President Clinton on Friday declared that Colombia, the world’s largest cocaine producer, had failed to cooperate in the fight against illegal drugs, a determination that not only stigmatizes it but also makes it ineligible for most U.S. economic aid.
In the same finding, Clinton certified that Mexico, an important free-trade partner, was cooperating with international efforts to stop such narcotics trafficking even though it has become a major conduit for illegal drugs smuggled into the United States.
The determinations were made under a law requiring the president to report each year which countries linked to narcotics are fighting the problem and which are not. The final decisions were made Friday morning after weeks of heated debate within the administration over what to do about Colombia and Mexico.
Mexico’s certification drew immediate criticism from some members of Congress who charged that Mexico did not deserve exoneration because it has not done enough to staunch the flood of drugs.
In this election year, the Clinton administration has been particularly sensitive to charges that it has favored Mexico because of its special status as a neighbor and equal member in the North American Free Trade Agreement, and because it had arranged for $12.5 billion in loans to shore up Mexico’s economy after the peso collapsed in late 1994.
This decision also dismayed law-enforcement agencies who felt the Clinton administration rejected recommendations that Mexico at least be reprimanded because of the evidence they had compiled showing Mexico’s weak performance in combatting narcotics.
Colombia has arrested several important drug cartel members in the last year, but officials here point to evidence of widespread corruption in the Colombian government and its failure to reduce its role as the leading producer of processed cocaine and a leading grower of coca leaf, opium and marijuana.
The certifications coincided with the State Department’s release Friday of its International Narcotics Control Strategy Report, a bulky 598-page report on the state of narcotics around the world in 1995, with details about what more than 140 countries have done or failed to do about drugs. The United States, the world’s foremost consumer of illegal drugs, is omitted.
Belize and Cambodia were added this year to a total list of 31 countries identified as major drug-producing or drug-transit countries. Twenty-two of these, including Mexico, were certified Friday as working sufficiently to solve the problem.
But Colombia joined Afghanistan, Burma, Iran, Nigeria and Syria on the list of countries judged to have failed to cooperate in the fight against narcotics.