Taxpayers’ $3 Billion Fails To Deliver Results In Mexico

A September 12 report from the U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) reveals a concerning reality: The $3 billion the United States has poured into Mexico to combat criminal activity plaguing America since 2008 has proven ineffective. Designed to counter drug trafficking, transnational organized crime, and violence, the financial aid simply hasn’t hit its mark, and the report calls it into question.

According to the GAO, “the U.S. government cannot demonstrate that it is achieving its goals in Mexico and that its investments, at over $3 billion since 2008, have been spent effectively.” With the homicide rate in Mexico more than tripling from 2007 to 2021, according to United Nations statistics, and ongoing corruption issues, the report serves as a wake-up call for U.S. policymakers.

At the heart of this spending are two bilateral agreements: the Mérida Initiative, which ran until 2021, and its successor, the Bicentennial Framework for Security, Public Health, and Safe Communities. While these initiatives have aimed to foster cooperation, the report indicates that these well-intended efforts are falling flat. “Despite ongoing security assistance, the security situation in Mexico has significantly worsened over the last 15 years,” the report states. It also calls out the “extremely low rates of prosecution for all crimes” in Mexico, painting a bleak picture.

Part of the problem is the need for more accountability. The report highlights that the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs (State/INL) and the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) have not clearly defined performance indicators or developed plans to assess progress.

On the Mexican side, President Andrés Manuel López Obrador has scaled back security cooperation with the United States since taking office in late 2018. This lack of commitment from Mexican officials only compounds the difficulty in achieving meaningful outcomes. The reluctance “could continue to limit programs in those locations,” warns the report.

One must recognize the role of corruption in the equation. The GAO report explicitly states, “High levels of impunity and corruption in Mexico impede the rule of law and limit potential partnerships for State/INL and USAID.” This is a brick wall facing American efforts to foster law and order south of the border.

What does this mean for taxpayers? The GAO’s assessment suggests that a reevaluation of the U.S.’s approach to aid in Mexico is urgently needed before another dollar is spent.
Transparency and accountability should be at the forefront of this reassessment. In an era when fiscal responsibility is often pushed to the sidelines, it’s crucial that government spending shows quantifiable benefits, especially when it’s geared toward resolving issues that directly affect U.S. citizens, such as drug trafficking and border security.

The report concludes, “Without incorporating all key elements for assessing progress, the U.S. government cannot demonstrate that it is achieving its goals in Mexico and that its investments, at over $3 billion since 2008, have been spent effectively.” It’s a stern reminder that good intentions don’t necessarily translate into good policy.