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Unleashing Boy Scouts To Counter Drug Cartels

Under the agreement known as the "Merida Initiative," the United States has given the Mexican government billions of dollars to fight drug cartels. The program has been criticized as violent, reactionary and ineffective in its attempts to stem the flood of drugs across the border or stop the violence that's plagued Mexico for nearly a decade.

Though that approach continues, the U.S. has also begun using Merida funding to help programs in three cities designed to support so-called sustainable communities and prevent children from being drawn into the drug trade.

As Sandra Dibble reports for U-T San Diego, one of those cities is Tijuana, where Merida funding has supported the development of an organization akin to the Boy and Girl Scouts, aimed at getting children off the streets and into productive academic and recreational activities.

From the U-T:

The group’s push in Tijuana “is a new model for Mexico,” said Raymundo Tamayo, director of institutional development for the Mexico City-based Asociación Scouts de Mexico. “We’re testing the capacity of the Scout method to conduct a deep change in at-risk young people.”

While many see the program as a positive shift, however minor, in the U.S. and Mexican government's approach to combating drugs, there are also questions about how effective it can be.

José María Ramos, an analyst at the think tank Colegio de la Frontera Norte, said programs such as the Scouts can help some of Tijuana’s most vulnerable young residents, but that lasting effects depend the sustained cooperation and commitment of all levels of government in Mexico.

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