Testimony of Rand Beers
Assistant Secretary of State for
International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs
before the Senate Drug Caucus
February 24, 1999
U.S.-Mexico Counternarcotics Cooperation
Thank you Mr. Chairman, Members of the Senate Drug Caucus, for the
invitation to meet with you today to discuss U.S.- Mexico
counternarcotics cooperation. Mexico is one of the countries of
greatest strategic importance to the United States and
counternarcotics is one of the most critical aspects of that
I will provide a strategic overview of our relations with Mexico and a
summary of Mexico's 1998 counternarcotics effort and key aspects of
bilateral cooperation at the policy level. While the President has not
yet released his certification determination, I will describe
(briefly) how the Executive Branch agencies work together to prepare
the annual narcotics report and the recommendations to the President
The other witnesses will focus on Mexico's counternarcotics
performance and cooperation with the U.S. in their specialized areas.
Strategic overview of Mexico
The relationship between Mexico and the United States is one of the
most multifaceted and dynamic we enjoy with any other nation. New ties
and relationships form every day.
The U.S. and Mexico are linked by history, culture, and, through the
border, by geography. About six million of your constituents were born
in Mexico and about one in every sixteen of your constituents are of
Mexican descent. More than half a million of your constituents voted
for you by absentee ballot from their homes in Mexico.
Mexico became oar second-largest export market in 1998, with $80
billion in U.S. exports. Exports to Mexico are growing faster than to
almost all other countries and support nearly a million U.S. jobs.
Because of adherence to sound macroeconomic policies, and because
NAFTA linked Mexico to the growing U.S. economy, Mexico has been the
least affected of all major Latin American economies by the global
Trade is, of course, dependent on the efficient movement of legitimate
commerce and people between the two countries. The U.S. /Mexican
border is the busiest border in the world with more than 250 million
people, 75 million cars, 3 million trucks, and almost five hundred
thousand rail cars crossing it each year. NAFTA has also brought about
increased cooperation among national authorities who are working
together to promote legitimate commerce while improving the
capabilities of their respective law enforcement agencies to combat
drug trafficking and related crimes.
Mexico's 1999 budget is the most austere in decades. That said, over
the past several years, crime and violence reached unacceptable levels
prompting the Zedillo Administration, despite the budget crisis, to
announce a massive $500 million investment in Mexico's law enforcement
and counternarcotics infrastructure over three years.
Although our overall relations with Mexico are in general very good,
there are persistent, important areas of contention in the
relationship, and relations remain subject to occasional reverses on
particular issues. This is particularly true in the area of law
enforcement and counternarcotics, where cooperation is disrupted by
periodic controversies. The major controversy in 1998 was the
Operation Casablanca money laundering investigation; while a success
from the law enforcement perspective, it highlighted the need to
develop better mechanisms for communication and coordination in
sensitive cross-border law enforcement operations.
The U.S. drug certification process is, of course, a perennial flash
point for Mexican sensitivities and this year is no exception. The
process is roundly criticized by the Mexican press, the public,
academicians, and the political opposition.
Few issues have as significant an impact upon the United States and
Mexico -- individually as nations and bilaterally as neighbors -- than
that of illicit drugs.
Still fewer issues have such an immediate impact on the lives of
ordinary citizens on both sides of the border. Illegal drug
trafficking and abuse generate crime, violence, corruption, and social
decay wherever they occur. While both countries look upon the border
as a symbol of national sovereignty, it is a thing invisible and
irrelevant to transnational organized crime.
The United States and Mexico fully understand this and have forged a
bilateral alliance to combat shared aspects of the problem which
cannot be addressed individually, such as:
-- drug shipments smuggled from South and Central America;
-- chemicals shipped or diverted to illicit drug producers;
-- the laundering of drug proceeds;
-- illicit drug production;
-- smuggling of illicit drugs, chemicals, pharmaceuticals, drugs and
across our shared maritime and land borders;
-- border violence;
-- rising drug abuse in border communities, and of course;
-- the operation of trans-border criminal organizations.
While national and bilateral anti-drug efforts are critically
important, the two governments also recognize that they must work
intensively with countries throughout the hemisphere and around the
world to combat international drug trafficking effectively and to
begin to reverse its deleterious social, health, security, and
We have therefore worked very closely together in international fora
-- notably the United Nations (UN) and the Organization of American
States (OAS). I have worked personally with Mexican officials on
important issues, such as the United Nations Special Session on
Narcotics Control, the Santiago Summit, and the development of a
Multilateral Evaluation Mechanism for Narcotics Performance within the
OAS. They have been cooperative partners and the international
counternarcotics alliance is stronger today for the energy and
commitment that Mexico has brought to these efforts.
Nationally, Mexico has mounted one of the broadest and most
multifaceted counternarcotics programs in the world, reflecting both
the complexity of the drug problem there as well as the commitment of
the Zedillo Administration to combat it.
The Mexican Program:
Mexico's comprehensive national counternarcotics program includes:
-- A three-pronged interdiction program aimed at detecting and
deterring the illegal entry of drug shipments into Mexican territory,
airspace or waters;
-- A longstanding eradication campaign which has destroyed more
illicit drug crops than any country in the world;
-- New specialized investigative units that, while encumbered by some
setbacks, are building cases against the most significant drug
traffickers and trafficking organizations, in close cooperation with
U.S. law enforcement;
-- A treasury ministry that is making headway in detecting suspicious
transactions and combating money laundering.
-- Law enforcement and health agencies which are working to detect and
deter smuggling or diversion of chemicals used in drug production;
-- A new nationwide drug abuse survey which has given new insights
into the level of the abuse problem among Mexico's 93 million people,
half of whom are under the age of 21.
Among Mexico's principal accomplishments in 1998:
-- The world's highest combined total opium and marijuana eradication.
Last year, Mexico was second only to Colombia, which achieved an
unprecedented single-year success -- due in large part to massive U.S.
-- Mexico eradicated 9,500 hectares of opium and 9,500 hectares of
-- Mexico's eradication program has drastically reduced marijuana
cultivation over the past six years, and net production has dropped by
more than half, from 7,795 metric tons in 1992 to 2,300 in 1999.
-- Mexico seized 22.6 metric tons of cocaine, 1,062 metric tons of
marijuana, and 96 kilograms of methamphetamines.
-- Mexico arrested the key leadership of the Amezca Contreras
organization, leading methamphetamine traffickers in this hemisphere.
While Mexican charges were dropped, the GOM continues to hold them
under a provisional arrest warrant from the U.S.
-- Mexico's ability to combat money laundering offenses increased
again in 1998 with the establishment of an enforcement unit in the
Attorney General's Office, complementing the financial intelligence
unit established in the treasury ministry in 1997.
-- Mexico instituted, for the first time, an intensive screening
process for law enforcement personnel, particularly those in sensitive
positions in counter-drug units.
-- The GOM successfully prosecuted a number of significant
narcotraffickers who received sentences ranging up to 40 years,
including former national drug coordinator, Jesus Gutierrez Rebollo,
who received an increase in his sentence to 30 years.
-- Other key convictions for drug-related crimes in 1998 include Pedro
and Oscar Lupercio Serratos (13 years), Francisco Cabrera of the
Tijuana Cartel (40 years), General Alfredo Navarro Lara (20 years),
Carlos Enrique Tapia, reputed founder of Juarez cartel (27 years),
Ernesto "Don Neto" Fonseca Carrillo (an additional 11 years, 6
-- The GOM arrested several former senior officials on charges of
aiding and abetting the drug cartels, including General Jorge
Maldonado Vega, former military commander of Baja California and
former federal police commanders Adrian Carrera Fuentes and Ramon Baez
-- Mexico extradited 12 fugitives to the U.S. in 1998, including three
Mexican nationals. One of these was a drug trafficker sought by the
U.S. for the murder of a U.S. Border Patrol agent, a case of great
importance to the U.S. Government. The Executive Branch issued 15
extradition orders for fugitives from U.S. justice, some of which are
still in the Mexican judicial appeals process.
Like most national programs of its kind, Mexico's counternarcotics
effort suffered setbacks as well as successes.
-- In 1998, the GOM uncovered evidence of corruption in the special
vetted units that had been specially created to avoid corruption.
While we and Mexico strongly applaud the uncovering of this and any
other corruption as the only way to demonstrate our joint commitment
to the rule of law, this corruption may have resulted in the
compromise of several investigations in which the U.S. supplied
-- Most of the law enforcement personnel dismissed by Attorney General
Madrazo and former Attorney General Lozano for corruption sought
legal, due process relief under Mexico's strong labor laws and many
were reinstated. That said, recognizing the need to adjust the balance
between due process and anti-corruption efforts, the GOM has addressed
the problem with legislation which, if enacted, will allow
compensation other than reinstatement for officials improperly removed
from their jobs.
-- In August 1998, 14 enlisted personnel of the elite Airmobile
Special Forces Groups (GAFES) assigned to the Mexico City airport were
arrested on charges of drug trafficking and alien smuggling.
-- While we made progress in our extradition relationship in 1998,
Mexican appellate courts ruled that two Mexican drug traffickers
should be tried in Mexico. Another appellate court decision now being
appealed by the GOM is the case of two Argentine drug traffickers
where extradition was denied without U.S. assurances that life
sentences would not be imposed.
-- Mexican concern over the Operation Casablanca money laundering
investigation led the GOM to announce an investigation of whether U.S.
Customs Service agents violated Mexican law. The Mexican Attorney
General announced in February 1999 that there was no violation of
-- While net production of marijuana dropped, opium poppy cultivation
expanded despite increased levels of opium poppy eradication.
The Department's annual narcotics report (INCSR), being formally
released at the time of our certification announcement, provides a
comprehensive overview of the results of Mexico's efforts over the
past year and which I have summarized in my written submission today.
Viewpoints Vary Among Agencies
Those of us testifying here today will be pleased to discuss in detail
any issues about which you wish more information and provide our
individual perspectives on the status of counternarcotics cooperation
From the view of the Department of State, which is charged with
coordinating interagency efforts in this area overseas, differences of
viewpoint are normal extensions of the differences in agency missions,
vantage points, and experiences. We have different viewpoints on
specific issues or events, not because one agency is right and one is
wrong, but because we are looking at them from different institutional
Policymakers need this kind of input to understand complex situations
better, to make or change policies, to determine priorities, and to
balance competing interests.
Through the certification process, we consult each agency involved in
international counternarcotics about its experiences with each of the
Major Source and Transit Countries and its views about the level of
cooperation it received from its counterpart agency in that country.
It is not uncommon for one agency to have a more positive experience
and another to have a more negative experience.
From those views, a consensus emerges and a recommendation is made to
the President whether those countries have "cooperated fully" with the
This is a responsibility the Department of State takes very seriously
and we work hard to ensure that each agency participates fully in
reaching consensus. This recommendation does not reflect each
participant's every view, but those views shared by most. This keeps
the process objective, dispassionate, and balanced.
We do the same thing in compiling information for the International
Narcotics Control Strategy Report. The Mexico chapter in the INCSR
therefore represents the collective assessment of efforts and events.
What you will hear today are presentations on the individual agency
viewpoints that went into the development of the consensus report and
the recommendation to the President. You will hear that Mexico made
significant progress in some areas, and had a disappointing
performance in others. You may even hear one agency characterize as a
success something another agency views as a failure. Both are accurate
and relevant -- from their different perspectives. From our different
perspectives, however, we arrive at pretty much the same point --
that, overall, Mexico continued to cooperate with us in fighting
This does not mean that Mexico gave a stellar counternarcotics
performance in 1998 or, for that matter, that we are resting on our
own performance over the same period. It does not mean that Mexico
agreed with the U.S. on all drug-related issues. It does not mean that
Mexico did everything the United States asked of it in the
counternarcotics effort. It does not mean that Mexico achieved as much
success in combating corruption as we might have liked.
However, Mexico independently waged a serious effort to combat drug
trafficking, production and abuse in concert with its obligations
under the 1988 UN Convention. It took concrete and substantial steps
to counter drug-related corruption and violence. It certainly
cooperated with the U.S. on the full range of counternarcotics
While it would be inappropriate for me, therefore, to discuss the
Administration's deliberative process further at this time, I am
prepared to discuss the Department of State's views and the efforts by
my Bureau to promote effective counternarcotics cooperation with
Looking at counternarcotics policies and programs from the beginning
of the Zedillo Administration in December 1994, it is clear that
Mexico has made significant progress. We are convinced that President
Ernesto Zedillo is fully committed to fighting drug trafficking and to
a strong counternarcotics alliance with the United States.
It is easy to question if nameless and faceless foreign politicians
and bureaucrats could do more about drugs if they were really serious.
For those of us who work counternarcotics issues day in and day out,
Mexico's counternarcotics officials are not faceless, they are
respected and indispensable colleagues. We see the impossible hours
they work. We have witnessed how they continue to press ahead despite
the constant threat of violence and intimidation -- not just against
themselves but their families. We have seen how devastated they were
when other colleagues were gunned down by traffickers and how
demoralized when their good efforts have been undercut by a officials
who have succumbed to corruption.
There is no doubt in my mind about the commitment of such colleagues
to the drug issue, and to their full cooperation with the U.S.
The relationships that have developed these past five years between
President Zedillo and President Clinton, between Attorney General
Nadrazo and Attorney General Reno, between Secretaries of Health
Shalala and de la Fuente, between Undersecretaries of the Treasury
Johnson and Gomez Gordillo, between other Cabinet officers arid their
counterparts, and between many other officials at every level below
them -- are real.
They are not just one-dimensional "photo opportunity" relationships
marched out for an annual binational event, but are vital, productive
and continuing. Through the High-Level Contact Group and other
mechanisms, we have attempted to harness this personal and
professional dynamism into permanent frameworks for ongoing
institutional cooperation. The Bi-National Anti-Drug Strategy and
Performance Measures of Effectiveness codify shared goals and
objectives and outline courses of action for reaching those
objectives, and for measuring how well we are doing in reaching those
This is unprecedented in our coupternarcotics cooperation with other
countries, and, to my knowledge, has never been attempted between any
This support for cooperation with the United States is not only held
by senior Mexican government officials, but also by the average
citizen. A recent U.S. Information Agency poll of the Mexican public
had some startling results. Ninety percent supported an increased role
for the Mexican military in the anti-drug effort. Despite bilateral
tensions over operation Casablanca, and despite the hated
certification process, 83 percent of the Mexican public endorsed
increased cooperation between Mexico and the United States. This is up
from just 47 percent in 1996. Why has support for bilateral
cooperation nearly doubled in just two years?
This certainly reflects increased public awareness about the threat of
drugs, but I am convinced that a significant factor is that the U.S.
has changed its approach to one of engagement and not needless
confrontation. We have encouraged, not criticized; we have asked, not
demanded. Mexico is a proud nation willing to work with us on a basis
of respect and partnership. That is how Mexico defines cooperation.
Cooperation does not mean that there will not be occasional
disagreements. Our cooperative relationship has suffered setbacks, and
will again. The critical questions to ask are whether disagreements
are resolved constructively and whether the partnership can rally and
forge ahead after a serious setback. The answer is yes. This is quite
an achievement, but it could easily be undermined by a return to an
adversarial or punitive approach to counternarcotics cooperation.
We have a lot at stake in law enforcement cooperation with Mexico, too
much to put at risk because of disagreement on one or another issue or
general frustration over slow progress. Without cooperation, without a
foundation of friendship and mutual trust, we would solve no
disagreements and there would be no progress.
I believe that my duty in carrying out the certification law is to lay
out the facts before you -- good and bad -- and then tell you what is
being done about it. Where a country has not cooperated fully with the
United States or taken adequate steps on its own to combat drugs --
and shows no will to do so -- I will not hesitate to advocate denial
of certification or certification based on national interests.
However, where the will to cooperate and to improve is genuine, I
cannot in good conscience do other than recommend full certification.
Regardless of the President's decision, the Department of State, and I
daresay I speak for all of the agencies which work closely with
Mexico, will continue to press for more effective action by both
governments against the shared threat. The newly-released Performance
Measures of Effectiveness (PMEs) set targets for both governments. The
first evaluation of the performance by the two governments in
implementing the Bi-National Drug Strategy is scheduled for next
August. For most of the targets, there are objective criteria for
measuring success. While the objective is not to see whether we pass
or fail, but to press both governments toward greater progress and to
increase accountability to our nations.
I ask for your support as we move ahead. We welcome your constructive
criticism and your assistance in keeping the strategy and the alliance
focused on our duties to the American and Mexican people. I also ask
that you help us Use the certification process constructively, to
become a positive force for partnership and performance.
Mexico is in the process of a profound political transition, which
will, in the long term, assist in our joint accomplishment of the
counternarcotics task. Over the next few years, the increasingly open
and accountable government will strengthen the focus of Mexicans on
the institutional renewal needed to combat the corrosive effects of
drug trafficking and corruption. As I indicated earlier, there is wide
agreement in Mexico on the profound threat posed by narcotics
trafficking to Mexican institutions and society and the critical need
to confront this threat. Mexico is working to turn that wide agreement
into concrete results. We can help this process by being a steady,
dependable partner, by supporting the forces for change and reform.
Returning to a time of finger-pointing and sitting in judgment helps
only those who wish to exploit the gaps or weaknesses in the
partnership -- principally transnational organized crime.