WASHINGTON, D.C. /eNewsChannels/ — The following statement is issued by the Governments of the United States and Mexico: As part of the broader strategic partnership between the United States and Mexico the Merida Initiative High-Level Consultative Group held its third meeting today, under the leadership of Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton and Secretary of Foreign Affairs Patricia Espinosa, to continue to deepen and make more effective our coordinated efforts against the common challenges posed by transnational criminal organizations and to strengthen our institutional and legal frameworks.

The criminality and violence associated with the actions of transnational criminal organizations continue to threaten the security and prosperity of both our nations, and therefore multi-faceted, cooperative efforts to combat and reduce that violence are a priority for both the U.S. and Mexican governments. Our strong partnership under the Merida Initiative, based on the principles of shared responsibility, mutual trust and respect for each country’s jurisdiction, is a fundamental component of our bilateral efforts. Our continued success will depend on ongoing, close cooperation.

To that end, the High-Level Consultative Group, comprised of cabinet secretaries from across each government engaged on these issues, focused its meeting on the four areas of cooperation identified by President Barack Obama and President Felipe Calderon in August 2009 in Guadalajara, Mexico and reaffirmed during President Calderon’s State Visit to Washington in May 2010:

I. Disrupting the capacity of criminal organizations that act in both countries by weakening their operational, logistical and financial capabilities.

II. Supporting efforts to strengthen public institutions responsible for combating organized crime, including the promotion of the full observance of rule of law, human rights, and active civil society participation.

III. Developing a secure and competitive border for the 21st century, that assures efficient and secure flows of legitimate commerce and travel while ensuring citizen safety and disrupting the illicit flow of drugs, weapons, bulk cash and other goods.

IV. Building strong and resilient communities in both countries by supporting efforts to address the root causes of crime and violence, especially concerning youth, promote the culture of lawfulness, reducing illicit drug use, encouraging a broader understanding of the links between drug use and crime and violence, and offering constructive, legal alternatives for the development of young people.

This approach builds upon the 2007 decision by the Governments of the United States and Mexico to enhance and expand bilateral cooperation to confront the multi-faceted threats posed by transnational organized crime and to launch the Merida Initiative.

The third meeting of the High-Level Consultative Group is committed to increased focus on institutional strengthening and capacity building and will take the following actions during the coming year:

Pillar I – Disrupting Organized Criminal Groups

* Intensify efforts to more effectively share and employ intelligence to weaken the capacities of transnational criminal organizations on both sides of our common border;
* Give greater priority to counter illicit financing efforts by identifying lead actors in each government (Departments of Treasury and Justice for the United States and the Attorney General’s office and the Secretariats of Finance and Public Security for Mexico), with a mandate to strengthen bilateral cooperation;
* Increase efforts to counter illicit weapon trafficking through strengthened national and bilateral actions, including the use of Spanish eTrace, reaffirming a shared commitment to investigative policies and practices dedicated to prevent illegal weapons from crossing our shared border and to deny transnational criminal organizations access to weapons.

Pillar II – Institutionalizing the Rule of Law

* Develop a joint program under the leadership of the Government of Mexico to strengthen state-level police in coordination with the relevant state and local authorities, beginning with efforts in key states, and reporting on implementation and further progress at the next High-Level Consultative Group meeting;
* Accelerate and broaden support for state-level administration of justice reforms;
* Work with our respective Congresses to ensure adequate legal frameworks needed to weaken the capabilities of transnational criminal organizations;
* Continue collaboration on extraditions including increased utilization of all existing legal tools; and
* Strengthen the cooperation between the relevant law enforcement agencies of both countries to execute provisional arrest warrants for extradition.

Pillar III – Building a 21st Century Border

* Recognizing our shared responsibility for the management of our common border, continue to work through the 21st Century Border Executive Steering Committee (ESC) established by our Presidents to: make significant progress in upgrading border infrastructure; implement innovations in port of entry operations that advance both citizen safety and global competitiveness; and increase our capacity to prevent and address violence and criminality in the border region;
* Enhance the Border Violence Prevention Protocols, which provide a framework for reducing and responding to violent incidents in the border region through a binational threat assessment, enhanced communications, coordinated enforcement operations, and the establishment of a Border Violence Prevention Group;
* Develop a coordinated investigative strategy to enhance law enforcement cooperation in the border region, and strengthen information and intelligence sharing within and between our two governments; and
* Continue efforts to modernize our border infrastructure to facilitate legitimate trade and travel as represented by the inauguration, in 2010, of new international ports of entry at Donna, Texas-Rio Bravo City, Tamaulipas and San Luis, Arizona-San Luis, Rio Colorado, Sonora.

Pillar IV – Building Strong and Resilient Communities

* Initiate a binational demand reduction study in the context of the annual U.S.-Mexico Drug Demand Reduction Conference under jointly agreed-upon methodology, scope of study, funding and concrete objectives; and
* Implement jointly agreed upon programs, aimed at: 1) strengthening federal civic planning capacity to prevent and reduce crime; 2) supporting state and local governments to implement crime prevention/reduction activities; and 3) increasing engagement with at-risk youth, coordinating activities through designated lead agencies, which will be the Agency for International Development for the United States and the Secretariat of Social Development for Mexico.

Merida Initiative

The High-Level Consultative Group reviewed the Merida Initiative and associated cooperation in order to ensure its full implementation and to continue to build upon its record of success. Since the inception of the Merida Initiative, working together, the United States and Mexico have:

* Increased information sharing on transnational drug trafficking organizations which has supported successful efforts to remove over 29 leaders of transnational criminal organizations;
* Expanded the deployment of non-intrusive inspection equipment, enhancing capabilities at our common border;
* Trained in Mexico more than 8,500 federal police officers, 2,600 prosecutors and justice sector personnel, and 1,800 corrections and penitentiary staff;
* Strengthened ties to investigate cross-border financial flows and combat money laundering;
* Transferred 11 helicopters to Mexican security forces to increase their mobility in counternarcotics operations; and
* Inaugurated and staffed with U.S. and Mexican personnel the Bilateral Implementation Office to follow-up on joint activities and projects under the Merida Initiative.

Under the Merida Initiative, we have put into place an effective bilateral implementation structure that is now accelerating the implementation of our activities. Over $400 million in equipment, training, and capacity-building programs have been delivered, and the Government of the United States is committed to deliver an additional $500 million by the end of 2011. Both Governments welcome this commitment and will work together to ensure its full implementation.

The United States and Mexico share a common future. In reaffirming our partnership, the High-Level Consultative Group ratified their shared commitment to achieving long-term solutions to challenges to the rule of law posed by transnational organized crime. We will meet these challenges through enhanced engagement and shared responsibility.

The HLG previously met in November 2008 (Washington, DC) and March 2010 (Mexico City). In attendance at today’s HLG for the United States: Secretary Hillary Rodham Clinton, Secretary of Defense Robert Gates, Attorney General Eric Holder, Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Mike Mullen, Assistant to the President for Homeland Security and Counterterrorism John Brennan, Director of National Intelligence James Clapper, Director of National Drug Policy of the United States Gil Kerlikowske, USAID Deputy Administrator Donald Steinberg, Acting Under Secretary of Terrorism and Financial Intelligence of the Treasury David Cohen, and Ambassador of the United States to Mexico Carlos Pascual.

In attendance at the HLG for Mexico: Secretary Patricia Espinosa Cantellano, Secretary of Governance José Francisco Blake Mora, Secretary of National Defense General Guillermo Galván Galván, Secretary of the Navy Admiral Mariano Francisco Saynez Mendoza, Secretary of Public Security Genaro García Luna, Attorney General Marisela Morales Ibañez, Director of the Center for Investigation and National Security (CISEN) Guillermo Valdés Castellanos, National Security Spokesman Alejandro Poire Romero, Chief of the Tax Administration System (SAT) Alfredo Gutierrez Ortíz Mena, Director of the Financial Intelligence Unit of the Secretariat of Finance José Alberto Balbuena, Commissioner of the National Council against Addictions (CONADIC) Carlos Tena Tamayo, and Ambassador of Mexico to the United States Arturo Sarukhan.