Mr. Chairman, I do not intend to spend your time describing the origin, history, and purpose of the Merida Initiative. You know them better than I do. I will say that this has been more of a partnership between two governments than a traditional foreign assistance program, that the Congress has been generous in funding it, and that the Merida Initiative has delivered some concrete successes over the past four years:
1. Since 2009, more than 33 high level cartel leaders have been removed or arrested. This compares with one in the preceding six years.
2. Thanks to Merida Initiative, the Mexican government now has 14 additional helicopters, hundreds of sophisticated non-intrusive inspection suites of equipment, and more than 100 canine teams.
3. More than 52,000 Mexican police and prosecutors have received some professional training under the Merida Initiative.
By the end of this year, we will have delivered more than $900 million worth of equipment and training to Mexico, with more than $500 million delivered this year alone. There is no doubt in my mind, ladies and gentlemen, that the United.States. is better and safer today thanks to our support for the Merida Initiative.
Mr. Chairman, Merida is in transition. Where we once focused on delivering equipment and goods, we now focus more on providing specialized training. For four years, we concentrated on building strong federal institutions; we now concentrate more on state and municipal institutions. And we will initially focus our support in northern Mexico, where the violence is greatest and where we have shared border security interests.
Mr. Chairman, the Merida Initiative was not engraved in stone. It is a living strategy that is modified, adjusted, and corrected as circumstances change on the ground and we learn lessons. Some of those lessons came from the United States Congress, and came from some of Members in this vert chamber. It is a valuable idea to integrate our efforts against illicit drugs, organized crime, and terrorism into a unified, holistic approach to support the Merida Initiative. And we have learned lessons from other theaters of operations around the world that can and should be integrated into our Merida efforts.
But Mr. Chairman, there are two lessons we did not have to learn, because we already knew them. The first is that Merida is a cooperative agreement between the U.S. and Mexico, with the government of Mexico in charge of all activities within their territory. If we do not work together with the Mexican government, then we accomplish little for either the American or the Mexican people.
And second, as I learned the hard way during my years in Colombia, is the lesson of strategic patience. I am an optimist, Mr. Chairman, and I believe we have already made serious progress under this Initiative. But it took our two nations many years to get into this situation, and it is going to take us some years to get out of it.
I thank you Mr. Chairman, Mr. Chairman, and I look forward to your questions.