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Five Key Points to Understanding the Merida Initiative:
March 22, 2021

  • The Merida Initiative, funded through the State Department and USAID’s foreign assistance, has evolved over time to reflect U.S. and Mexican joint strategic priorities.  Announced in 2007, U.S. bilateral assistance initially focused on providing major equipment requested by the Mexican government, including air assets for the Mexican military and federal police.  Since 2011, the focus of Merida Initiative funding has been to support Mexico’s efforts to strengthen its law enforcement institutions, enhance criminal prosecutions and the rule of law, build public confidence in the justice sector, improve border security, promote greater respect for human rights, and prevent crime and violence.


  • The shared goal of the United States and Mexico is to support the capacity of a wide variety of Mexican security and justice sector institutions and personnel at the federal, state, and local levels to combat and prosecute transnational criminal organizations, to keep citizens and communities safe on both sides of the border. U.S. foreign assistance through the Merida Initiative comes in the form of equipment, training, and capacity-building programs – there are no direct funds transferred from or other budget support provided by the U.S. government to the Mexican government.


  • All projects are agreed upon by both the U.S. and Mexican governments. The Department of State then implements projects in close partnership with many U.S. government agencies and the relevant Mexican government counterparts.


  • Mexican government recipients include SEGOB, INM, PF, and state government security and justice agencies. The training and equipment supports actors and institutions across the chain of justice, including: police, investigators, information analysts, forensic laboratories and scientists, prosecutors and public defenders, corrections personnel, and customs and immigration agents.


  • The Merida Initiative does not direct joint military or law enforcement operations. The Merida Initiative program has never provided weapons or ammunition to Mexican military or police. The types of equipment provided under the Merida Initiative range from helicopters to the Federal Police in the early years of Merida, to X-ray scanning equipment at ports of entry, to protective equipment for the forces that dismantle clandestine drug labs, to IT equipment for courtrooms to ensure the implementation of the accusatorial criminal justice system.  Virtual firearms simulators have been donated to federal and state police academies to train cadets and in-service personnel on how to deescalate tense situations and only discharge their weapon when necessary to save lives.  All equipment provided is intended to enhance the Mexican government’s capacity to keep citizens safe and enhance the rule of law, which supports broader regional peace and prosperity.