HTTP/1.0 200 OK Content-Type: text/html Mexican Drug Trafficking, U.S. Drug War Are Top Issues
Pubdate: Tue, 13 Feb 2001
Source: San Jose Mercury News (CA)
Copyright: 2001 San Jose Mercury News
Contact:  750 Ridder Park Drive, San Jose, CA 95190
Fax: (408) 271-3792
Author: Morris Thompson, Mercury News Mexico City Bureau


Facing Corrupt Police, Justice System Is A Daunting Challenge For Fox's

MEXICO CITY -- When Mexican President Vicente Fox welcomes President Bush to
his ranch Friday, he'll try to persuade Bush that Mexico is now serious
about fighting the drug war.

But although Fox is cracking down on organized crime and appears to be
stepping up drug eradications, seizures and arrests, the country's police
and legal system remain deeply corrupt. Mexico is a leading producer and
smuggler of drugs into the United States, principally cocaine from South
America and locally produced marijuana and heroin.

Fox wants the United States to stop deciding every year whether foreign
countries are cooperating fully with Washington's anti-drug efforts.

Instead, he wants drug-consuming countries such as the United States to be
subjected to international performance standards, much as Washington now
grades drug-producing and drug-trafficking nations such as Mexico.

As things stand, the U.S. president is obligated by law to certify to
Congress each spring -- as a condition for aid -- that major drug-producing
countries are good partners in the war on drugs. The president relies
heavily on State Department summaries of the findings of U.S. agencies such
as the Drug Enforcement Administration, the Central Intelligence Agency and
the State Department.

Last year's certification credited Mexico with making progress against drug
production, trafficking and abuse. But it added that ``daunting challenges''
remain, including cartels that ``are powerful and well-organized and have
made a concerted effort to corrupt and intimidate public officials.''

Sen. Christopher Dodd, D-Conn., recently said he would introduce a bill to
suspend the procedure. Secretary of State Colin Powell, who will accompany
Bush to Mexico, has been talking with members of Congress who want to make
the process ``less onerous'' for Mexico.

Without doubt, big-time drug traffickers enjoy protection from Mexico's
police, military, prosecutors and judges. Enormous shipments get through
checkpoints. Important traffickers win mysterious releases after arrest.

The corruption problem embarrassed Fox recently when, despite his warnings
against corruption, a top trafficker made his ``escape'' from a federal
maximum-security prison with an escort of senior prison officials. The
escapee reportedly had thrown an elaborate farewell party inside the prison
two weeks earlier -- with 50 guests from outside.

Fox has said publicly only that new drug war-performance standards should be
negotiated. He favors a drug-abuse control measurement system being
developed by the Organization of American States, the Washington-based
association of Caribbean and North, Central and South American nations.
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