USIS Washington File

11 March 1999


(Legislators say current system needs changing)  (660)
By Eric Green
USIA Staff Writer

WASHINGTON -- New legislation has been introduced in the U.S. Senate
to change the way the United States measures whether foreign nations
are doing enough in the global effort against illegal drugs.

Speaking at a March 11 news conference at the Capitol, Democratic
Senators Barbara Boxer of California and Christopher Dodd of
Connecticut, along with Republican Phil Gramm of Texas, say their plan
will replace "confrontation with cooperation" in dealing with major
drug producing or transit countries.

Boxer said the present system "subjects some of our closest allies and
trading partners to fingerpointing and humiliation, rather than in
promoting mutual efforts to control drugs. The idea we've come up with
is very workable."

The Boxer-Dodd-Gramm plan, she said, exempts from the certification
process countries which sign a bilateral agreement with the United
States, relating to issues on the control of illicit drugs --
including production, distribution, interdiction, demand reduction,
border security and cooperation among law enforcement agencies. The
plan, she added, "rewards countries that are making progress toward
meeting mutually agreed-upon goals and timetables."

This new plan, she said, gives countries a way to work together "for
real goals with real results."

"Make no mistake, we are not giving Mexico or any other country a free
pass on fighting illicit drugs. On the contrary, our bill ... spells
out specific issues that must be addressed in the agreements," Boxer
said. "We specifically require the adoption of timetables and
objectives and measurable standards." The bill, she said, requires
semi-annual reports assessing the progress of both countries under the
bilateral agreement. If progress is not made, the country returns to
the annual certification process, which involves the possibility of

Dodd said he supports the bill as a "worthwhile first step" in
scrapping the certification process all together.

"Ultimately, I'd like to see us multinationalize this problem. You
just don't get cooperation with countries when yearly we point the
finger and accuse them of not doing enough when the demand (for drugs)
continues to grow here at home."

The current process, he said, "doesn't work at all. When we decertify
a country we exacerbate the problem. Instead of a process that was
well intended a number of years ago when it was first formulated, it
now is counterproductive in terms of getting the cooperation of a
country and moving aggressively" on the anti-drug fight.

Under current law, each November 1 the president submits a list to
Congress of the world's major drug producing and drug transit
countries. By March 1 of the following year, the president must notify
Congress about his determination whether each country on the list is
cooperating fully in anti-drug efforts in meeting the goals and
objectives of the 1988 United Nations Convention Against Illicit
Traffic in Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances. The president
can decide whether a country is certified, not cooperating and
therefore decertified, or not cooperating but certified by waiver on
national security grounds.

The State Department said, when asked March 9 about calls for a new
certification process, said in a statement that "we are always
interested in initiatives to strengthen international cooperation in
combating drug trafficking, and we would welcome the opportunity to
work with the Congress on such initiatives."

A fact sheet prepared by the Department's Bureau of International
Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs on drug certification said that
"though many countries understandably resent the process, most work to
ensure that they receive full certification. They know that the
president ... bases the determination on sound, objective evidence and
that he must defend his decisions before the U.S. Congress. The
purpose of the law is not to punish any particular country, rather it
is to hold every country to a minimum acceptable standard of