HTTP/1.0 200 OK Content-Type: text/html US Drug Certification Tension Brewing
Pubdate: Mon, 12 Feb 2001
Source: Amarillo Globe-News (TX)
Copyright: 2001 Amarillo Globe-News
Contact:  P.O. Box 2091, Amarillo, TX 79166
Fax: (806) 373-0810


EL PASO (AP) - The annual bilateral tension over the United States' 
drug certification of Mexico is brewing.

Under a congressional mandate, the U.S. State Department must review 
Mexico's drug-fighting efforts each year. If those efforts are viewed 
as inadequate, the U.S. government can impose economic sanctions.

Certification has served mostly as a political tool to pressure 
Mexico into doing more to combat drug-trafficking within its borders. 
Barring any last-minute delays, the State Department plans to meet 
its March 1 deadline, officials said.

But officials from both countries are calling for changes.

Last September, U.S. Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison, R-Texas, introduced a 
bill to suspend the certification process for Mexico this year. She 
reasoned that Presidents Bush and Vicente Fox - both relatively new 
presidents - need more time to work out their anti-drug strategies.

Fox has said he wants the United States to terminate the process.

Hutchison's measure got sidetracked with the presidential election, 
but she plans to gather co-sponsors and reintroduce it next week, 
said her spokeswoman, Lisette McSoud.

Some lawmakers, including U.S. Rep. Silvestre Reyes, D-Texas, favor 
doing away with certification.

"It's a process that has outlived its usefulness," Reyes said. "We 
ought to spend more effort on solutions that are conducive to better 
cooperation with Mexico."

In the bigger picture, Reyes said, the fight against drug-trafficking 
should include three elements: education aimed at prevention, 
treatment and law enforcement.

"We will make an impact if we persevere," he said.

U.S. Rep. Henry Bonilla, R-Texas, said that while he favors keeping 
the certification process, he is open to reforms.

The Bush administration needs to take a long look at the drug issue 
before deciding what it wants to do next in the nation's war on 
drugs, said Jose Garcia, director of the Latin America Studies Center 
at New Mexico State University in Las Cruces. He believes the U.S. 
should drop the certification process and use a multinational 
approach on the drug problem.
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