11 March 1999
NEW PLAN OFFERED ON MEASURING GLOBAL ANTI-DRUG COOPERATION(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 sanctions. 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 cooperation."