Congressman Sires Remarks at Subcommittee Hearing on “Assessing U.S. Security Assistance to Mexico”
(Washington, D.C.) – Today, Congressman Albio Sires (D-NJ), Chairman of the Subcommittee on the Western Hemisphere, Civilian Security, and Trade, delivered the following opening remarks at the subcommittee hearing he convened on U.S. Security Assistance to Mexico:
“In reading the news over the last few weeks, the shocking headlines from Mexico have been impossible to escape. Last week, I saw that kids as young as six years old are arming themselves to defend their families in a rural part of Guerrero state. As cartels have sought to assert control over the area, the murder rate has doubled, and the community has nearly shut down. Kids who should be in school learning math and science are instead learning how to fire shotguns and ambush armored vehicles. As a former teacher, I believe that nothing is more sacred than the investment we make in our children’s future. It broke my heart to think that these kids are being deprived of their right to learn and grow, free from violence and fear.
We know that what is happening in Guerrero is just a microcosm of the broader trends we are seeing across Mexico. Mexico’s homicide rate has reached its highest level in decades. Targeted attacks against journalists, human rights defenders, and local public officials have continued at rates higher than almost anywhere in the world. A recent report from the International Federation for Journalists found that Mexico is the deadliest country in the world for journalists. Of the 49 journalist killings it documented in 2019, ten were in Mexico. Most journalist murders, like most homicides in Mexico, are never solved.
I have long advocated for robust U.S. assistance to help Mexico strengthen its democratic institutions, combat corruption, defend human rights, and improve security. I believe that Mexico and the United States have a shared responsibility to reduce violent crime and improve quality of life for those living on both sides of our border. The United States Government must enact stricter gun laws, dedicate more resources to combating money laundering by the cartels, and increase investment in programs to reduce domestic demand for illegal drugs.
But we also expect a sincere commitment on the Mexican side to reducing this violence. I appreciate the effort that Mexico’s security forces are making, but they are being outgunned by these brazen and well-resourced cartels. A Mexican civil society organization called “Common Cause” released a report this week showing that 953 police officers have been murdered in Mexico in just the past two years. I admire those courageous individuals who are putting their lives on the line. But it’s clear that sustained political commitment is needed to address the underlying problems of impunity and corruption, which are perpetuating the violence in Mexico.
Now is the time for the U.S. Government to look critically at our assistance programs to determine what is working and what is not. I am eager to hear from the State Department and USAID about our strategy and how Congress can measure tangible progress under the Merida Initiative. I sincerely hope that the Trump Administration is prioritizing security in our engagement with Mexico, rather than pressuring Mexico to use its National Guard to prevent desperate people from migrating.
I know that many of my colleagues share my frustration that we have not made more progress under the Merida Initiative. I hope that this hearing will help us develop a clearer sense of what next steps we should take. I look forward to working with my colleagues and with the executive branch on a bipartisan basis to explore solutions to these difficult challenges.”