Madam Speaker, I yield myself such time as I may consume.
Madam Speaker, I rise as a proud cosponsor of the Merida Initiative to Combat Illicit Narcotics and Reduce Organized Crime Authorization Act of 2008.
Based on co-responsibility and cooperation, the Merida Initiative creates an invaluable partnership between the United States, Mexico, the rest of Central America, Haiti, and the Dominican Republic to work together to fight illicit drugs and organized crime. It is a historic opportunity, an essential collaboration between all of our countries to present a united front against the drug cartels and the gangs who callously threaten the safety and future of our communities every day.
The growing operational and financial capabilities of these groups pose a clear and present threat to the lives and well-being of our citizens. By supporting this authorization, we are supporting the goals of the Merida Initiative to confront these dangers. Furthermore, we are supporting the goals of our friends in Mexico, Central America, Haiti and the Dominican Republic to combat these dangers as well.
The Merida Initiative, as considered under this authorization, is a comprehensive program focused on strengthening democratic institutions, on bolstering law enforcement capabilities, on supporting local communities, and on promoting human rights at all levels of the Initiative's implementation.
For years, drug traffickers and organized crime have used a regional strategy to carry out their illicit activities. Now, under the Merida Initiative, we have a chance for our governments to join forces and match this transnational approach. In Mexico, President Calderon has deployed nearly 30,000 soldiers and federal police to the country's most dangerous drug trafficking hotspots.
In Guatemala, the government has announced plans to send hundreds of troops, elite presidential guards and antidrug police to its northern border to stem the growing violence.
In the United States, our law enforcement agents have been met with increasing hostile actions while working to preserve the security of our borders.
The Merida Initiative enables us to combine all of these efforts to capitalize on all of our strength and confront narcotraffickers and organized crime with the same determination that they so vigorously employ to wreak havoc on our communities.
I was pleased to see that both the House and Senate versions of the supplemental included funding to support the Merida Initiative. I am hopeful that the conferees will look at this bill for direction when determining the final face of the Merida Initiative. I believe that it offers an effective guide for ensuring U.S. interest, while respecting our partners' sovereignty.
For too long, narcotraffickers and organized crime have run free, plaguing the prosperity of our region. By supporting the Merida Initiative, we are making the way for democracy and for development to take hold, and addressing the precursor conditions that help breed instability in the region, and that help create fertile territory even for Islamic extremist recruitment.
Madam Speaker, again I rise in full support of this initiative, and I look forwarding to helping to enhance our Nation's security by fighting and overcoming these daily threats.
Madam Speaker, I reserve the balance of my time.