(by Sara A. Carter, WashingtonTimes.com) – Lawmakers from both parties yesterday criticized the Bush administration for not consulting Congress before adding more than $500 million in emergency anti-narcotics aid for Mexico to a pending $196 billion war-funding package.
The congressmen said they were deliberately eliminated from oversight of the plan to help Mexico purchase military equipment and other law-enforcement tools to combat escalating drug violence.
“This administration believes it has a monopoly of wisdom,” said House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Tom Lantos, California Democrat, at a hearing yesterday.
“I also find it disturbing that the administration did not involve its co-equal branch of government, the United States Congress, in developing this initiative.”
President Bush first discussed the aid package with Mexican President Felipe Calderon in March, but the administration did not announce the program until last month.
The $550 million grant – known as the Merida Initiative – would assist Mexico and Central America in combating the growing problem of narcotics trafficking and violence.
Mexico would receive $500 million and Central America $50 million,
Nearly half of the proposed $500 million grant pays for military equipment, including six Bell 412 helicopters and two Casa 245 twin-engine aircraft.
In previous years, Mexico typically received about $45 million in counternarcotics aid.
“This is an important moment in the fight against transnational drug trafficking and organized crime,” Assistant Secretary of State Thomas A. Shannon, for the Bureau of Western Hemisphere Affairs, told the committee.
“President Bush recognized that the United States has an unprecedented opportunity to reduce the economic and human toll in our cities and towns emanating from cross-border organized crime.”
David T. Johnson, assistant secretary of state with the Bureau for International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs, warned of growing security threats that the aid would address.
“We are confronting vulnerabilities posed from the increasingly violent nature of the security situation in Mexico and Central America that if left unchecked could [open the door] for more dangerous threats to emerge,” he said.
The panel was not reassured.
“I’m always concerned about efforts like this with Mexico because it’s hard to tell where the government of Mexico ends and the drug cartels begin,” said Rep. Tom Tancredo, Colorado Republican, who has made his outspoken support of enhanced border security a cornerstone of his presidential bid.
Copyright 2007 News World Communications, Inc. Reprinted with permission of the Washington Times. This reprint does not constitute or imply any endorsement or sponsorship of any product, service, company or organization. Visit the website at www.washingtontimes.com
1. For what purpose did President Bush add more than $500 million to a pending $196 billion war-funding bill?
2. Why did congressmen from both parties criticize the Bush administration for this addition?
3. How will the Merida Initiative assist Mexico and Central America? Be specific.
4. How much money does the U.S. usually give Mexico each year to help fight drug trafficking and organized crime?
5. How did officials from the Bureau of Western Hemisphere Affairs and the Bureau for International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs explain the increase?
6. Why do you think the Bush administration added the funding for Mexico without consulting Congress?
7. Do you think the Bush administration should have consulted Congress before adding the aid to Mexico? Explain your answer.
NOTE: An Associated Press article from Oct. 23, 2007 stated:
“President Bush asked Congress on Monday [Oct. 22] to approve $500 million to help Mexico fight drug trafficking, the first installment of a $1.4 billion aid package for the United States’ southern neighbor. The money was included in a supplemental budget request for the fiscal year that began this month that is primarily aimed at adding funds for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. The measure included several unrelated items, such as $724 million for the U.N. peacekeeping mission in Sudan’s Darfur region and $106 million to make good on U.S. promises in a nuclear deal with North Korea.
For a list of add-ons to the 2008 Department of Defense Appropriations Act, click here.
For a report explaining the procedure Congress uses for deciding how to spend taxpayers’ money, click here. (NOTE: This document is in PDF format – it might take longer to open.)
For information on Congressional committees, click here.
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