U.S. Government Again Certifies Mexico as Ally in Fight against Drug Trafficking
US President Bill Clinton certified Mexico as an ally in the fight against drug trafficking again this year, but Mexican officials received the decision with little enthusiasm. In its annual exercise on March 1, the administration unconditionally certified Mexico and nine other Latin American countries (see NotiSur, 2000-03-10).
As in recent years, the administration went out of its way to praise Mexico's efforts to control the flow of drugs within its borders. "They're spending a higher per-capita percentage basis of their budget on counter-drug activities than the United States is," said Barry McCaffrey, head of the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy.
But the administration's praise for Mexico failed to ease opposition from the Mexican government and Congress, which renewed its strong criticism of the process. "We don't accept any country judging us," said Deputy Alfredo Phillips Olmedo of the governing Partido Revolucionario Institucional (PRI) and chair of the foreign relations committee (Comision de Relaciones Exteriores) in the lower house. "We roundly reject certification."
Mexico accuses US of adopting double standard
Sen. Francisco Molina of the center-right Partido Accion Nacional (PAN) criticized the Clinton administration's policies of "double-speak," first praising the government for its anti-drug efforts and later accusing officials of harboring drug traffickers.
Mexico had a clear reason to criticize what it perceived as US hypocrisy this year. On Feb. 24, just a few days before the certification decision was to be announced, US Ambassador to Mexico Jeffrey Davidow created a firestorm when he said that Mexico had become a major center for drug-trafficking operations.
"The fact is that the headquarters of drug trafficking is in Mexico, just like the headquarters of the Mafia is in Sicily," Davidow told a group of alumni from the University of Southern California in Mexico City. "The most important owners and managers of the drug trade in the world today are Mexicans, Colombians, Dominicans, and Russians."
Davidow's remarks were denounced immediately by members of the three major parties in the Mexican Senate, who called on the Secretaria de Relaciones Exteriores (SRE) to write a formal protest letter to the Clinton administration.
"These statements are totally offensive to the dignity of Mexico, have a clear interventionist intent, and violate the spirit of bilateral cooperation that is essential in the fight against drug trafficking," said Sen. Jorge Calderon of the center-left Partido de la Revolucion Democratica (PRD).
President Ernesto Zedillo's administration, while criticizing the certification process, has also made extra efforts to demonstrate to the US that his government is serious about its war on drugs. On the day the certification was to be announced, the Secretaria de Defensa Nacional (SEDENA) reported that destruction of drug plantations had increased by 300% during Zedillo's term in office. SEDENA said 3,388 hectares of drug plants were destroyed in 1999, compared with only 1,141 ha in 1994.
Drug trafficking debated in presidential campaigns
Even with the cooperative spirit among the various political parties in opposing US drug policies, drug trafficking has aroused bitter debate in the Mexican presidential campaign. In a blunt attack on the governing party, PAN presidential candidate Vicente Fox Quezada criticized the Zedillo administration and the PRI for "sweeping the drug problem under the rug."
Fox accused PRI candidate Francisco Labastida of allowing former Quintana Roo Gov. Mario Villanueva Madrid to escape. Labastida was interior secretary when Villanueva went into hiding rather than face charges of drug trafficking and racketeering (see SourceMex, 1999-04-14).
In confidential interviews with two news magazines, Villanueva criticized Zedillo and the PRI for betraying him (see SourceMex, 2000-03-01). …