A House committee overwhelmingly passed a watered-down resolution on Thursday chiding Mexico for failing to do enough to fight drug smuggling and corruption.
The resolution, if passed by the House and Senate, would “decertify” Mexico as a U.S. ally in drug enforcement, jeopardizing its aid, trade and international loans.
But the resolution was weakened by a provision that would give President Clinton broad authority, based on national interest, to cancel economic sanctions against Mexico.
The resolution amounts to a diplomatic slap - a signal from Congress that the United States expects better Mexican drug enforcement.
The House International Relations Committee passed the resolution 27 to 5.
Rep. E. Clay Shaw Jr., R-Fla., sponsor of the resolution, went along with the waiver provision so that Clinton would not be compelled to punish the Mexican people. He said the waiver gives Clinton “political cover” to set aside the sanctions while still complying with the desires of Congress.
“It takes the punishment out, but not the sting,” said Shaw, R-Fla.
Committee members said they were alarmed by corruption in Mexico and the recent arrest of the top Mexican drug enforcer for allegedly conspiring with a major smuggling cartel. Shaw was concerned about a massive flow of drugs from Mexico and the Caribbean Basin, leading to a six-fold increase in cocaine seized at Port Everglades last year.
Clinton administration officials appeared before the committee to oppose the resolution, even in its weakened form. They said the United States should bolster, not chide, Mexican President Ernesto Zedillo’s attempts to fend off encroaching drug corruption.
Rep. Robert Wexler, D-Fla., went to the committee meeting prepared to back Clinton and oppose the resolution. But he was reassured by the waiver provision and convinced that Congress should do something to motivate better drug enforcement in Mexico.
“There’s still a need to give greater incentives for the Mexican police to do more than they are doing,” Wexler said after voting for the resolution. But he also said Clinton should waive economic penalties.