|Robert S. Gelbard, Assistant Secretary for International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs
Testimony before the Subcommittee on the Western Hemisphere, Peace Corps, Narcotics, and Terrorism of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee
Washington, DC, March 12, 1997
This hearing to examine our efforts with Mexico to confront the illegal drug trade reflects the determination of Americans everywhere to take dramatic steps to protect our children, the way we live and, in the broadest sense, the well being of our country's future. President Clinton's decision to grant Mexico full narcotics certification has sparked wide debate. It is a public airing grounded in our mounting outrage that vicious criminals would destroy all that we hold dear for their own ugly and immoral gain.
Because of our geography, Mexican crime looms especially large for us; the troubles which our important southern friend suffers have a dramatic and swift impact at home. Lawlessness in Mexico, however, is just one element in the growing global crime problem which threatens worldwide economic, political and social progress. The Administration recognizes this global threat and, with the help of like-minded nations, is carrying out comprehensive measures to confront it. As it has been some time since I've appeared before this committee, I'd like to give you a brief update on where we are before getting into the specifics of Mexico.
National Crime Initiative
In October of 1995 when the President launched his national initiative against crime, he called upon the world's nations to redouble their determination to protect citizens from this terrible scourge. "Nowhere," he said, "is cooperation more vital than in fighting the increasingly interconnected groups that traffic in terror, organized crime and drug dealing." Today, responding to the urgent demands of the American people, the President has put combating transnational crime at the top of our public policy agenda.
Within the context of our foreign policy goals, combating crime cannot be considered in a vacuum. In this sense--with an expansion of the general authorities for my Bureau--the Secretary of State asked me to develop a methodical and coordinated approach to U.S. law enforcement initiatives abroad. We haven't been at it very long, but the policy framework and practical mechanisms we need are now in place to get the job done. In addition to the National Crime Initiatives (Presidential Decision Directive 42), the Andean Strategy (PDD-14) and the Heroin Strategy (PDD-44) serve as fundamental blueprints for operations. The international components of our National Drug Control Strategy also figure very prominently in our overseas drug control program.
A variety of multifaceted programs have emerged out of the Presidential Decision Directives. The International Emergency Economics Powers Act (IEEPA), for example, allows the President to impose sanctions directly on persons and businesses connected with or involved in drug trafficking in cases of national emergency. IEEPA has been invoked with respect to the Colombian cartels based on findings of a national emergency posing an unusual and extraordinary threat to the U.S. Working with all Administration departments, particularly the law enforcement agencies, we are building strong international coalitions to combat a wide range of illegal activity including money laundering and financial crimes. In this context, I must stress the importance of our international law enforcement training programs which have the double benefit of helping our own law enforcement institutions to develop cases as well as building foreign judicial and law enforcement institutions. Above all, we understand that law enforcement--like the other cross-cutting issues of the day--must be woven into the daily fabric of our foreign policy.
Full Certification for Mexico
The narcotics certification law, now a decade old, has served as a dramatic focus for international drug control. I can think of no better example in this respect than Mexico, which was granted full certification by the President, hard on the heels of the shocking arrest of the Mexican drug czar on charges of corruption. The President's decision was based on a clear-eyed judgment of Mexico's problems. We acknowledge that corruption is deeply rooted in Mexico's law enforcement institutions. We will not inflate progress. But if the Gutierrez Rebollo arrest revealed just how deeply rooted corruption is in Mexican counter-drug institutions, it also showed unprecedented political courage by President Zedillo and clearly demonstrated his deep commitment to addressing the high-level political corruption that undermines Mexican drug control institutions. This is precisely the kind of progress we are trying to encourage. The ensuing controversy is perhaps understandable because it so vividly demonstrates the ugly truth about corruption in Mexico.
As Secretary Albright explained, full certification for Mexico was a "difficult but correct decision." At the same time, the Secretary stressed President Clinton's firm expectation of further progress in the near term and the expectation that Mexico will work with us to meet a series of objectives that have emerged from our cooperation in the past. These include all-out efforts to capture major drug traffickers, increased extradition of cop killers and leading traffickers to the United States, implementing laws against money laundering and attacking corruption.
Mexico is one of our most important allies in the international struggle against organized crime and drug trafficking. We need each other, and we are determined to make this partnership work. In the context of Mexico's comprehensive strategy, the government has taken a number of concrete steps, which--with expanded and intensified effort--can have a lasting, negative impact on the drug trade. Moreover, public outrage and momentum for drug control in Mexico is building, even after the President's certification decision. Steps in 1996 and more recently include:
No one understands better than Mexico that these steps, while noteworthy, are not enough to ward off the criminal threat to Mexican society. Other steps which must be high on the Mexican agenda include:
With close scrutiny by the President and led by ONDCP Director Barry McCaffrey, our discussions for enhanced anti-crime cooperation with Mexico are wide ranging. Above all, the arrest of Gen. Gutierrez Rebollo and subsequent dismissal of 35 of his deputies vividly illustrates the need for major, system-wide reform and integrity controls. Moreover, we are resolved to work forcefully with the Government of Mexico to accomplish the many important objectives we have set to ensure a better future for our children.
The Certification Process
The Administration, like the Congress, is determined that the integrity of the certification process remain intact. As we have seen, President Clinton, more than ever before, has used certification as a powerful tool to extract greater narcotics control performance abroad; and it has proven effective. During my nearly five years as Assistant Secretary, I have worked to ensure that the President's decisions are based upon fact and that the certification process itself is carried out in accord with the intent of the law as enacted by Congress.
Understandably, public and private sector leaders have questioned Mexican certification this year. However, I want to make an important point: the certification process is not about measuring the depths of a government's shortcomings, but rather the extent of its determination to meet bilateral narcotics control objectives and those of the 1988 UN Drug Convention. This is not to say that we underestimate the drug threat to the U.S. from narcotics via Mexico. To the contrary, in light of the negative impact of Mexican based trafficking organizations today, our narcotics cooperation with the Zedillo government is urgent. And President Zedillo has declared the drug threat and related official corruption to be the principal national security threat to his nation.
Based upon Mexico's drug control performance, any action in the Congress to alter the President's full certification is unwarranted. Certainly, President Zedillo's ability to exact further drug control progress would be undermined. He is striving to establish clean government, real democracy and full respect for law in his country; U.S. support for his actions is in our U.S. national interest.
Certification has played an important role in helping to protect our citizens from illegal drug trafficking. At the same time, the Administration shares the view of some members of Congress that the process can be streamlined to further advance objectives. For example, a review of existing mandatory sanctions under Section 490 of the Foreign Assistance Act is warranted. Some existing legislatively mandated sanctions could be better framed to ensure that they do not undercut U.S. objectives elsewhere in the law that are strategically important to us. We have discovered also that legislative changes are needed to harmonize drug certification provisions of the law with Title 8 of the Trade Act of 1974 to make certain that they are compatible.
We have had a variety of discussions with the Hill along these lines and will continue to work closely with staff and members. I want to add a cautionary note, however: the certification law, while not perfect, has worked well. We must guard against undercutting the excellent results it has produced in terms of advancing international political will and practical programs to counter drug trafficking.
International Law Enforcement Funding
Considering the returns, the money appropriated through my Bureau for anti-crime and drug control is arguably one of the most cost-efficient accounts of the Federal Government. In fact, the international narcotics control and law enforcement account represents only about 1% of the entire national drug control budget. We are extremely grateful for Congressional support, especially on this committee, to ensure our continuing effort is adequately funded. We can point to many concrete achievements:
These examples are just a few highlights of many accomplishments and initiatives we will work to advance in the coming year. To this end, I believe the $213 million which my Bureau received for FY1997 represents adequate funding. I must stress, however, that success depends upon reliable, ongoing support. Progress in a single year is not necessarily permanent. It must be sustained and incrementally increased over time to provide insurance for programs which have been shown to achieve concrete results.
As I have tried to convey today, our law enforcement and drug control initiatives with Mexico are part of a comprehensive strategy and broad programs which are pursued globally as part of our U.S. foreign policy. The effort, of course, must be dynamic to confront international drug trade and transnational crime patterns which are ever-changing mosaics. We must maintain flexibility to carry out up-to-the-minute responses. As we continue to focus on Mexico, Central America, the Andes, and other key countries in this Hemisphere, we are also directing fresh attention to other areas of the world such as Nigeria, South Africa, Vietnam, and China.
The Administration understands the Congress' keen interest in the ultimate success of our programs and we are grateful for its abiding support over the years. We welcome your wise counsel and appreciate the role you have played in bolstering our efforts.
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