OAS Pushes Own Drug War Approach

By Carter, Tom | The Washington Times (Washington, DC), February 2, 2001 | Go to article overview
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OAS Pushes Own Drug War Approach

Carter, Tom, The Washington Times (Washington, DC)

The Organization of American States yesterday released a coun-

try-by-country report card on the war against drugs, arguing to an increasingly receptive U.S. government that the multilateral approach is better than the U.S. system in which countries must be certified as allies in the drug war.

"This is a totally different process than certification. We are certain that this method of evaluation will have more legitimacy," said OAS Secretary-General Cesar Gaviria. "Almost every country in the hemisphere thinks the unilateral process is inconvenient. This is a method of cooperation."

The White House, reflecting a growing willingness within government circles to re-examine the certification process, welcomed the report.

"It will become increasingly apparent to policy people in the hemisphere that our national interests are better served by this evaluation mechanism than by a system based on confrontation," said Edward H. Jurith, acting director of the Office of National Drug Control Policy.

In this year's report, Colombia, Mexico, Bolivia and Venezuela all reported increased seizures of coca leaf, marijuana or opium poppies. But only 15 percent of those charged with drug trafficking in Venezuela were convicted, it said.

The OAS hopes its Multilateral Evaluation Mechanism (MEM) will replace a U.S. system that most Latin American nations find humiliating. Many countries also call it hypocritical, noting that the United States is the world's largest consumer of Latin American drugs.

Secretary of State Colin Powell expressed skepticism about the existing process in his confirmation hearings before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, and some members of Congress are more willing to reconsider the policy under the Bush administration.

President Bush, who travels to Mexico City this month, enjoys a good relationship with Mexican President Vicente Fox, who has started a nationwide crusade against corruption, drug smuggling and organized crime.

His government announced yesterday it was firing 43 of the 47 top managers in Mexico's Customs administration because of corruption, inefficiency and apathy.

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