USIS Washington File

26 February 1999


(White House issues annual report)   (1010)

WASHINGTON -- Following is the text of the Feb. 26 White House
Statement of Explanation regarding Mexico's drug-certification status:

(begin text)


Mexico made significant counter-narcotics progress in 1998. Building
on presidential commitments made in May 1997, the United States and
Mexico developed a Bi-National Drug Strategy -- released in February
1998 -- which identified sixteen areas for cooperation in reducing the
illicit consumption, production and trafficking in drugs. Later in
1998, the two countries developed Performance Measures of
Effectiveness for the Strategy to guide its implementation and to
provide a means of monitoring progress. The Measures were formally
adopted during President Clinton's trip to Mexico in February 1999.
The U.S.-Mexico High-Level Contact Group on Narcotics Control (HLCG)
and the Senior Law Enforcement Plenary continued to serve as the
principal fora for coordination of bilateral counter-narcotics

USG agencies enjoy productive working relationships with Government of
Mexico (GOM) counterparts across a broad range of counter-narcotics
programs. The two governments have established numerous mechanisms,
both formal and

 informal, to promote good communication and coordination.

The most serious obstacles to both bilateral counter-narcotics
cooperation and the effectiveness of Mexican agencies in combating the
major drug cartels relate to institutional weaknesses, such as lack of
adequate resources and training and widespread drug-related
corruption. The GOM took a number of important steps in 1998 to
address these problems. For example, for the first time ever, the
Office of the Attorney General (PGR) implemented an intensive
screening process for recruits to law enforcement as well as for all
personnel assigned to sensitive positions. This level of screening
will eventually be expanded to all PGR personnel. These kinds of
reforms, along with bilateral training activities, are helping to
build confidence between USG and GOM authorities, resulting in
improved bilateral cooperation.

The GOM also took steps during 1998 to implement important legislative
reforms designed to enhance efforts against drug trafficking and
organized crime. Among these steps were introduction of legislation
regulating seized property to allow for asset forfeiture and sharing,
streamlining the Mexican code of criminal procedure to facilitate
prosecution of drug traffickers, and reducing the ability of employees
dismissed for corruption to be reinstated upon appeal. In an effort to
enhance professionalism and increase capabilities, Mexican law
enforcement and judicial officials participated actively during 1998
in various bilateral training programs designed to improve management
of evidence, electronic surveillance, asset forfeiture, drug
detection, and fraud investigation.

During 1998, Mexican authorities arrested numerous drug traffickers,
including Jesus and Luis Amezcua (major methamphetamine traffickers
wanted for extradition to the United States), twenty members of the
Amado Carrillo Fuentes Organization (the Juarez Cartel), the former
military commander of Baja California, and two Federal Judicial Police
chiefs. Notable convictions and sentences for drug-related crimes in
1998 include former Drug Czar Army General Gutierrez Rebollo
(sentenced to almost 14 years for offenses involving illegal
possession and transportation of firearms and abuse of authority), and
Ernesto "Don Neto" Fonseca Carrillo (sentenced on drug charges to 11
years, in addition to time he is serving for the 1985 murder of a DEA
agent). Over 10,000 Mexican nationals and 255 foreign nationals were
arrested on drug- related charges.

On the basis of legislation and regulations adopted in 1996-97, the
GOM made progress last year in detecting and prosecuting instances of
money laundering. The Financial Investigative Unit established in 1997
in Mexico's Finance Ministry continued to work closely with USG
counterparts on money laundering investigations, providing leads,
follow-up and access to witnesses. With informational assistance and
technical support from the USG, the GOM increased seizures of drug
traffickers' assets in 1998, including a $250 million seizure of
assets connected to Alcides Ramon-Magana in Cancun. Mexico's first
successful prosecution for money laundering demonstrated encouraging
progress in 1998.

The GOM sustained its massive interdiction and eradication programs
throughout 1998. For example, Mexican law enforcement and military
personnel seized 22.6 metric tons of cocaine and over 1,000 metric
tons of marijuana. They eradicated for an entire growing season
approximately 9,500 hectares of opium poppy and 9,500 hectares of
cannabis. The GOM continued cooperation with the USG in interdicting
drug shipments throughout 1998. For example, during one major event,
the GOM seized three tons of cocaine from a trafficking vessel forced
to land by coordinated action by the U.S. Coast Guard and the Mexican
Navy. In addition, bilateral cooperation in using U.S. air assets to
detect and monitor drug flights increased in 1998.

Both governments recognize that much remains to be done to dismantle
the major international drug cartels, which pose such a serious threat
to both nations. The criminal organizations based in Mexico are well
financed and violent, placing Mexican law enforcement and military
personnel at grave risk. The persistent corrupting influence of these
groups is also an important concern for the GOM.

President Zedillo has publicly underscored his commitment to combat
drug trafficking and to strengthen Mexico's law enforcement
institutions. He reaffirmed this commitment to U.S. officials,
including in a June 1998 meeting with President Clinton at the UN
General Assembly Special Session on Drugs. In February 1999, the GOM
announced a major public security initiative which will significantly
intensify the national anti-drug effort. Despite an austere budgetary
situation, President Zedillo has directed the GOM to invest up to $500
million over the next three years on enhancements to the nation's
capabilities to interdict drug shipments, to combat the major drug
trafficking organizations, and to counter the corrupting influences
that these organizations exert in both the public and private sectors.
The initiative also calls for a major effort to address street crime
and violence.

The USG and the GOM have carefully nurtured positive working
relationships, and the goodwill resulting from those efforts will
remain essential as both Governments continue to confront the shared
threat of international drug trafficking.

(end text)