WASHINGTON, May 23 (UPI) -- The United States has spent only about half of $1.5 billion promised to Mexico for equipment and training to help combat ongoing drug violence, officials said.
Bureaucratic problems have hampered the so-called Merida Initiative since its inception in 2008 with only 59 percent of the pledged U.S. spending completed, an accounting by the State Department found.
Although $423 million worth of aircraft, surveillance equipment and training have reached Mexican security forces and the Obama administration pledges to deliver $500 million worth of additional equipment and training by the end of 2011, the Mexican government must make "significant inroads against drug-trafficking organizations and organized criminal groups" before Merida is widely seen as a success, Congressional Research Service analysts Clare Ribando Seelke and Kristen Finklea, who prepared an update for Congress, said.
The delivery timeline has repeatedly fallen behind schedule, U.S. officials say, and only 75 percent of the spending is due to be completed by mid-2012, the Houston Chronicle reported Monday.
The promised equipment is "critically important" to Mexico's campaign, Ricardo Alday, spokesman for the Mexican Embassy in Washington, said.
"The importance of our bilateral relationship … should be the compass that allows all U.S. actors involved to comply with the promised delivery time frame," Alday said.