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The Bicentennial Understanding and the challenge of being more than a security plan

MEXICO CITY, MEXICO - OCTOBER 8: Mexican Foreign Minister Marcelo Ebrard gestures during a conference as part of the High Level Security Dialogue at the SRE Building on October 8, 2021 in Mexico City , Mexico.

MEXICO CITY, MEXICO – OCTOBER 8: Mexican Foreign Minister Marcelo Ebrard gestures during a conference as part of the High Level Security Dialogue at the SRE Building on October 8, 2021 in Mexico City , Mexico.

Photo: Hector Vivas / Getty Images

The Bicentennial Understanding is the new cooperation plan between Mexico and the United States, with which a difference could be made with the defunct Merida Initiative by balancing power relations between the two countries, provided that the actions proposed on paper are implemented, experts told the EFE Agency.

“This new understanding could mark a different route of cooperation between both countries in which the dignity of the Mexican authorities is restored and they are put on a par with the United States if strategies are defined and carried out,” explained Khemvirg Puente, Political scientist from the National Autonomous University of Mexico (UNAM).

Last Friday, in the capital and after a High Level Security Dialogue, the Governments of Mexico and the United States initiated a security “alliance” in which they will be “equal partners” that resulted in the new Bicentennial Understanding.

The Bicentennial Understanding was so named because 2022 will mark 200 years of diplomatic relations between the two countries. It replaces the Merida Initiative, a 2008 strategy based on a military approach promoted by former Presidents George W. Bush and Felipe Calderón.

The new agreement, also called the United States-Mexico Bicentennial Framework for Safety, Public Health, and Safe Communities, is based on three pillars:

  • Investment in public health to combat addictions and homicides.
  • Prevention of cross-border crime through the reduction of arms, drug and human trafficking.
  • Dismantling of criminal networks by persecuting people linked to illicit financing.

This new strategy seeks to address the “root causes” of violence by combating both cross-border crime and drug use with a “public health” approach or promoting the strengthening of justice, among other points.

No difference?

“It is nothing new. The only thing that is being taken into consideration is that for a decade now organized crime has moved more and more in other sectors, ”Francisco Rivas, director of the National Citizen Observatory, told the EFE Agency.

In fact, the specialist ruled out that there are differences between the Bicentennial Understanding and the Merida Initiative and regretted that it is known so far how this comprehensive plan will land on the ground.

While for Eunice Rendón, an expert in security, migration and crime prevention issues, this new agreement does mark an “important change” in the political discourse, although she said that to crystallize this change, the design of the Bicentennial Understanding must “go further hand in hand with the Mexican Government ”.

“If done properly, it could not only get more resources from the US government, but if they are put to good use, there would be great benefits for both countries,” he said.

No clarity but with potential

The experts agreed that the announcement of the new agreement leaves many doubts, since it has not been clearly specified what this strategy implies.

For Puente, this new understanding could be strengthened to harmonize legal frameworks and for greater cooperation, although he stressed that it is “positive news both in the field of cooperation and in the political sphere.”

And, in addition, it seems to put aside the “welfare vision” of the United States towards Mexico. However, he explained that the topics to be discussed included “a little of everything, from drug reduction to homicide reduction,” without proposing a clear strategy.

On the other hand, Rendón said that for the strategy to have a future, it will be necessary to bet on greater order and better transparency.

It is “something that we did not see with the Merida Initiative,” he added.

Rivas said that it is “difficult” to know what the strategy will be, because until now “they have not told us what, how and when” the objectives will be implemented.

Clear deficiencies

But despite the fact that the new agreement promises changes in the approach to the problems that concern both nations, experts consider that there is much to work on.

Puente pointed out that the problem that persists in Mexico is that the Attorney General’s Office (FGR) and the justice institutions in general “do not seem to be in tune” with this type of policy.

For this reason, he considered it necessary that the rule of law be implemented through various joint policies such as the one that is being presented.

Rivas insisted that Mexico “must work” because there is no clear strategy to combat violence in the country, which has recorded very high figures for years.

Finally, Puente and Rendón agreed that this new agreement represents a political achievement for López Obrador, and a democratic one for both countries, although Rivas considered it more of a success for the United States.

To know more:
Mexico and the US Announce the Beginning of a New Security Alliance Between “Equal Partners”
US Ambassador to Mexico will work on a bilateral immigration solution
AMLO celebrates the upcoming reopening of the border between Mexico and the United States for non-essential and vaccinated travel

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