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May 5, 2022

US-Mexico Security Cooperation

US-Mexico security cooperation is once again a hot button topic this month, in the wake of news reports that Mexico has all but stopped collaborating with the DEA on drug trafficking investigations. While this predictably led to a new round of frustration in Washington DC, others were quick to point out that the DEA’s track record in Mexico left much to be desired, both in terms of respect for human rights, integrity, and effectiveness.

With intense, close operational cooperation appearing unlikely to return anytime soon, what might the security partnership look like going forward? Newly released data for fiscal year 2020 has been added to our Foreign Military Training dashboard this week, giving us a picture of a relationship in flux.

Some key takeaways from the FY2020 update:

  • Since FY2017 tactical training of Mexican forces has declined and human rights training has increased, likely owing to both a wind-down of the Mérida Initiative and political pressure in the United States. FY2020 saw substantial resources dedicated to human rights training: In FY2019 and FY2020, spending on human rights training was 10 times that of FY2011-FY2017: $308,943. The number of students receiving human rights training in that two-year period (58) was identical to the total of students receiving human rights training from FY2003 to FY2018.

  • The impact of the pandemic appears to have contributed to already diminishing tactical trainings. Half as many students (60) received tactical or operations training in FY2020 as did in FY2019; this represented the lowest number since 2006. Overall, the distribution of training types (and overall spending) in FY2020 most closely resembles FY2003.

  • There was an increased emphasis on cybersecurity and electronic warfare during FY2020, with more students receiving training in these topics than in any previous year. Given the Mexican government’s troubled spyware history, this is a concerning trend.

Read the full analysis and explore the data yourself here:


In Case you Missed It: In Chihuahua’s Sierra Tarahumara, criminal groups are increasingly involved in matters of order and justice. In this essay, Fatima Valdivia describes how members of an armed group have come to arbitrate everything from agrarian conflicts to custody disputes. Crucially, this “criminal governance” is not a wholly new construction, she points out, but rather an addition to existing structures of racialized colonial governance. Those preexisting systems of rule, long predating the drug war, are essential to understanding why drug traffickers are able to remain deeply embedded in the rural communities of the Tarahumara.


What We’re Reading:

Javier Garza’s excellent analysis of how media outlets’ financial dependence on government funding puts Mexican journalists at risk and limits the possibilities for independent investigative journalism.


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