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Mexico welcomes Merida, without human rights restrictions

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President Felipe Calderon on Friday welcomed the U.S. Congress’ approval of the Merida Initiative a day earlier, an aid injection from the United States that is aimed at helping Mexico in its fight against powerful drug cartels.

The bill has dropped a controversial requirement that Mexico meet certain human rights standards in order to receive the aid. Mexicans had objected to the human rights provision, saying that it amounted to outside meddling by the United States in Mexican affairs. But dropping the human rights requirements seems certain to anger numerous opposition groups to the aid package -- see this La Plaza post on the issue. Writes the Associated Press:

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Calderon said the bill ‘was an important step in the fight against international organized crime.’ He said its passage was due in part to Mexico’s insistence that the United States share the burden in the fight against drug trafficking.

Quoted in the New York Times, José Miguel Vivanco, executive director of the Americas division of Human Rights Watch, says of the approved package: “The big victory is for the rule of law. This will push the security forces in Mexico to a higher level of professionalism.”

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Mexico’s Interior Secretary and Foreign Relations Secretary Patricia Espinosa stressed that the anti-drug aid would include equipment, systems and training, not cash, and that no U.S. soldiers would be allowed to operate in Mexico as part of the plan.

‘Mexico will not accept the presence of U.S. military personnel in Mexico,’ Espinosa said.

Meanwhile, Mexico’s raging drug war claimed the lives of six more police officers, ambushed on patrol in the marijuana-rich state of Sinaloa, authorities said Friday.

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The attack followed the slaying Thursday of a senior police commander, part of a long string of killings apparently aimed at eroding public confidence in the government’s ability to challenge drug gangs, reports the L.A. Times’ Tracy Wilkinson.

Last week, a report in the Christian Science Monitor questioned Calderon’s use of the military in the fight against the country’s drug cartels -- see that post here.

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-- Deborah Bonello in Mexico City

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