Monday, January 3, 2011

A Gift

Like a grandmother whose taste in sweaters-as-gifts is not shared by the target of her generosity, the US famously focused the first three years of the Mérida Initiative on helicopters, when Mexico's foremost obstacle in improving public security is honest, competent government officials at every level. Thankfully, a major chunk of the helicopter-handovers is now behind us, as Carlos Pascual announced the transfer of the eighth and final Bell transport aircraft to Sedena just before Christmas. (Mexico to his mom: "Why do I have to send a thank you note if the present sucked?") Further aircraft deliveries are still to come, but the sooner the two nations can move beyond hardware and firepower, the better for both nations.

Pascual also said that of the original $1.4 billion that was to be spent thus far, just $343 million has changed hands, which, as I believe I've mentioned before, points to what I suspect is a big reason for the focus on helicopters: huge aid packages are hard to implement quickly and effectively, and handing out helicopters is an effective way to add to the agreement's dollar amount, thus making it appear robust. In contrast, building a billion-dollar initiative around, say, better bureaucrat-training programs and internal affairs departments would require a lot more attention and manpower.

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