May 12, 1998


Months after the 1998 drug certification decision was announced, observers in Latin America, Asia and Africa continued to criticize the annual U.S. legislative process which evaluates the anti-drug efforts made by major drug-producing and -trafficking countries. Pundits judged it an "interventionist" and "arbitrary" policy that "does great harm to bilateral relations." Once again, commentators complained that, as the world's largest consumer of illegal drugs, the U.S. has no right to judge others and must first do more to curb domestic drug use. Some analysts contended that it has become "obvious" that America's anti-drug policy has "failed" and that Washington should change its strategy. Perhaps not surprisingly, a number of opinionmakers viewed favorably last week's meeting at the Organization of American States to begin work on forming a mechanism for a multilateral evaluation system to judge member nations' anti-drug efforts. Acknowledging that the Clinton administration was the first to propose the multilateral initiative, many expressed hope that the U.S. would scrap its "unilateral" certification process in favor of the multilateral approach. Others, however, were convinced that, given the strong support of some members of Congress for the certification process, the legislation would not be repealed any time soon. Following are major themes in the commentary:

--MEXICO: Sharp criticism of the U.S. certification process abounded in Mexican editorials. There was, however, also praise in the press for recent U.S.-Mexican bilateral efforts. An editorial in nationalist, traditionally pro-PRI Excelsior, for example, stated that ONDCP Director Barry McCaffrey's meeting last month with Mexican officials "may be a milestone in improving the U.S.-Mexico relationship, particularly with regard to the thorny problem of the fight against drug trafficking.... The High Level Contact Group meeting led by General McCaffrey...will make some interesting agreements." The paper noted the creation of a "binational technical group that will evaluate preventive and corrective [anti-drug] measures." But, again, even among these more favorably-inclined commentators, the main hope was for an end to the U.S. certification process.

--CHILE: Several dailies in Santiago reported on "Operation Ocean," where, on May 4, Chile's national police arrested more than a dozen suspects charged with money-laundering. It was alleged that the suspects used a shipping line to send drugs originating in Colombia to the U.S. and Europe. Analysts interpreted the arrests as an urgent wake-up call for those who have largely dismissed narcotrafficking as a problem in Chile.

--PAKISTAN: A UN report that said the number of drug addicts in Pakistan is "the highest in the developing countries," was viewed with alarm by analysts in that country. Karachi's independent Dawn urged the government to mount a campaign "to raise the people's awareness about the problem."

--NIGERIA: Papers in Lagos railed against Nigeria's continued decertification. The 60 percent federal government-owned Daily Times said the U.S. decision is simply "inexplicable," given the country's "Herculean efforts" in its "crusade" against illicit drugs. Commentators entreated Washington to "cooperate" with Nigeria and support its anti-drug efforts.

This survey is based on 17 reports from 8 countries, March 9-May 8.

EDITOR: Diana McCaffrey

To Go Directly To Quotes By Region, Click Below




MEXICO: "Cooperation Without Intervention"

Nationalist, pro-government Excelsior observed (4/8): "ONDCP Director McCaffrey has softened his statements on the elimination of the certification process. Perhaps his earlier remarks about ending the certification were too optimistic. Now, he has said this would not be accomplished immediately. Nevertheless, an important step forward has been given in the joint communiqué issued at the end of the bilateral U.S.-Mexico talks on drugs by stating that a reduction in the demand for illicit drugs is indispensable to fight drug trafficking successfully. This puts the ball on the other (U.S.) side of the courtyard. It was also noted that the Mexican drug lords whose arrest is legitimately demanded by U.S. authorities, have traveled to the United States without having been arrested by U.S. police force.... With regards to Mexico, the drug consumption problem is increasing particularly along the border.... And corruption in several official levels and money laundering are vulnerable points that Mexico should attack as a priority."

"Agenda Polluted By Narcotraffickers"

Nationalist El Universal commented (4/8): "Drug trafficking is an important issue in the U.S.-Mexico agenda both because of its political and social implications, and because of the way it affects the bilateral relationship.... ONDCP Director McCaffrey noted at the closing of the High Level Contact Group meeting in Mexico that the certification process 'will not disappear in the near future.' It is regrettable for the United States to stubbornly continue implementing a policy that affects good bilateral relations.... Although it is important for U.S. authorities to focus on going after the Arellano Felix brothers [drug kingpins], as McCaffrey noted, this would be irrelevant as long as very little or nothing at all is done against the powerful mafias controlling the hundreds of tons that are sold daily in the United States.

"Another touchy issue is about to come up--unarmed DEA agents are working with Mexican agents in Tijuana in joint investigations, and Mexican agents will soon be assigned to the Mexican Consulate in San Diego. This has marked the beginning of pressures so that the U.S. agents are allowed to carry side arms.... In addition the financial intelligence unit will soon go into operations and the United States will be in charge of technical operational problems. We are thus seeing that the United States uses the fight against drug mafias for means that go beyond drugs. The Mexican government should remain vigilant in order to prevent that, under the excuse of indispensable technical cooperation, Mexican national security might be affected."

"Burying Certification, Reinforcing Trust"

Official El Nacional held (4/8): "At the end of the High Level Contact Group meeting, both Mexico and the U.S. recognized the need for an international concerted effort against drugs with the framework of respect to each nation's sovereignty.... The Mexican and U.S. delegations addressed the need to strengthen the fruitful anti-drug cooperation, and to do away with mutual recriminations. Mexico recognizes the importance of bilateral cooperation, at the same time that it believes in the need for multilateral cooperation to fight a phenomenon that transcends national borders.... However, the U.S. certification process does great harm to bilateral cooperation. This is why it was important to hear the U.S. anti-drug czar state that the success in the U.S.-Mexico anti-drug cooperation will bury the certification process--even though he also noted that the U.S. delegation to the meeting had not come to discuss the certification issue."

"Fom Certification To Evaluation"

Left-of-center La Jornada opined (4/7): "The objective of establishing a bilateral mechanism between Mexico and the United States to evaluate actions in the fight against narco-trafficking, expressed yesterday in our country by U.S. anti-drug czar Barry McCaffrey, could be, in principle, an idea with a future, especially if its implementation is able to eliminate Washington's abusive and interventionist annual process of certification or decertification. In this first stage of the initiative, it is necessary that Mexico's authorities take all necessary precautions to ensure that the proposed mechanism does not become a new interventionist instrument for Washington. That would imply (for both countries) guarantees that anti-narcotics cooperation by both governments will be the real subject of the bilateral evaluation and not the performance of just one party. In other words, if the objective is that the evaluation proposed by Barry McCaffrey becomes a constructive factor for the Mexico-U.S. relationship and not a source of conflict, as currently is the case with the infamous certification process. And if the objective is for this mechanism to strengthen the fight against production, trafficking, and consumption of drugs, the evaluation mechanism will have to be created with a spirit of respect for national sovereignties, territorial integrity and self determination.

"Another interesting perspective on the proposed evaluation is that it may provide consistent and reliable data for the greatly mistaken information on which the hemispheric counter drug strategy fight has heretofore been based. Indeed, the evaluation mechanism could make possible a revision to the anti-narcotics policy that has emphasized the role of the police, and even military, and the prosecution of production and trafficking of drugs. This policy has neglected social and educational programs for prevention and the care of addicts. The evaluation body could let us know how far the mistaken approach to the problem has transformed what essentially is a U.S. public health problem into a national security conflict for several nations of the hemisphere, including ours."

"Visit May Be A Milestone In Improving U.S.-Mexico Relationship"

An editorial in nationalist, traditionally pro-PRI Excelsior stated (4/7), "General Barry McCaffrey's visit to Mexico may be a milestone in improving the U.S.-Mexico relationship, particularly with regards to the thorny problem of the fight against drug trafficking. The so-called certification process that the U.S. government performs on Mexico's efforts to combat drug trafficking is a constant friction between both countries. No country tolerates the idea that another nation can interfere in its domestic matters and evaluate its efforts. Perhaps increased coordination between the law enforcement teams of each country would bring a step forward in our mutual understanding.

"It is very important to note that the U.S. government, for the first time, has recognized that it is the enormous demand for drugs by millions of U.S. addicts that encourages drug trafficking. The U.S. government has also recognized that drug trafficking has provoked a national security and public health problem that is a matter of concern for both nations. The High Level Contact Group meeting led by General McCaffrey and Secretary Rosario Green and Attorney General Jorge Madrazo will raise some interesting agreements. The creation of a binational technical group that will evaluate preventive and corrective measures may lead to an end of the so-called certification."

"Extradition Of Drug Traffickers"

A second editorial in Excelsior (4/7) added, "Among the most interesting aspects discussed at the High Level Contact Group meeting is the extradition of drug traffickers.... Any effort to destroy the increasing power of narco-mafias must be welcomed and encouraged....

"The contamination of the economies, and the contamination of the banking system, including money laundering, are a matter of concern for both governments. Corruption of (government) officials and high military and police officers are also a matter of concern and lead us to think these groups are already creating a state within a state. Day by day, drug mafias expand their scope and penetrate into legitimate political power."

BARBADOS: "Deportees A Problem To Region"

The centrist Nation devoted its editorial (4/6) to the question of criminals who are being returned to their country of origin after serving sentences in American prisons. The editorial noted that the matter was recently raised by Prime Minister of St. Lucia Kenny Anthony. He made his comments against the background of rising crime in St. Lucia and the region, much of it narcotics-related: "As Anthony sees it, these criminals who hone their skills in the United States, when sent back to the Caribbean, put these criminal skills to work in an environment that often does not have the know-how to catch them. It might be argued that since these criminals are not citizens of the United States, but have lived there because they were holding immigrant visas (green cards), the United States has no special responsibility toward them. They are not U.S. citizens; they are posing problems in the United States, so be rid of the problem.

"In the case of drug trafficking, the United States has adopted a different approach. The United States helps fight the drug traffickers in the Caribbean in an attempt to keep them away from the United States. The United States has an interest in keeping drugs away from its shores and borders. And so it helps the Caribbean nations. Even if it accepts that the criminals sent back from the United States know how to run rings around certain law enforcement groups in the Caribbean, the United States is clearly not seeing this as problem for them. The American authorities are not concerned that they might be better able to keep an eye on these criminals than those in the Caribbean. However, it has nothing to gain by keeping 'Caribbean' criminals in the United States. The United States is quite willing to pass on the headaches these people pose. It is as simple as that."

BRAZIL: "New Options For Hemispheric Fight Against Drug Trafficking"

Center-right O Estado de Sao Paulo's op-ed page (3/19) was critical of the United States' "unfortunate certification policy," and noted that "such an arbitrary practice of relative efficiency generates resentment, encourages anti-American feelings, leads to insane nationalism and is politically harmful to the good relations between the nations of this hemisphere. This situation is particularly sensitive in Mexico and Colombia, whose populations still regret territorial mutilations that the U.S. government imposed on them in the past century. Aware of the seriousness of this political dilemma, Washington has now looked for options to its certification policy, which was obviously conceived with the best intentions, but has been inconvenient and clumsy in practice.... One of the first obstacles to be overcome is within Washington's domestic sphere: the persuasive effort being conducted to lead Congress to rescind the law that created the certification system. Senators Christopher Dodd and John McCain, both with broad strategic viewpoints, are engaged in this bipartisan initiative that may establish a freely negotiated Inter-American Alliance Against Drugs. Thus, it is expected that the concept of the need to fight drug trafficking will evolve toward a continental system, thereby working harmoniously to fulfill a common goal."

CHILE: "The Battle Against Drugs"

Conservative, influential El Mercurio (5/8) ran this editorial comment: "President Frei stressed the success of 'Operation Ocean' [where Chile's national police arrested more than a dozen suspects involved in illegal drug activities] as a demonstration of Chile's determination to fight against drugs and their pernicious effects. The president said this operation shows that Chile is not only going after the small traffickers, but also after the large ones who use the country as a base to send drugs to other nations....

"But what is being done to combat and eradicate drugs and their consumption is surpassed by drug trafficking organizations that have sufficient resources to corrupt all levels of society.... Drug use is much more extensive than what is believed and some who work in the rehabilitation of drug addicts even go so far as to say that a complete generation of Chileans is already lost to drug consumption, which leads one to believe that corruption is undermining the foundations of our institutions."

"The Scourge Of Drugs"

Influential, centrist La Epoca observed (5/6): "There is no doubt that the success of 'Operation Ocean' has international repercussions. The information published shows that it has been a major blow against the powerful Cali Cartel.... At the same time, the arrest of the leaders of the operation...permits a better understanding of money-laundering operations, such as (drug money) capital investments in Chile's commercial, industrial and financial sectors. In some ultraliberal circles it is said that there is no need to be so concerned because it might even be good business for Chile to allow drug money into the country and to allow the country to be used as a point of transit, as long as it does not affect the population. This cynical and even criminal criterion, which of course has been rejected, seems to prevail among those who place business and profit above all other values.

"Chile...faces a social problem of enormous proportions. Drug trafficking and consumption continue to increase throughout society, especially among youth. Satisfaction over the success (of the operation) must not allow anyone to forget this reality nor the enormous amount that remains to be done in this regard."

"Real Progress"

Top-circulation, financial Estrategia opined (5/6): "The investigation of illicit association and crimes related to drug trafficking and money-laundering...was possible due to new anti-drug legislation now in place in our country. This law allows the use of undercover agents, telephone wiretaps and the monitoring of bank accounts, all of which are basic tools needed to carry out an investigation against international criminal organizations. There is no doubt that this legislation represents real progress in the task of facing the reality of international syndicates, which continue to spread violence and crime in the countries in which they are able to function."

"The OAS And Certification"

Influential, centrist La Epoca (5/4) ran this editorial: "Today in Washington the OAS will begin its working sessions to establish a multilateral certification mechanism in the fight against drugs on the continent. The system is conceived as one that would substitute the unilateral process applied at present by the United States and which creates increasing problems (for it) with the nations of Latin America.... Although the United States has approved the OAS undertaking, it has not been resolved whether Washington will actually accept the application of a multilateral system as an alternative to the current unilateral certification process.

"In this regard, President Clinton's administration has a difficult task. Immediately after hearing of the eventual easing of the official position (on certification), Republican congressmen quickly expressed their objections.... These representatives argue...that Washington cannot desist from carrying out an annual evaluation that has an impact on U.S. aid and its policy of cooperation. Furthermore, the Congressmen have said that the White House cannot modify the system without consulting with Congress, where a tough and critical view seems to predominate regarding Latin America's efforts to stop drug trafficking."

PERU: "Allow Executive More Freedom Of Action"

Pro-government Expreso observed (4/30): "Yesterday, the New York Tmes published that in a private meeting with religious leaders President Clinton had said the U.S. laws oblige him to apply automatic sanctions to other countries which impede U.S. government objectives. Maybe he is right....

"Anyway, the trend in other nations is also that the legislative allow the executive more freedom of action. Although President Clinton did not mention it in his statements, these were made within the context of the recent criticisms to the annual U.S. drug certifications. Apparently, the statements would mean that the president is supporting multilateral certification as it was advanced in the recent Santiago summit. If this is the case, a bigger concentration of power in presidential hands will mean in a more prudent use of power."


PAKISTAN: "Alarming Disclosures"

An editorial in the Karaachi-based, independent Dawn commented (5/3): "A report released recently by the UN drugs control program about drug abuse in Pakistan makes alarming reading. It says that the use of heroin is increasing at a horrifying rate. According to it, the number of drug and heroin addicts (1.5 million of the latter among 3.7 million total drug-abusers) is the highest in the developing countries....

"It is true that the country is not wanting in laws against drug-related offences. Yet the menace is spreading, testifying to the fact that while the laws are not enforced sufficiently strictly and with the certainty the situation would call for. At the same time, it is necessary to drum into the ears of the people the colossal damage drug abuse causes the nation.... But one is pained to note the absence of a sustained campaign on the audio-visual media against drug abuse. What is needed is a well thought-out and well executed campaign to raise the people's awareness about the problem."


NIGERIA: "Cooperation, Not Decertification"

The Lagos-based, 60 percent federal government-owned Daily Times (4/28) said in an editorial: "The continued decertification of Nigeria by the United States is simply inexplicable given the Herculean efforts made by the Nigerian Drug Law Enforcement Agency (NDLEA) to discharge its mandate.... Against this background, it is difficult to disagree with Major-General Bamaiyi's (NDLEA Boss) recent assertion that Nigeria's decertification by the United States is politically motivated and constitutes a deliberate attempt to taint the country's image....

"The United States should realize that it has more to gain than Nigeria if the objective of eradicating illicit drugs globally is achieved. This is because the widespread use of these dangerous drugs is a much more serious problem in the United States.

"Nigeria is at best a transit route for this illegal trade as there is no entrenched culture of hard drug use here. Rather than play politics with the anti-drug war, therefore, we expect the United States to cooperate with Nigeria and support the country's efforts."

"No Justification For U.S. To Politicize Drug Issue"

The Lagos-based 60 percent federal government-owned Daily Times (3/9), ran an editorial saying: "The continued decertification of Nigeria on drugs is tantamount to a verdict of eternal guilt against a country that has gone the extra mile to stamp out drug offenses.... The action of the United States can only be seen as most unfriendly and a political approach to a serious matter of global concern. There is no justification for the United States to continue to politicize the drug issue. The war against hard drugs is one of the greatest challenges confronting the modern world....

"America as the country with the highest rate of drug consumption in the world, lacks the moral authority to witch-hunt any nation on the drug matter.... America's refusal to acknowledge Nigeria's commitment to the crusade is an action taken to give a dog a bad name in order to hang it."


PHILIPPINES: "America's Failed Drug War"

Beth Day Romulo wrote in the conservative, top-circulation Manila Bulletin (3/19): "Despite all the money spent on police surveillance, arrests and border patrols, drug use continues to spiral and America provides the world's biggest market for drug use.... It has become so obvious that the federal drug policy does not work that states have begun to take the issue into their hands. California passed a law legalizing marijuana for medical use and Arizona passed a law legalizing marijuana for treatment of chronic pain. Serious under-treatment of chronic pain, especially among terminal cancer patients, is a result of the Drug enforcement Agency's pressure on doctors and hospitals....

"An alternative to the failed federal drug policy might be a program, used in a number of countries in Europe, called 'Harm Reduction.'... The key to dealing with the international drug trade is to take the huge profit out of it, and each country deal with drug users on a social humanitarian level, by offering treatment instead of punishment."

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