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On January 20, 2021, the inauguration of President Joseph Biden has the potential to open a new chapter in U.S.-Mexico security cooperation. Over the last fifteen years, collaboration between the two countries on matters of security has significantly evolved. After a long period characterized by mutual distrust and lack of alignment in the priorities and strategies promoted by these countries, Mexico and the United States reached an unprecedented level of cooperation with the Mérida Initiative (2007-present). This initiative signaled both countries’ willingness to recognize security as a shared responsibility that demanded coordinated efforts centered on law enforcement, institution building, and the prevention of violence. Although collaboration has failed to achieve the more ambitious and integral aspects of the initiative, particularly in light of the more defensive and nationalist attitudes advanced by both countries over the past four years, the evolution of the Mérida Initiative points to the importance of working towards a common understanding of security that puts citizens’ security at the center.

This policy brief examines the challenges and opportunities faced by U.S.-Mexico security cooperation under President Biden and President Andrés Manuel López Obrador. The brief presents an overview of the main collaboration efforts promoted by Mexico and the United States in the recent past, paying particular attention to the Mérida Initiative and its institutional and programmatic ramifications. The brief also explores both the irritants and potential areas of collaboration that the new Biden administration presents for the security agenda shared by both countries. Finally, it offers specific policy recommendations to improve U.S.-Mexico security cooperation in terms of both countries’ ability to address the levels of violence, harm,
and impunity experienced by citizens on both sides of the border.

This policy brief is part of our series "Re-Building a Complex Partnership: The Outlook for U.S.-Mexico Relations under the Biden Administration." The policy briefs will be released individually and published as a volume in early 2021. 

About the Author

image - Gemma Kloppe-Santamaria

Gema Kloppe-Santamaria

Global Fellow;
Author, In the Vortex of Violence: Lynching, Extralegal Justice, and the State in Post-Revolutionary Mexico (2020); Assistant Professor, Loyola University Chicago; 2020 Harry Frank Guggenheim Distinguished Scholar, 2021 Mellon Emerging Faculty Leader; Visiting Fellow, Freiburg institute of Advanced Studies at Univesity of Freiburg (2021-2022)
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Mexico Institute

The Mexico Institute seeks to improve understanding, communication, and cooperation between Mexico and the United States by promoting original research, encouraging public discussion, and proposing policy options for enhancing the bilateral relationship. A binational Advisory Board, chaired by Luis Téllez and Earl Anthony Wayne, oversees the work of the Mexico Institute.   Read more