As Certification Debate Nears, Mexico Declares "Total War" on Drugs 2/12/99

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As Congress and the President prepare once again to debate certification of the nations of the world regarding their perceived cooperation in America's Drug War, Mexico, the subject of fierce and bitter debate over the past several years has announced a $500 million two-year program to combat drug trafficking. At a briefing last week (2/4), high ranking Mexican officials announced that President Ernesto Zedillo is prepared to put "all the power of the law and the government" behind the effort.

Mexico has come under fire in Congress in recent years due to entrenched corruption and the fact that large percentages of the drugs imported into America are transported through that nation. Certification is the process by which the U.S. Government approves or disapproves of a nation's anti-drug efforts. De-certification carries a host of economic consequences including potential trade sanctions and restrictions on U.S. aid. Last year, under pressure from congressional Republicans, President Clinton de-certified Mexico but waived sanctions in the interest of national security. Certification decisions will be made in March. (See The Week Online's coverage of last year's certification debate at and -- check our archives at for the recent history on many drug policy topics.)

Most of the money from this new initiative will be spent on new, high-tech hardware for the detection of drugs and drug shipments.

A spokesperson for Representative John Mica (R-FL), chairman of the house subcommittee on criminal justice and an outspoken opponent of Mexican certification in the last Congress, told The Week Online that the Congressman was taking an open-minded approach to this latest development.

"On the one hand, Representative Mica is pleased to hear the Mexican government say that it is committed to implement such an ambitious program and to make use of the technology that's available. On the other hand, however, there have been promises made in the past, when it turned out that the Mexican government was heavy on rhetoric but light on action. The congressman was briefed this morning on the matter and his attitude going into the certification debate is that he wants to wait and see what transpires."

Sources on the Hill have told The Week Online that drug policy is an area in which Republicans hope to gain traction against the Clinton administration this year. With rumors circulating about the impending departure of Drug Czar Barry McCaffrey, a towering and nearly unassailable figure due to his military record, drug war hawks are likely to feel free to take off the gloves in assailing the administration as insufficiently "tough" with regard to both domestic law enforcement and international interdiction efforts, despite the fact that Clinton has presided over the greatest increases in both interdiction spending and drug arrests in our history.

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Issue #78, 2/12/99 Announcements | As Certification Debate Nears, Mexico Declares "Total War" on Drugs | White House Releases Drug Strategy Amid Criticism from Reformers | New York State's Top Judge Calls for Rethinking of Rockefeller Drug Laws | County Requests Federal Okay to Conduct Medical Marijuana Study | Impact of the Closure of a Needle Exchange Program | Editorial: Young Entrepreneurs and the Culture of Prohibition
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