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U.S. Department of State

THE WHITE HOUSE

Office of the Press Secretary
(San Francisco, California)

____________________________________________________________________

For Immediate Release
February 26, 1999

STATEMENT BY THE PRESS SECRETARY

Annual Presidential Certifications for Major Drug
Producing and Transit Countries

Acting on recommendations from Secretary of State Albright, President Clinton today sent to the Congress his certification determinations with respect to the current list of major illicit drug-producing and drug-transit countries. Of the 28 countries or dependent territories on this year's list, 22 have been certified as either cooperating fully with the United States or taking adequate steps on their own to combat the illicit drug problem. They are: Aruba, The Bahamas, Belize, Bolivia, Brazil, China, Colombia, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, Guatemala, Hong Kong, India, Jamaica, Laos, Mexico, Pakistan, Panama, Peru, Taiwan, Thailand, Venezuela, and Vietnam.

Four majors list countries were certified on the basis of the vital national interests of the United States: Cambodia, Haiti, Nigeria, and Paraguay. The President did not certify Afghanistan and Burma, thus substantially restricting most forms of U.S. assistance for these two countries.

Over the past year Mexico, under President's Zedillo's leadership, sustained its strong commitment to cooperation with the United States across the full spectrum of counter-drug activities. Officials of both governments, at all levels, pursued implementation of the U.S.-Mexico Bi-National Drug Strategy, released in February 1998. Earlier this month, Presidents Clinton and Zedillo adopted comprehensive benchmarks that both governments will now use to assess how well we are meeting the goals and objectives of our joint strategy. This heightened cooperation is clearly essential given both the magnitude of the threat drug traffickers pose to the national security of both countries, and the practical reality that many counter-drug initiatives must be implemented by both countries working together closely if those initiatives are to be effective in attacking this transnational problem.

Colombia's counterdrug performance improved in 1998, and the new administration introduced and has begun to implement a comprehensive national strategy. Presidents Clinton and Pastrana signed the Joint Alliance Against Drugs in October, pledging both countries to increased counter-drug cooperation. Over the past year, Colombia was successful in many enforcement areas, including seizures, arrests and a new initiative to counter the use of private aircraft in drug trafficking. Colombia also increased its aerial eradication program by 50% in an attempt to limit the expansion of coca cultivation. The primary concerns remain extradition and the judicial system, both areas that the new administration of President Pastrana has committed to address.

Certified last year on the basis of the vital national interests of the United States, this year Pakistan's cooperation warrants certification for full cooperation. Pursuant to their goal of eliminating opium poppy cultivation by the year 2000, Pakistan reduced cultivation by 26 percent in 1998, with wheat as the alternative crop. Pakistan also extradited two drug fugitives to the United States in 1998, whereas there were no extraditions in 1997. While drug seizures were down 48 percent, there were a number of positive enforcement developments, including: the removal of 70 corrupt officials, a first-time favorable ruling by the High Court in a $5.8 million asset forfeiture case, and the Prime Minister's pledge to strengthen Pakistan's law enforcement agencies.

Cambodia's principal involvement in the international drug trade is as a transit route for Southeast Asian heroin to overseas markets, including the United States. Throughout 1998, Cambodia was embroiled in internal political strife and counter-drug efforts suffered, although there was some cooperation with U.S. law enforcement agencies in specific cases. Late last year, long-time competing factions in Cambodia formed a coalition government. The President's decision to certify Cambodia on the basis of our vital national interests will enable the United States to support the new government in strengthening its institutions and promoting greater official accountability and adherence to the rule of law.

Haiti's counter-drug performance improved in certain areas during 1998, including seizures at Port-au-Prince airport, cooperation in intelligence sharing, vetting of law enforcement personnel, and increased professionalism within the Haitian National Police, including the Special Counter-Narcotics Unit and the Haitian Coast Guard. However, Haiti did not accomplish two fundamental goals: presentation of new anti-trafficking laws to Parliament, and targeting at least one major trafficking organization for concerted enforcement action. The principal reason for this lack of success was the prolonged and continuing political impasse between the executive and legislative branches, coupled with the chronic lack of resources and inadequate institutional structures.

While Haiti's performance in 1998 falls short of the statutory standard for certification based on full cooperation, the President certified Haiti on the basis of the vital national interests of the United States. Cutting off critical U.S. bilateral assistance and voting against multilateral development bank loans to Haiti would severely undermine our ongoing efforts to end the continuing political crisis, to promote economic stability and democracy, and to stem the flow of illegal drugs and migrants to the United States.

In Nigeria, Head of State General Abubakar's strong public stand against drug trafficking and corruption is one of many hopeful signs as Africa's most populous country continues its transition to democratic civilian government. Since General Abubakar came to power in June, Nigeria has reaffirmed the bilateral basis for extraditions and announced plans for much needed wage increases for both civil servants and law enforcement officers. There has also been a dramatic improvement in human rights, as well as a strong emphasis upon transparency, inclusiveness, and accountability in government.

Nonetheless, Nigeria remains the hub of African drug trafficking, with criminal organizations based there operating global networks that transport both heroin and cocaine to world markets, including the United States. Despite the positive steps we have seen, Nigeria's counter-drug efforts are still unfocused and lacking in material support. Cooperation with U.S. law enforcement agencies, while improving, is limited, and no extraditions had been concluded by the end of 1998.

Nigeria's importance to regional stability, and potential as an example of political and economic reform in Africa, lends a unique significance to the transition now underway. The President has decided, on this basis, that the vital national interests of the United States require that Nigeria be certified at this time. The President's decision will enable the United States to provide important assistance to support the planned transition to democratic civilian rule. Nigeria's return to democracy is critical to the future of stability and progress towards democratic and economic reform in West Africa.

Paraguay is a significant transit point for Bolivian cocaine en route to the United States, and is also a source country for marijuana. Modest counter-drug improvements were achieved after the new Cubas administration took office in August, but Paraguay did not meet most of the goals established for 1998. These goals included implementing a national strategy and the anti-money laundering statute, as well as passing a revised anti-drug statute. In part, the explanation stems from the internal political turmoil related to the May 1998 elections.

Decertification would cut off assistance programs intended to strengthen Paraguay's democratic institutions and civil-military relations, both priority goals for the United States. The effectiveness of Paraguay's counter-drug and other international crime programs would also be undermined. The President has therefore certified Paraguay on the basis of the vital national interests of the United States. We look forward in 1999 to working closely with and supporting the new Cubas administration, particularly in enhancing its counter-drug programs.

Afghanistan is the world's second largest producer of opium poppy. Cultivation increased by seven percent in 1998, without any significant action taken by warring political factions to deter either production or trafficking, and with many at all levels instead profiting from the drug trade. The United States strongly supports the efforts of the United Nations Special Mission to Afghanistan to achieve peace and promote development of a broad-based government that respects international norms regarding illicit drugs, terrorism, and human rights.

Burma continues to be the world's largest source of opium poppy, although 1998 production declined significantly due primarily to weather (with crop eradication efforts also contributing to the decrease). Cease-fire agreements between the Government of Burma and insurgent tribal groups dependent on the drug trade involve an implicit tolerance of their continued involvement in trafficking activities. The United States remains concerned that Burma's counter-drug efforts are in no way proportional to the extent of drug cultivation and trafficking. Burma's toleration of money laundering, general lack of respect for the rule of law, and failure to turn over notorious drug traffickers under indictment in the United States are also concerns.

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