only the citizens of Latin America but those of the United States. Illicit trafficking pathways flow both ways across the border: While drugs move north, guns move south.