The GAO reports (online later today) that only 2% of the US$1.4 billion appropriated by Congress since October 2007 for the Merida Initiative has been spent as of September 2009. According to the AP, the $24.2 million spent "has yielded 26 armored vehicles, 30 machines to detect drugs and explosive materials and five x-ray vans, as well as software and several training programs," which is to say not much. To put it another way, the amount of money spent in the first two years of the Merida Initiative is about what the US spends in Iraq every two hours.Well, that's embarrassing. Here's a piece of an April story (linked above) about the slow spending:
There was a lot of skepticism about the Mérida Initiative, much of it warranted. But I'm not really sure what this proves, because it's hard for aid transfers to be effective if the aid is not in fact transferred.
"We are moving as fast as we can, but we also have to do this right," said Roberta S. Jacobson, who, as deputy assistant secretary for Western Hemisphere affairs, helped negotiate the Merida Initiative. "We are creating a $1 billion program essentially from scratch, and if we try and move faster than our own procedures -- and those of Mexico -- can manage, we risk the careful oversight and monitoring that we and Congress expect."
Jacobson and others said they expected the assistance to flow more quickly over the next few months, as requirements are met and staffing is completed. The government has to borrow personnel from other U.S. embassies to help the embassy in Mexico City ramp up.