March 3, 1999


Last month's announcement by the Clinton administration of the 1999 National Drug Control Strategy detailing the long-term U.S. plan to reduce domestic drug use and availability to historic new lows, and the release last week by the White House of the 1999 drug certification list of those countries deemed to be fully cooperating with the U.S. in the war on drugs, prompted a flurry of commentaries from Latin America, Asia and Europe. As in years past, analysts overseas--with few exceptions--derided the annual drug certification process. The familiar criticisms appeared again this year: Commentators in drug-producing and -transit countries and elsewhere judged certification to be a "unilateral," "interventionist" U.S. policy that has been applied "arbitrarily" and that, ultimately, has been "ineffective" in the battle against drugs. Some editorialists--pointing out that Mexico is still the "door for 65 percent of the cocaine entering the U.S." and that Colombia remains the "key drug producer in the hemisphere"--charged that those two countries received certification for "political" reasons only, and not for their merits in anti-drug cooperation. Those criticisms notwithstanding, a notable--albeit small--undercurrent of more positive assessments of the U.S. and its anti-drug efforts surfaced in commentaries focusing on the 1999 Drug Control Strategy plan. Dailies in Brazil and Germany, for example, applauded America for "increasingly focusing" on drug prevention and rehabilitation. Following are country views:

COLOMBIA: Colombia's certification this year by the U.S. was welcomed by many analysts, but criticism of the process was ubiquitous and strong. Some contended that the decision in favor of Colombia was "expected" and illustrative of "improved" U.S.-Colombian ties. A majority of commentators, however, continued to rail at the "disagreeable" certification process. Several editorialists pointed out, as others elsewhere, that the U.S. remains the major "importer and consumer" of illegal drugs and urged that more attention be paid to that side of the equation. Only Medellin's conservative-oriented El Colombiano demurred in its overall assessment. That paper asserted that certification is a necessary "pressure" that impels otherwise "lax governments" to take action in the war against drugs.

MEXICO: Release of the annual State Department human rights report almost simultaneously with the announcement of the drug certification decision may have taken column inches away from reporting on the drug certification issue. In any case, most dailies treated the certification and human rights reports in tandem. Perhaps not surprisingly, both efforts were viewed as "offensive" and "hypocritical" U.S. policies. A few pundits did note that the efforts do raise the profile of drug and human rights issues in Mexico. They were quick to add, however, that Mexicans "must clean [their] own house, because only thus can we halt the interventionist efforts of the authorities of the neighboring country."

BOLIVIA: Contending that Bolivia "proportionally" does "more" than the U.S. in the battle against drugs, a La Paz writer fretted about the amount of U.S. anti-drug aid Bolivia receives.

PAKISTAN: Karachi's independent Dawn allowed that Islamabad should "come down hard on drug addiction and trafficking" because it is in the U.S. and Pakistan's own interests. But, the paper stressed, Pakistanis should do it without the "DEA...breathing down their neck."

This survey is based on 28 reports from 8 countries, February 24-March 2.

EDITOR: Diana McCaffrey

To Go Directly To Quotes By Region, Click Below



COLOMBIA: "Another Foreign Policy Success"

Business-oriented La Republica opined (3/2): "Colombia's certification by the U.S. government is no small matter.... Certification will undoubtedly be key to the success of our trade strategy.... We should celebrate this significant foreign policy success of the current government in the area of the fight against narcotics trafficking, a scourge that we must continue fighting energetically in all of its manifestations. We've won an important battle, but still have to win the war."


Liberal-oriented El Espectador ran this piece by Antonio Morales Rivera (3/2): "Confronted with an unjust mechanism that violates our national sovereignty and therefore harms not only the dignity of the Colombian state, but that of the Colombian people, it's bad that our president would react like a supplicant by saying 'we are no longer undeserving.'... The United States is behind a social problem that here we confront with dignity, whether it be Rosso Jose Serrano's fight, or that of the peasant in Guaviare who must put up with streams of glyphosate falling on his house.... The most unbecoming thing about the fuss that Pastrana made was that the gringos certified him personally, while Colombia must bear proliferation, like never before, of cartels and illicit cultivation, while ever more cocaine flows to Anglo-Saxon noses with Pastrana's knowledge."

"Recognizing An Honorable President, Honest Government"

Carlos Alban Benavides opined in conservative El Nuevo Siglo (3/2): "More than anything the `gringo' decision recognizes that we now have an honorable president heading an honest government.... And it shouldn't be forgotten that while Colombia remains first in the production and distribution of cocaine, and is a major source of heroin and marijuana, the U.S. leads in the importation and consumption of drugs, and is a major exporter of precursor chemicals."

"Important Change"

Conservative-oriented El Pais of Cali held (3/1): "The most important thing about certification is the change that has occurred in the attitude of the U.S. government towards our country and its problems. What Colombians hope is that this change manifests itself not only in increased anti-drug cooperation, but also in decisive actions to control money laundering and illegal drug consumption.... The certification mechanism is a unilateral decision that doesn't take into account the totality of the trafficking problem, nor all of its actors."

"Necessary Pressure..."

Conservative-oriented El Colombiano of Medellin said (3/2): "It's natural that the certification process continues to be questioned. Even U.S. media have said that the process is much more political than judicial, and that it's used selectively, according to whether Washington likes or dislikes a particular government.... But as we said in our editorial of 2 March 1998, 'certification or de-certification promotes actions by lax governments that perhaps would not have acted had pressure not been applied.'... It remains unfortunate that without international pressure, and particularly that of the United States, perhaps we would not have begun to 'purify our customs.'"

"End Unilateral Judgments"

Liberal-oriented El Universal of Cartagena held (3/1): "With the moral authority that full certification brings, we can now insist that unilateral judgments rendered by one of the parties to the problem end. Because we've done well, we have the right to ask that this unjust process end."

"Certification: Act Of Imperialism"

Liberal-oriented La Opinion of Cucuta maintained (3/1): "But in any case, unilateral certification by the United States is an act of imperialism."

"Pastrana's Doing"

Conservative La Patria of Manizales assertd (3/1): "The U.S. government gave Colombia full certification as recognition of what the country has done in the anti-drug fight. It was expected. The government of President Andres Pastrana has been so involved in this matter that it was recognized by the State Department."

"Disagreeable, Unilateral Process"

Leading, liberal-oriented El Tiempo commented (2/28): "The decision of the U.S. government to fully certify Colombia in the anti-drug fight should register as a very positive occurrence that will undoubtedly strengthen relations between our two countries after several years of friction and misunderstandings.... But it is also an opportunity to reflect on this process (certification), which is disagreeable because of its unilateral nature, and has awakened resistence in the whole world since its establishment."

"Certified, And Now What?"

Enrique Santos Calderon wrote in leading, liberal-oriented El Tiempo (2/28): "Colombia's full certification obviously has more to do with the need to support a friendly government (in contrast to the prior one) than with cold economic or social realities, or with statistics related to the narco-trafficking phenomenon. It's `realpolitik.'... And what again comes to mind is how arbitrary, unilateral, and lastly absurd this whole certification mechanism is."

"Honeymoon With The U.S."

Fidel Cano Correa wrote this opinion piece in leading, liberal-oriented El Tiempo (2/28): "The change is evident. The first and obvious reason for this change is the departure of a tainted government and the arrival of a legitimate one.... Equally (the fact that) policy towards Colombia is now being dictated directly by President Clinton."

"What's Important Is Fighting Drugs"

Liberal-oriented El Espectador editorialized (2/28): "Satisfaction with having obtained Washington's certification cannot make us accept this harmful and disagreeable process. The illicit drug phenomenon has grown in all possible dimensions. Certification has not promoted more effective cooperation."

"Certification.... How Much Longer?"

Elvira C. Aparicio commented in liberal-oriented El Espectador (2/28): "Only the United States considers certification to be an objective process. Nor is it effective. Instead it's unilateral and political in nature, and generates irritation, resentment, and charges of hypocrisy....

"Colombia is a clear case of the politicization of this instrument.... Washington is now on good terms with President Pastrana, and wants to prolong the honeymoon for at least another year."

MEXICO: "Certification And Human Rights"

Left-of-center La Jornada's lead editorial read (2/27): "The great majority of nations reject the unilateral and hypocritical evaluation by the United States, the greatest consumer and one of the major producers of drugs. Nevertheless, the sanctions which the White House can place on the 'decertified' and the possible negative impact on the public image of the governments which do not 'cooperate' sufficiently lead many Latin American officials to undertake public relations campaigns about their achievements in crop eradication and control of drug trafficking and to pronounce new strategies and policies to combat drugs and to apprehend a few kingpins. Rejection of the aforementioned process and defense of basic priniciples of sovereignty and no to extrateritoriality are necessary actions. At the same time, eradication of drug crops, transport and commerce, and the punishment, in accordance with the law, of narcotics traffickers are fundamental commitments of the state.

"At the same time, the Department of State released its annual report on human rights in the world. That document indicates that in Mexico the armed forces and public security bodies continue to commit serious violations of basic guarantees to individuals, including torture and extra-judicial killing. The denunciations in the report from Washington are not new. Many national and international organizations have sounded the alert on the humanitarian crisis in Mexico and against violent attacks committed in the United States against racial minorities and undocumented Mexicans.

"The pronouncement of the Department of State is just as offensive and hypocritical as certification. But the serious problem of human rights in the country is surprising. While successes in the official strategy against narcotics are widely disseminated by the authorities, they have done relatively little to confront and clarify the violence committed by the police and other organizations of public order."

"We Must Clean Our Own House"

Top-circulation, nationalist El Universal observed (2/27): "The Mexican government must maintain its vigilance over the human rights cabal to avoid having other governments try to show us how to save ourselves. Just as Mexican authorites are obliged to fight against narcotics trafficking without the vigilance of U.S. agencies, it is also a strategic obligation to act with full respect to guarantee individual rights. We must clean our own house, because only thus can we halt the interventionist efforts of the authorities of the neighboring country."

"Battle Against Drugs Is Also A Political Battle"

Diego Petersen wrote Guadalajara's independent Publico (2/27): "[Certification] is thus, originally, a strictly budgetary problem. If we look at Barry McCaffrey's speech of last Wednesday...more than any judgement against Mexico and its galloping corruption, at the bottom if it all is a justification for obtaining more resources in the fight against drugs. That said, it is obvious that all budgetary exercises also entail political posturing, and an ideal moment to exercise political pressure according to one's interests (this happens in the Jalisco Congress and the Chamber of Deputies). The question is, then, not whether the United States will certify Mexico but what, shall we say, is the cost of certification. For Mexico, and most especially for its political system, this is the decisive year for presidential succession. The U.S. government is, of course, playing its cards. To attack Liebano, the president's main political operator, would be to attack Zedillo's political projects and to dismantle his chances for maneouvering the succession.... Who is the U.S. certifying and who are they not? We will learn this, fundamentally, through the main American newspapers.

"For now, it is more or less clear that the certification process has more ingredients than in previous years. The battle against drugs is also a political battle. Who pays for the [broken] dishes of certification?"

"Americans Want To Avoid Fight"

Leading El Norte of Monterrey carried a commentary by Sergio Sarmineto (3/2): "Many high-ranking American officials recognize that this worn out process does nothing to help relations between our two countries. American officials don't want to generate a fight with Mexico in the year in which the PRI Party must select a presidential candidate. Decertifying Mexico could give a great boost to Manuel Bartlett, who many PRI members see as a protest candidate against President Zedillo and his policy of close relations with the United States."

BOLIVIA: "Bolivia Proportionally Did More Than U.S. In Battle Against Drugs"

Catholic Church-owned Presencia carried this editorial (2/27): "Bolivia proportionally did more than the United States in the battle against drugs.... Washington has a budget of [millions] available for its antidrug campaign, inside and outside its territory. Consequently, the increase of aid to Bolivia would not alter the availability of that money, moreover we take into account that our country has proven that it makes efforts which are greater than its own capacity."

"U.S. Consumption Should Be Reduced"

Centrist Ultima Hora observed (2/28): "As it appears, the fight against drug trafficking is not fully complete because the American strategy wants to eradicate the production source first, when logic suggests that production should be reduced in the same measure of consumption demand."

"UN Drug Report Contradictions"

Pro-business La Razon commented on the UN International Narcotics Control Board report (2/24): "Yesterday, the INCB presented its annual report, in which Bolivia, in general terms, gets good marks. The document points out that Plan Dignidad put more emphasis on coca eradication than on cocaine interdiction, and that as a consequence less coca is being produced--which is good--but more paste, and cocaine hydrochloride--which is bad. The government, or at least the Minister of Defense Fernando Kieffer, in the name of the national council of battle against illegal trafficking, has responded by questioning the report. According to him, the document refers to the Andean region but not to Bolivia specifically, since the country 'has increased the level of interdiction of cocaine paste as well as of precursors.' However, he admits that consumption has multiplied by four in the last decade. But, aside from this apparent contradiction, the important part of the INCB report undoubtedly is not what the governments may be doing wrong, but that it must be taken as a sign that indicates which is the correct path. Thus, Minister's Kieffer reaction reveals an excessive and unjustified susceptibility. The report is neither an attack on the government, nor does it question the good antidrug work which undoubtedly it is putting forth and which has been recognized by the U.S. government. It is a guideline, a light that shows the way where the emphasis must be put for the future."

"Government Mistrusts UN Antidrug Data, Gives Credibility To U.S. Findings"

Catholic Church-owned Presencia, reporting on Bolivian Government Spokesman Mauro Bertero's statements, said in part (2/25): "The UN INCB's report does not fit with the reality of the results observed during the 1998 period and certified by the Office of National Drug Control Policy of the United States.

"Through an official statement, the government official said that the ONDCP is the only office which has access to satellite technology for accurate data recollection. He said that according to the report presented by the highest-level official of the antidrug battle in the United States, Barry McCaffrey, the growing of the coca leaf in Bolivia has fallen from 45,000 tons to 38,000 metric tons in 1998. In addition, the cocaine potential production decreased from 200 metric tons in 1997 to 150 in 1998, which means a 25 percent reduction."

ARGENTINA: "Pointless Nobel Prizes"

Claudio Uriarte wrote in leftist Pagina 12 (2/27): "The U.S. State Department's annual drug `certification' process...looks more and more like a round of Nobel Prize awards, because both ceremonies give more importance to political--or geopolitical--aspects rather than to the true merits of those who are awarded the prize. For example, Mexico is the door for 65 per cent of the cocaine entering the United States, and it produces 14 per cent of the heroine Americans consume.... Colombia, on its part, is the key drug producer in the hemisphere, together with Peru and Bolivia. Nevertheless, the State Department chooses to certify these four, at the same time it decertifies Paraguay--considered a transit country, though it does not apply the corresponding sanctions--aid suspension and blocking of international credits.

"The reasons? Mexico is a U.S. partner in NAFTA, Colombia is dangerously handling the guerrillas to avoid disintegration, while Peru and Bolivia have made different deals with DEA. But in Paraguay, General Oviedo is the United States' 'bete noire' in the region, and the embassy in Asuncion has become a conspiracy center and a press office against the government. This is the reason for 'decertification' which, nevertheless, isn't seriously practical. In the case of the Human Rights report, the level of hypocrisy is slightly lower, but what is said regarding each country has very little to do with U.S. practical politics. The clearest case is China...where they accepted repression as a preventive measure against disintegration. The same case applies to Mexico, Peru and Colombia, which are condemned and nothing happens. Both reports, then, are losing credibility as well as efficiency. They are like pointless Nobel Prizes."

"Paraguayan Suspicion"

Hugo Olazar, on special assignment in Asuncion for leading Clarin, wrote (2/26): "For the first time in history, the U.S. government could include Paraguay on its 'black list,' composed of countries which have not cooperated enough in the fight against drug trafficking, according to...some sources from Asuncion government. Rather than being related to Paraguay's inefficiency in combating drug trafficking, an eventual U.S. punishment (in the drug certification process) could be interpreted by the Paraguayan government as a revenge for retired General Lino Oviedo's active political leadership. 'Oviedo irritates Uncle Sam,' according to some diplomatic sources. The U.S. Ambassador (to Asuncion), Maura Harty, has been very discreet during the recent weeks.... But some days ago she gave a clue about the future decision of her government. She said...'No ringleaders have been imprisoned in Paraguay.' Paraguayan foreign minister, Dido Florentin, answered back to the diplomat and said that in a short time the government would arrest the local 'heads' of drug trafficking.

"The antidrug members of Raul Cubas' government were speechless and their fear increased when they read in The Miami Herald that it is almost sure that Paraguay may be the only Latin American country included in the U.S. 'black list.' The source quoted was...Peter Romero, Under Secretary for Latin American Affairs of the State Department."

BRAZIL: "Drugs And Violence"

Center-right O Estado de Sao Paulo's editorial held (3/2): "Drugs, particularly crack, are increasingly linked to the high levels of violence in the city of Sao Paulo....

"Repression of such criminal activities demands a profound review of the police structure. But the success of an anti-drug policy does not depend solely on a simple police operation. The problem is much more complex and demands a visionary policy to prevent drug abuse and rehabilitate addicts.... In an interview with this newspaper last year, General Barry McCaffrey emphasized the strategic importance of significant investment in prevention and rehabilitation programs.... The positive results of the USG strategy that has increasingly focused on prevention and rehabilitation is a good model that might be adopted by Brazil's national anti-drug policy. It must be understood that it is much more difficult to deal with current problems than to prevent the emergence of new ones."


MALAYSIA: "U.S., Europe Not Represented At Interpol Heroin Conference"

The government-influenced New Straits Times ran the following editorial (2/27): "The three-day meeting organized by Interpol [the fourth International Heroin Conference in Rangoon] ended with rare words of praise for the political will of the Myanmar government to direct a balanced narcotics-control program even without external aid.... The United States and several European countries...were not represented despite being the world's largest heroin markets.... They failed in their obligation to keep up the pressure against a lucrative industry that targets the young and the weak-willed in their countries. From this perspective their protest was as futile as it was petty and unnecessary."

THAILAND: "U.S. Must Examine Its Drug Policy"

The lead editorial of largest-circulation, moderately conservative, English-language Bangkok Post commented (2/22): "In recent years...the tough cases have become fully politicized. The Iranian regime has fought drugs traffickers, peddlers and money launderers tooth and nail since the Islamic regime was established in 1979. But until last year, Iran was named each year as a facilitator of narcotics smugglers. Then, suddenly, Iran was elevated to the list of nations which had taken steps to eradicate its opium fields. This reversal coincided with the imminent thaw in U.S. relations. Then there was also the case of Malaysia. Our neighbor is harshly committed to anti-drug policies, but it was--and is--a center of drug money laundering.... This year, the major sticking point is Mexico. Cooperation with the drug traffickers reaches into the very highest levels of the Mexican government. Yet President Clinton will almost certainly certify next Monday that Mexico is on the side of the angels, so to speak. Otherwise, Mexican officials would become angry and stop giving even that small amount of cooperation they currently afford to their big brother to the north. The U.S. State Department claims quite correctly that the best way to attack drug corruption is to expose it regularly to public scrutiny. It claims quite incorrectly that the annual certification process is unusually effective. Once, it was. But times have changed, and the certification process no longer serves to hold corruption or ineffective regimes up to the light for their association with drug lords."


PAKISTAN: "Certificate Of Approval"

An editorial in the Karachi-based independent national Dawn observed (3/2): "The steps taken by Pakistan which have met with U.S. approval include among others a successful poppy eradication campaign, especially in the inaccessible tribal areas of the Frontier province; strict action against heroin/morphine laboratories in the Frontier; a number of important arrests; and the freezing of assets of drug traffickers. But the United States also expects Pakistan to do more in this field.... We should therefore come down hard on drug addiction and trafficking because it is good for United States and in our own interests.... The DEA should not be required to be breathing down our necks."


GERMANY: "Right Approach"

Arne Delfs argued in an editorial in right-of-center Berliner Morgenpost (2/9): "While German politicians continue thinking about making life easier for heroin addicts by offering methadone programs and places where they can take their drugs, the United States is pinning its hope on preventive measures. The U.S. government has now presented its anti-drug program whose aim it is to halve the number of drug addicts by 2007. The core points of the program are better information for children and a reduction of the supply of drugs by intensified border controls.

"The U.S. program has the right approach. While German children watch their state offering heroin to certain cases, the United States makes unmistakably clear the dangers of drug use to American children. The numbers speak for themselves: Since 1979, the number of addicts has been halved, while it increased in Germany by 7.1 percent last year. One principle should also be valid in drug policy: Prevention is better than treatment."

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