The President's 2001 Narcotics Certification Determinations

Rand Beers, Assistant Secretary for International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs; Robert Brown, Acting Deputy Director of the Office of National Drug Control Policy, Office of Supply Reduction
Briefing to the Press
Washington, DC
February 25, 2002

MR. REEKER:  Good afternoon, ladies and gentlemen.  Welcome back to the State Department for, as advertised, our briefing this afternoon on the President's narcotics certification determinations.  We are very pleased to have with us the Assistant Secretary of State for International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs Rand Beers, and also the Acting Deputy Director of the Office of National Drug Control Policy, Office of Supply Reduction, Robert Brown, who will make some introductory remarks for you.  We have passed around the White House release from today and some other materials, and then both gentlemen will be available to take your questions.

With that, I will turn it over first to Assistant Secretary Beers.  Thank you.

ASSISTANT SECRETARY BEERS:  Thanks very much, Phil, and good afternoon.  I want to welcome Bob Brown here, who has participated for the last several of these efforts with me.

Over the weekend, the President sent to Congress his annual determinations on narcotics certification, but before I talk about the decisions, let me briefly describe the modification of the certification process so you understand how the actual decision was made.  Section 591 of the Foreign Operations Export Financing and Related Programs Appropriations Act for Fiscal Year 2002 modifies the certification process during Fiscal Year 2002 for countries on the list of major drug-producing and drug transit countries.

In lieu of the certification procedures that were set out before, this year we are required to make this judgment no later than 45 days after the Act is enacted.  And it is with respect to each of the countries on the majors list.  Forty-five days was yesterday.

It is also required in that report to identify any country on the majors lists that has failed demonstrably to make substantial efforts during the previous 12 months to adhere to international counter-narcotics agreements and to take certain counter-narcotics measures set forth in US law.

In previous years, the former certification standard was "has fully cooperated to take adequate steps on its own".  US assistance may not be provided to any country designated as having demonstrably failed.  That is the same as it was before, and the sanctions remain as they were before, as does the national interest waiver.  The prohibition or the sanctions that, I should say, would not affect humanitarian or counter-narcotics assistance and certain other types of assistance that are authorized to be provided, notwithstanding any other provision of law.

This modification retains elements of the current system by continuing to link counter-narcotics efforts of major illicit drug-producing and drug transit countries to their eligibility for most forms of US assistance, while eliminating some aspects that have created tensions in our bilateral relationships, namely the requirement to certify all cooperating nations on the presumption that they were not cooperating, versus the new determination to decertify countries which have not made an effort.

Applied on a worldwide basis, it places a premium on cooperation rather than confrontation with other governments.  Section 591 only modifies the certification process for one year.  Without further congressional action, these procedures will -- the old procedures of the original law will become applicable at the end of this fiscal year.

In addition, the bill's Section 591 does not modify the annual requirement to submit the International Narcotics Strategy Control Report by March of this year, and we plan to release that report in a CD-ROM form this Friday.

Now I'll talk about the actual decisions.  This year, the President has identified Afghanistan, Burma and Haiti as having failed demonstrably to take substantial efforts during the previous 12 months.  The President has further determined that it is in the vital national interest of the United States to provide the full range of assistance to support the new Afghan Interim Authority in the reconstruction of Afghanistan.

The important point about Afghanistan to understand here is that this is a judgment with respect to actions that occurred in Afghanistan last year, during which the Taliban was the controlling authority, or the battle for the future of Afghanistan was under way on Afghan territory.  The Bonn declaration, the creation of the Interim Authority, all occurred at the end of the year.  This is not a judgment with respect to the current administration in Afghanistan.  It is a judgment with respect to the past.

The National Interest Waiver is clearly a judgment with respect to the future.  Of course the United States wants to be in a position to provide the new government full assistance, and that is the basis of the National Interest Waiver.  The Taliban, as you know, did institute a poppy ban, but they certainly did nothing to diminish or discourage drug trafficking within Afghanistan, and they assumed that the existence of large stockpiles would continue the cash flow necessary to keep that government alive.

In addition, during the last three months of calendar year 2001, opium poppy was planted in large amounts.  We don't know exactly how much, and that was a further continuation of our concerns about Afghanistan.  The new authority, installed in December, has taken, we believe, important first steps.  They have made clear that they are banning opium poppy production and narco-trafficking.  They have worked with the international regime in terms of trying to determine what makes sense in terms of counter-narcotics efforts within Afghanistan.  But these are all works in progress, and implementation activities that have actually yet to hit the ground.  So we will continue to work with that government in terms of building these counter-narcotics efforts for the future.

With respect to Haiti, although tactical cooperation by the Government of Haiti has modestly improved, Haiti's overall counter-drug commitment frankly has remained weak.  The Haitian Government has failed to take many significant counter-narcotics actions.  While the Haitian Government did enact narcotics in any money laundering legislation in January of 2001, it did not introduce or enact several other key pieces of counter-narcotics legislation; it did not demonstrate effective law enforcement by increased drug seizures, arrests of major traffickers, and successful prosecutions in asset forfeitures.

However, US vital national interests require that US assistance to Haiti continue.  A cutoff in aid to Haiti includes programs aimed at the roots of Haitian poverty and hopelessness, chief catalyst for Haitian involvement in the drug trade; and illegal immigration to the United States would be aggravated by this already bad situation.

Burma's counter-narcotics performance in 2001 was decidedly mixed.  The Government of Burma took some useful counter-narcotics measures in the last year, but these measures were far too limited in duration and scope to constitute a substantial effort to meet the standards set forth under US law.  Large-scale poppy cultivation and opium production continue, and enormous quantities of methamphetamines, an estimated 800 million tablets per year, are produced in and trafficked from Burma, having serious adverse effects on neighboring countries and throughout the region.

Its toleration of money laundering, its failure in 2001 to implement its counter-drug laws, and its failure in 2001 to transfer notorious traffickers -- for example Kung Sa, under indictment in the United States -- are all serious concerns.

Let me turn the floor over now to Bob Brown, who will talk briefly about our overall national drug strategy.

MR. BROWN:  Thank you, Randy.  It's my pleasure to be with you all here again this year.  Let me first say from our office, just offer kudos to the State Department in the way they managed the certification and the modified certification process in this particular year.  It is a bureaucratic challenge of orchestrating -- soliciting and orchestrating all the various agency and department comments, perspectives on the issue, and then synthesizing a government position.  And I think that's been done extraordinarily well yet again by the State Department.

I thought, we thought, that it would be good again this year to offer you some perspectives on the broader United States drug policy.  We have taken the liberty of inflicting another blue pamphlet on you here.  It has as its contents a National Drug Control Strategy Release by President Bush, about two weeks ago--two weeks ago tomorrow--a quick short fact sheet; and a short background packet on our drug and terror media campaign ad that some of you may have seen.

What the new strategy in essence focuses on are three different areas.  One is prevention, stopping drug use before it starts; treatment, healing America's drug users; and a focus on disrupting the economy of the drug market.  So three different general areas of emphasis.  The President, in announcing the strategy, committed all of us, clearly my boss in particular by name, to a sustained and real reduction in drug use in the United States. 

Those goals that he signed up for at the time, as measured by our annual national household survey on drug abuse, a national survey that's done or released each August, those goals were a 10 percent reduction, youth 12 to 17 and adults 18 and older in the next two years, a 10 percent reduction in two years, a 25 percent reduction in five years. 

Specific points of interest perhaps in the strategy itself I would underscore for you are, one, in the area of treatment, he has committed, we are committed, to an additional $1.6 billion over the next five years in the area of drug treatment.  Specific areas of emphasis there would be, one, an expanded outreach and getting to all of those that are addicted that need help, but that are not making themselves available to drug treatment that's already there.  So an outreach effort to discuss, to encourage drug treatment, and sustain treatment and recovery.

The second aspect of the treatment emphasis is clearly increased capacity to better fill in the difference between the need and what exists out there now.  Capacity would reflect itself in terms of increased resources in outpatient care, residential care, drug court programs that divert the beginning of the criminal justice system the drug users into court-supervised treatment programs, and clearly drugs and prisons.  Those are different areas where expanded drug treatment capacity would be -- you would see those.

On the supply side, we are currently working a broad policy strategy review on all of our programs relative to drug supply reduction.  These will focus on taking a look again at the trafficking structure vulnerabilities.  Clearly issues of trafficker finances, money, chemical controls, trafficking organizations themselves, will all be part of that review.  And the framework around this particular -- the supply side of this strategy-- is indeed taking a market perspective on drug trafficking.

A word or two, if I may, about the current US drug situation.  Again, I'm just picking numbers and data out of the materials that I've given you there, but perhaps these data are not current in your minds.  Overall drug use in the United States:  1979 the high-water mark.  What you saw then was about 14.1 percent of the adult US population as frequent drug users, last 30-day drug users.  That was about 25 million adult Americans, or Americans over the age of 12.  That is contrasted with our latest figures of the year 2000:  6.3 percent of Americans, or about 14 million. 

So the broad perspective -- clearly the numbers speak for themselves -- is a declining level of drug abuse in the United States, though the problem is still of significant consequence to us.  Just the numbers relative to those youth and adults 12 to 17, about 9.7 percent of youth report last 30-day or frequent use, about 5.9 percent of adults.  Those two figures from '99 to 2000 are generally static, have not changed.

The consequences of drug abuse in the United States today:  about 19,000 deaths due to drug-induced causes, that is as of '99; 602,000 emergency room entries where drug abuse was mentioned as a cause for entry into the emergency room.  Cocaine remains the largest percentage of those mentions.  What Americans spend at the retail level of drugs, $64 billion in total annually, of which about $35 billion of that is cocaine, $10.5 billion marijuana, about $10 billion heroin.

One last comment on budget.  No good bureaucrat would be caught without his budget to give you a notion of what all of those areas of federal drug effort, how they break out in general.  About half, 49 percent of the $19.2 billion Fiscal '02 budget -- now, this is $19.2 billion where our office goes to State Department and Defense Department and Justice Department, asking each, "How much of your budget is properly scored against the drug effort?"  So it's a bit of an artful call, is what I'm trying to suggest.  So that $19.2 billion is broken out; about half, as I said, domestic drug law enforcement; about 13 percent of that is in prevention and research; and, about $3.8 billion is in treatment and research.  So those two, about $6 billion in demand reduction.

And the international programs, those programs most pertinent to Secretary Beers, about 6 percent of the budget, a little over $1 billion.  And the interdiction budget is about $2.3 billion.  That's about 12 percent.

Again, it's been good to be with you today.

ASSISTANT SECRETARY BEERS:  We would be happy to take your questions.

QUESTION:  Last year, and for several years previous, Afghanistan was decertified without a waiver.  But as soon as the Interim Authority took office, they began to receive US assistance.  I just wonder under what authority assistance was provided, given the finding last year and in previous years that they were not entitled to US assistance. 

ASSISTANT SECRETARY BEERS:  There is a provision which allows counter-narcotics assistance and humanitarian relief, so it was under the humanitarian relief provision that is not restricted by the de-certification provisions.

QUESTION:  They've received only humanitarian relief since December 22nd?

ASSISTANT SECRETARY BEERS:  That's correct.  I'm not commenting on some other agencies of the US Government.  We don't talk about intelligence matters. 

QUESTION:  Two quick questions.  One, could you just update us on just the raw numbers from Colombia in terms of coca and poppy, and how much is coming into the United States after another year of our program there? 

And second, if you could give us a few more details on where you think potentially the trouble areas would be in Afghanistan and what sorts of more specific steps you would like the Interim Authority to take at this point. 

ASSISTANT SECRETARY BEERS:  With respect to Colombia, the data that we have at this particular point is over a year old.  It's still about 135-136,000 hectares of coca under cultivation in Colombia.  Over the course of the last year, we sprayed about 85,000 hectares of that coca.  Some of it will have been replanted.  We know that for a fact.  Some of the spraying that we have, in fact, done this year has gone back to areas that have been replanted in the Putumayo region.

With respect to the overall effort, we are still in the process of delivering the full scale of assistance that was provided by Plan Colombia.  That is because the time between the purchase and the delivery and the actual ability of the Colombians to use that takes some period of time.  The first helicopters have been delivered, the second are there but are in training, and the third are just beginning to be delivered. 

But the overall efforts of Colombian police and military, I think have been significant.  In addition, the law enforcement cooperation between ourselves and Colombia is superior.  The number of people that were extradited from Colombia on US cases is an outstanding number, and that effort continues apace with the Government of Colombia being fully willing to extradite their nationals who have been found to be indictable in the United States for drug charges here.

We respect to Afghanistan, the second part of your question.  The Afghan authorities have stated, shortly after they came to office in Kabul, that they would not tolerate the cultivation or trafficking in opium poppy in Afghanistan.  They have participated in a series of meetings and discussions with the international community on the issues related to trying to deal with that particular problem, on the one hand, finding ways to create incentives for the farmers to stop growing opium poppy; and with respect to enforcement, the standup of an Afghan national police force, not to mention the need for an overall security umbrella to be provided by an Afghan army.

All of those are essential factors in terms of finding solutions in Afghanistan, but events are still in a very early and formative stage there.  And what actually has happened on the ground with specificity is very limited, other than some actions by some of the military forces in Afghanistan to destroy drug labs and stockpiles where they were found.  But I don't want to make a big thing about that because the actual amount of that still remains relatively limited with respect to the overall problem.

QUESTION:  My understanding is that it's close to harvest time in Afghanistan, and with the situation that you have outlined, no police force in place, very limited security, and most of those friendly forces that are there still involved in other matters, have you just sort of given up on this year's crop?  Or do you have plans to do something about it before all those elements that can actually control it over the long term are in place?  There was early talk about maybe actually buying the crop, burning the crop, doing things like that.

ASSISTANT SECRETARY BEERS:  No, we haven't given up, and yes, the challenges are enormous.  With respect simply to the delivery of incentives to the people who are actually growing the crop, the challenge is enormous.  As you know, Helmand is one of the last areas in Afghanistan to be secure.  In fact, I'm not sure one could classify it as being secure today.  That was where 50 percent of the opium poppy crop was grown in the year 2000, the last year that it was grown.  So simply being able to deliver any kinds of targeted assistance to specific individuals, as opposed to emergency food to food distribution centers, represents an enormous challenge.

Having said that, we are trying to work with other donors to see whether or not we can in fact make those kinds of deliveries and create the ability to ask the farmers to plow under their crop.  We are not permitted by law to actually offer money to buy the crop.  So as we try to intervene with that kind of a strategy, we have to look very carefully at the way in which we actually undertake it, which is why I'm saying what we would be looking at are strategies which would cause the farmers to plow under the crop rather than us actually purchasing the crop, which would represent also some difficulties with respect to the security of that or the destruction of that particular crop.

With respect to enforcement activities, again, there aren't much if any in terms of the central government.  There are some enforcement forces that are local.  We will try to find ways to work with those in whatever way we can in order to go after the traffickers so that even if the crop is harvested, or to the extent that the crop is harvested, we will still have another bite at the apple, if you will, through whatever enforcement pressures we can bring to bear on the trafficking.

We will then also work with the surrounding countries, with the Central Asian countries and with Pakistan, to try to deal with the crop as it attempts to leave Afghanistan and move to consumers along the routes as it goes to Western Europe, which is the principal destination of about 90 percent of the heroin that leaves Afghanistan.

QUESTION:  Can I just follow up on that?  Could you tell us when you expect the harvest to begin, and if you have any estimate at all of how much you think it's going to be?  And also, if you also plan on working with Iran in these efforts that you've mentioned.

ASSISTANT SECRETARY BEERS:  The harvest will begin at the end of March, proceed through April, and on into May.  There are some preliminary estimates -- and I stress the word "preliminary" -- that have been done by UNDCP.  Those numbers represent a substantial amount, perhaps even approaching the crop of the year 2000.  But I hasten to add, those numbers are preliminary numbers which indicate the magnitude of the problem, but not the precision of an estimate that we would like to give you.

As you know, US relations with Iran are not the best in the world.  There are other countries which have been working with Iran.  Iran is a partner with all of the surrounding states, and the United States, and the Government of Russia, through the vehicle of the UN Drug Control Program in Vienna.  And we have, as part of that effort, designed both strategies and programs which we would implement within Afghanistan, subject to funding availability, and programs which would be implemented in support of activities in all of the surrounding states of Afghanistan.  But I would hasten to add that US assistance will not go to Iran in any of those particular programs.

QUESTION:  Can I back you up to the point where you said we are not permitted by law to pay money for the crop?  And you said we're working on various strategies with the farmers to plow the crop under.  Does that follow, or is it possible to pay them the same money, basically, but to pay them money to plow under the crop?  Is that legal?

ASSISTANT SECRETARY BEERS:  We are talking about possible remuneration for the cost of their labor to plow the crop under.

QUESTION:  Mexico and Latin America, Mr. Beers.  First of all, I wonder if you can give us any comments about the apparently assassination of Ramon Arellano-Felix a few days ago.  And after that, his apparent cremation, as the Attorney General of Mexico announced and over the weekend.  I wonder if you can --

ASSISTANT SECRETARY BEERS:  I'm sorry, I didn't hear the second half of the question.

QUESTION:  The Attorney General of Mexico this past weekend -- he announced that the body of supposed to be Ramon Arellano-Felix was cremated by members of his family.  I wondered if you can comment on that.

And the second question is, on the narcotics issue, from South America through Mexico to the United States, in the last three or four months, there have been reports of an increase of almost 10 percent of cocaine traffic from Colombia through Mexico.  And obviously the decision of the President doesn't mention anything on Mexico; everything is fine with Mexico. 

So my question to you is whose fault that -- or who's not doing the right work in the border to control the drugs?  There is an increase of 10 percent in the last three months. 

ASSISTANT SECRETARY BEERS:  With respect to the reports of the death of the drug kingpin, I'm going to have to let the Mexican reports stand for themselves.  I don't have any additional information to offer you on that particular set of statements by the Mexican Government.  That is essentially what we know.

With respect to the drug flow out of Colombia toward the United States, while you may be in possession of reports of this increase, this is a great science for which Mr. Brown's office is responsible within the US Government, and I'm not in a position at this point in time to even confirm the increase of 10 percent.

But let me simply go to the heart of your question, which is why Mexico was not mentioned in this particular report.  And the answer is that the Government of Mexico has taken demonstrable efforts of a significant amount to deal with drug trafficking and, as a result, there is no need to mention Mexico.  If you simply look at the record of the Fox Administration since they have come to office, you will see a string of arrests and seizures and eradication that, as a whole, represent a very significant effort on the part of the Mexican Government.  And the question about whether or not we might consider decertifying them should even arise, it seems to me, doesn't take into account the reports that have occurred over the last year.

QUESTION:  This is a technical question.  Can you explain how much aid would have been at risk to Haiti had you not granted the waiver?  And in the same case for Burma, how much aid -- I didn't think we were giving aid to Burma, but how much aid do they not get as a result of this ruling? 

ASSISTANT SECRETARY BEERS:  Burma did not get anything that -- would not have gotten anything because nothing was requested.  With respect to Haiti, I'll have to take that question.  I don't know the actual amount of money. 

QUESTION:  The government is apparently embarking on a shift in Colombia from counter-narcotics to counter-terrorism, with a greater release of intelligence and other issues that it's considering.  How does this affect the drug policy in Colombia? 

ASSISTANT SECRETARY BEERS:  It's no secret that the Government of the United States is considering these issues.  It should not diminish the effort.  It might enhance the counter-narcotics effort insofar as it drew the FARC away from their involvement in drug trafficking.

QUESTION:  In any way are you concerned at all that it might dilute the attempts to counter-narcotic activity in Colombia? 

ASSISTANT SECRETARY BEERS:  All of these issues are matters of degree, but at this particular point in time I'm not in a position to tell you that it will.  It doesn't yet appear to me to be a tradeoff problem between the counter-narcotics effort and the efforts of the Colombia Government at this point in time; for example, to reoccupy the former despeje. 

QUESTION:  You think it might help your activity there? 

ASSISTANT SECRETARY BEERS:  There are certainly drug trafficking that's going on in the despeje.  We have for several years noted the amount of cultivation there.  We would also see a number of processing laboratories that exist there as well, and the government reoccupation puts those activities at threat, and hopefully will end them.

QUESTION:  Have interdiction flights resumed over Peru? 


QUESTION:  Have they increased over Colombia? 

ASSISTANT SECRETARY BEERS:  You mean have the drug traffickers increased over Colombia?

QUESTION:  Well, have the number of flights that is being run by the Colombians and the US, have those numbers increased?

ASSISTANT SECRETARY BEERS:  The United States suspended its air interdiction effort over both Peru and Colombia immediately after the tragic shooting down of the missionary aircraft last April.  They have not resumed. 

QUESTION:  But to the question you posed, have the drug traffickers increased their flights?

ASSISTANT SECRETARY BEERS:  We have no clear evidence of our own.  Both the Government of Peru and Colombia have told us that their information is that those flights have increased.  We have not had evidence provided by them that would allow us to reach the same conclusion.

But I hasten to add we recognize that our ability to see what is going on is limited by the fact that we are not flying in those airspaces. 

QUESTION:  Is a resumption contemplated?

ASSISTANT SECRETARY BEERS:  As the Secretary of State said, we are looking seriously at reopening those flights, but that would require a number of activities to occur first.  This government has not yet taken a decision formally to renew.  If we were to take that decision, we would have to go back to the governments of both Colombia and Peru, and seek assurances again that the procedures that would provide safety to innocent aircraft would in fact be adhered to.  We would have to consult with the Congress, and then we would have to digest all of that information before the President of the United States would ever be asked to formally decide to reinitiate those kinds of flights.

QUESTION:  Several questions.  Can you define what "failed demonstrably" means?  I mean, how low is the bar for a country that "failed demonstrably"?  And then also, do you think that since September 11th, the countries on the majors list have increased their cooperation and efforts to combat money laundering related to drugs in an effort on the war against terrorism?

ASSISTANT SECRETARY BEERS:  With respect to the "failed demonstrably" standard, what I would say is if you look at last year's determinations, and you look at this year's determinations, the only difference between the two is that Afghanistan was given a National Interest Waiver.  And there's an obvious and clear reason for that.  There was a change in government, and that's one of the basic criterion for providing a National Interest Waiver.

So you can talk about what this means in terms of judgment, but it's hard to see how it made a difference.  What it did in terms of form, though, I think is significant, and I think that's the value of this change.  And that is, instead of presuming that everyone is bad and saying then who was good, we are only making a determination on who was bad, or who didn't do enough.  I think that's an important difference.

We are also, I think, trying to compress the amount of time needed to make that decision.  It used to have to be made on the first of March.  This was required 45 days after enactment, so it was a very short window of time.

I'm sorry, I forgot the second part of your question.

QUESTION:  In terms of -- I know that there's a real effort to stem the financing from drugs to finance terrorist activity.  Would you say that countries on the majors list have made a significant effort in trying to combat this flow of --

ASSISTANT SECRETARY BEERS:  We have certainly talked with them.  The principal area, though, in terms of financing for terrorist acts have been countries in the first instance who were directly related to the situation in Afghanistan.  So the countries that we have spent the most effort with have been countries that have a closer relationship to Afghanistan.

Having said that, it is a much broader effort than that, and we are working with, I daresay, every or almost every country on the majors list.

QUESTION:  Have the US spoken with Colombian authorities about eradication program in San Vicente del Caguan?


QUESTION:  What did you speak with them?

ASSISTANT SECRETARY BEERS:  They said that they were interested in starting this up as soon as they could marshal the resources to do so.  We said we would support them.

QUESTION:  Can you tell us more details about which will be the operation in this area, which was taken by the Government of Colombia?

ASSISTANT SECRETARY BEERS:  I'm not going to comment on operational details by the Government of Colombia.  This is an area of exceeding danger at this particular point in time.  The Colombian Government will undertake those actions when it's ready, in the way that it's planning on doing it.

QUESTION:  But (inaudible) saying that the US Government and Colombian Government started already an operation in San Vicente del Caguan.  Can I say that?  Are you --

ASSISTANT SECRETARY BEERS:  You'll have to ask the Government of Colombia.

QUESTION:  It's a follow-up to my question.  The number I gave to you, it was given to us by the DEA agents.  And my question is, you haven't detected an increase on the flow of drugs from South America through Mexico in the last couple of months?  Because I remember, even some members of the White House have said there has been an increase in the flow of drugs from South America to the United States in the last couple of months.  So you say not?

MR. BROWN:  No was the answer.  But let me give you a little bit more detail on the drug flow itself.  In general, we assess, as of calendar 2000, the production capacity, just speaking of cocaine, in the Andean countries, principally in Colombia, to be something like 770 metric tons per year.  And the flow of those drugs, some 500-and-some tons, probably is headed towards the United States.  About two-thirds of that goes through what we call the Mexico-Central America corridor.  That's either through the Pacific or up through the Western Caribbean, or some land movement up through Central American into Mexico.

Those general numbers, two-thirds and one-third through the Caribbean to the East on various avenues, generally remain as they have in the past.  The United States consumption of cocaine, perhaps underneath the numbers that I mentioned briefly before, has declined substantially, and in the last 20 years or so, and in the last decade, the decade of the '90s, it's slowly continuing to decline.

Where we have seen large seizures in the recent past have been in the Eastern Pacific.  We've seen them in the last two weeks time.  You see very large seizures, multi-ton seizures there.  Somebody might relate those to spikes of 10 percent or even more.  But, in fact, those seizures are still reflective of that general trend of two-thirds and one-third; Mexico, Central America and Caribbean.

ASSISTANT SECRETARY BEERS:  We compile this on a quarterly basis.  We are still in the first quarter.  We won't have those figures for another couple of months, but to speculate on individual or even monthly time frames, as reflective of major trends, is not the way that we make that analysis.  We do it on a quarterly basis and an annual basis so that we can give you the clearest trend line picture, and not perturbations that may spike up or down.

QUESTION:  I'm trying to go over the figures, the production figures in Colombia -- the hectarage, rather.  You said there are 135-136,000 hectares planted and you sprayed 85,000.  How effective was that spraying, in your assessment?  And what effect did it have on the supply, and therefore on the price, of cocaine?  Has there been any effect at all?  It seems extraordinary that you should spray 85,000, which is about 70 percent of the total, without having any effect.  Could you explain this?

ASSISTANT SECRETARY BEERS:  I'm not in a position to indicate that there has been at this point in time an effect on price and availability in the United States.  One of the things we don't know, just as with respect to Afghanistan, is what the size of the overall stockpiles might be in any locations in Colombia or along the supply chain to the United States.  So that you would see that effect translate immediately is something that we don't know precisely and which I would expect not to show up.

Secondly, when we spray an area, it is possible to replant it and to have a harvestable product within nine months of the time of the replanting.  We expect that in the first instance of a spraying in an area, that farmers may believe that they will not be touched again and that they may replant.  We know that to be the case, specifically in the area of Putumayo, as I mentioned earlier, where farmers seem to have made the judgment that by signing up as part of the alternative development program, they were permitted to grow coca. 

And even though they had been sprayed, that in fact was not the way the pacts were written.  The pacts were written that if you had coca that was growing, it would not be sprayed, but if you didn't have coca, or if it had just been eradicated, you couldn't replant.  So some of the effort that we have undertaken in Putumayo over the course of the last two months has been to make clear to the campesinos there that that was not what the pact actually says, and we sprayed 19,000 hectares, of which probably 50 percent was directed at farmers who did replant from the earlier eradication effort.

Our assumption has been that the replanting potential is 60 to 80 percent after the first eradication.  And that is why it is necessary to spray and to continue to spray in order to make clear that the government's policy is that coca cultivation is unacceptable.  And in that fashion, to create one of the bases for alternative development programs to have a chance to take hold in coca growing areas.

QUESTION:  Following up on that point, I've just been a little confused.  Can you point, in the last year, to the tangible difference in the amount of coca that's grown or the flow into this country?  Do you have or do you now have that information?  I just -- what is the data that you don't have because you're not doing the interdiction flights, but can you show progress because of this Plan Colombia?  Can you say, all right, well, there's not as much in terms of the actual cocaine coming into this country?

ASSISTANT SECRETARY BEERS:  I cannot tell you at this point in time, based on available information, that the amount of cocaine that comes into the United States is less.  I would say that it is our general judgment that the US market will be the last market to be affected by activities in Colombia because it is the largest and the most long-term market that exists, even though the price might be higher per kilo in Western Europe, for example.

QUESTION:  Does that mean that Plan Colombia is not working?

ASSISTANT SECRETARY BEERS:  No, it means that the results still have to be determined.

QUESTION:  Is there a discussion when this comes up annually of whether there may be more pressure if you don't grant the waiver on these countries?  I mean, to take away money is probably more incentive than to give it.  So is that under active consideration every year that the waiver would not --

ASSISTANT SECRETARY BEERS:  You know, the world situation has just gotten better.  I'm sorry.  People are actually doing a better job around the world.  The notion that drugs is our problem because we put cocaine in our noses and heroin in our arms is not the way the world looks at this problem anymore.  The nations of the world actually believe that there's a shared responsibility.  And what are we talking about in certification?  We're talking about cooperation.  Well, I'm sorry, it's just gotten better.

QUESTION:  You don't need to be sorry.  I wasn't implying it hadn't.  But I asked if this was under discussion each year.

ASSISTANT SECRETARY BEERS:  Okay, it's a fair question.  But that's my answer, without my venting.

QUESTION:  This is for either of you.  Do you have any indication whether the withdrawal of surveillance and interdiction assets from the Coast Guard and the Air Force over the Caribbean and the Pacific has had any effect, in particular on the amount of drugs from Latin America that has gotten through?

MR. BROWN:  I think we can not demonstrate that with numbers.  On the one hand, immediate post-9/11, clearly there was a redeployment of principally the Coast Guard assets -- you're right -- some Customs assets, back into ports of entry security.  So balancing off what we didn't see or were less able to seize in the transit zone, so-called, with this tightened port of entry security is a hard balance to make. 

And I almost would say we don't have throughout the US Government -- I would listen to anybody's attempt to prove it.  Maybe somebody's got better data.  But I don't think we, as a government, have a good answer to that good question.  We can't tell you.

Now, that movement, that understandable emphasis on port of entry security, has, in part, particularly in the Coast Guard area, been addressed, been addressed in a number of ways.  You would see the net representation of Coast Guard interdiction assets, for example, to have increased over the past numbers of weeks in the traditional transit zone.

(The briefing was concluded at 3:37 p.m.)


Released on February 25, 2002