In support of the multiple actions recently announced by President Peña Nieto, there is an important opportunity here for bilateral cooperation between the United States and Mexico under the existing framework of the Merida Initiative. The initiative, which came into effect in 2008, identified four priorities, or “pillars,” for bilateral cooperation and funding: disrupt the capacity of organized crime to operate; institutionalize the capacity to sustain the rule of law; create a 21st century border; and build strong and resilient communities.

Current circumstances demand far more attention and a “doubling down” of resources and political will to support the second and third pillars. Moving the bilateral agenda forward will require more funding, of course, but just as important will be engagement with local and state-level authorities and civil society organizations. U.S.A.I.D. has a long trajectory of doing this around the world, and has successful experiences in the cities of Tijuana, Ciudad Juarez and Monterrey in Mexico.

The need for full implementation of Mexico’s 2008 judicial reform law is even more urgent now, and the need to attack the infiltration of local authorities by organized crime would benefit enormously from the U.S. experience with the same issue in the 1970s. There are obvious opportunities to train judges and lawyers for the demands of the justice overhaul, and to invest in the new court rooms that will be required to adequately implement the changes.

The disappearances in Iguala have shown just how important it is to strengthen institutions, both at the federal and local levels. Training police officers, improving and harmonizing policing standards, and strengthening investigative capacities will become even more important if Peña Nieto’s proposal to unify state-level police forces becomes law.

The opinions expressed here are solely those of the author.

This artcle was originally published in The New York Times.