Mexican helicopter

Training Mexico to secure their southern border.

Via Stars and Stripes

The United States is quietly expanding its training of Mexico’s armed forces, helping to reverse decades of mistrust that made Mexico’s military reluctant to cooperate with its northern neighbor.

The amount the Pentagon spent on training Mexico’s armed forces, though small, increased to more than $15 million last year, up from about $3 million in 2009, according to U.S. Northern Command, which oversees U.S. military contacts with Mexico.

The training comes as Mexico’s armed forces have been drawn deeper into the country’s war on drugs and organized crime.

“For decades, Mexico’s military tried to remain autonomous from the U.S. military,” said David Shirk, a fellow at the Wilson Center.

U.S. military officials are reluctant to discuss the relationship openly because of sensitivities in Mexico about appearing dependent on American help. In a statement, the Pentagon said the U.S. military participated in 150 “engagements” with Mexican troops on both sides of the border, “sharing training opportunities with more than 3,000 Mexican soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines.”

The statement said the Pentagon’s “interactions” with Mexico’s military have expanded over the past three years. Mexican government officials declined to speak on the record about the training.

The Mexican navy and marine corps have been particularly receptive, allowing the United States to expand its training with Mexico’s armed forces and build trust.

“Our security agencies have focused heavily on cooperation with the navy and marines,” said George Grayson, a professor at William and Mary who has written a book about Mexican drug cartels.

By contrast, the army is a more “insular” institution less willing to cooperate with foreign military forces, Shirk said.

“The navy has earned a tremendous amount of trust from American authorities,” Shirk said.

The army is more susceptible to corruption, since its soldiers have been deployed throughout the country in fixed locations, where there are more opportunities to be bribed. They have direct contact with drugs through eradication efforts.

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