Mexico president says no to US security plan

Mexico City (AFP) –


Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador said Tuesday he wants the United States to end a security assistance program called the Merida Initiative and instead invest in economic development in Mexico and Central America.

Launched in 2008, the Merida Initiative aims to combat drug trafficking with US military equipment, technical support and training for security forces in Mexico and Central America, which have received more than $3 billion in aid under the plan.

Lopez Obrador, an anti-establishment leftist elected last year, said he would rather the United States invest in development projects in the region, which he says would help counter not only drug trafficking but also the flow of migrants to the US.

"We want the Merida Initiative to be completely reoriented, because it hasn't worked. We don't want cooperation on the use of force, we want cooperation on economic development. We don't want the so-called Merida Initiative," Lopez Obrador told a press conference.

"The proposal we're making is a development plan for southeastern Mexico and Central America. We want investment dedicated to productive activities and job creation. We don't want attack helicopters."

Asked whether US officials were likely to accept his plan, Lopez Obrador said: "We're making progress on that."

His comments came after his public security minister, Alfonso Durazo, suggested that Merida Initiative funds could be redirected to help finance Mexico's new National Guard -- a civil-military force that is Lopez Obrador's answer to fighting the drug trafficking and violent crime that plagues the country.

The president has said he does not want help from the United States setting up the new force, which is expected to have 150,000 members by the end of his term in 2024.

"The (Mexican) army is capable, it has training academies," he said.