Au­dit: U.S. fails to check ef­fi­ciency of drug war aid

Austin American-Statesman - - WEDNESDAY BRIEFING -

MEX­ICO CITY — De­spite claims by the United States and Mex­ico that drug traf­fick­ers are feel­ing the ef­fects of the coun­tries’ joint of­fen­sive, a re­view by the Govern­ment Ac­count­abil­ity Of­fice has found that mil­lions of dol­lars have been spent with­out enough re­gard for whether the money is do­ing any good.

On the pos­i­tive side, the ac­count­abil­ity of­fice said in a re­port to be re­leased to­day, the Obama ad­min­is­tra­tion has done a bet­ter job in re­cent months of spend­ing the roughly $1.6 bil­lion set aside to fight drug traf­fick­ers in Mex­ico and Cen­tral Amer­ica. Crit­ics in the re­gion have com­plained that bureau­cratic hur­dles have de­layed the aid, which in­cludes train­ing and he­li­copters.

But the re­port said the State Depart­ment, which is over­see­ing the Merida Ini­tia­tive to com­bat drugs in the re­gion, failed to set spe­cific tar­gets to de­ter­mine whether the money was hav­ing the de­sired ef­fect of dis­rupt­ing or­ga­nized crime groups and re­form­ing law en­force­ment agen­cies.

“With­out tar­gets to strive to­ward, State can­not de­ter­mine if it is meet­ing ex­pec­ta­tions un­der the Merida Ini­tia­tive,” the re­port said.

Pre­cisely mea­sur­ing the suc­cess or fail­ure of the drug war is ex­ceed­ingly hard, ex­perts say.

Of­fi­cials in Washington and Mex­ico City typ­i­cally point to the huge quan­ti­ties of drugs, guns and money be­ing seized and the num­ber of ar­rests be­ing made as ev­i­dence that traf­fick­ers are on their heels. Crit­ics, how­ever, point to Mex­ico’s con­tin­ued vi­o­lence as a sign that the traf­fick­ers re­main strong.

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