Congressman Sires Remarks at Subcommittee Hearing on “Strengthening Security and Rule of Law in 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 remarks at the subcommittee hearing on strengthening U.S. security assistance to Mexico:
“I have been sickened to watch in recent months as Mexico has experienced one violent incident after another. In October, the Sinaloa cartel took control of the city of Culiacan, shooting people dead, striking terror into the population, and ultimately forcing the release of El Chapo’s son, Ovidio Guzmán. That same week, thirteen police officers were ambushed and viciously murdered by cartel members in Michoacán. In November, a group of American citizens were attacked on their way to a wedding in Chihuahua. Nine people were brutally killed, including six children.
Unfortunately, these cases are just the tip of the iceberg. Mexico’s homicide rate has increased by thirty percent over the last three years, reaching its highest level in decades.
Meanwhile, targeted attacks against journalists, human rights defenders, and local public officials have continued. During just one week in August, three journalists were killed.
Murders of journalists and human rights defenders, like most homicides in Mexico, are rarely solved. In fact, the majority of crimes are never even reported due to citizens’ lack of faith in their justice system.
I have long been a proponent of U.S. assistance to Mexico to help 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 address issues within our own country that are helping to fuel cartel violence. For instance, the U.S. must enact much stricter gun laws in order to combat arms trafficking into Mexico. We should also dedicate further resources to stop money laundering by the cartels. And we need to take action to reduce U.S. demand for illegal drugs, including fentanyl and other opioids.
In 2018, three colleagues and I requested that the Government Accountability Office review the effectiveness of our assistance under the Merida Initiative. Since 2008, the United States Congress has appropriated three billion dollars through the Merida Initiative. As members of Congress, we need to be willing to look critically at which programs are working and which are not.
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 and a subsequent hearing with administration officials in February will help us develop a clearer sense of what next steps we should take. I look forward to working with my colleagues on a bipartisan basis to explore solutions to these difficult challenges.”