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U.S. Department of State

THE WHITE HOUSE

Office of the Press Secretary

______________________________________________________________________________________

For Immediate Release
November 10, 1999

TEXT OF A LETTER FROM THE PRESIDENT TO THE CHAIRMEN OF THE SENATE
COMMITTEES ON FOREIGN RELATIONS AND APPROPRIATIONS AND
THE CHAIRMEN OF THE HOUSE COMMITTEES ON
INTERNATIONAL RELATIONS AND APPROPRIATIONS

Dear Chairman:

In accordance with the provisions of section 490(h) of the Foreign Assistance Act of 1961, as amended, I have determined that the following are major illicit drug producing or drug transit "countries" (including certain entities that are not sovereign states): Afghanistan, The Bahamas, Bolivia, Brazil, Burma, Cambodia, China, Colombia, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, Guatemala, Haiti, Hong Kong, India, Jamaica, Laos, Mexico, Nigeria, Pakistan, Panama, Paraguay, Peru, Taiwan, Thailand, Venezuela, and Vietnam.

This year I have removed Aruba and Belize from the majors list; added Belize as part of this year's Central America region of concern; added the entire Eastern and Southern Caribbean, including the Leeward and Windward Islands, Aruba, and the Netherlands Antilles, as a region of concern; and also added North Korea as a country of concern.

I wish to make clear that the inclusion of a country or entity on the majors list does not reflect an assessment of its government's counter-drug efforts or extent of cooperation with the United States. For example, among the reasons that a transit country or entity is placed on the majors list is the combination of geographical, commercial, and/or economic factors that allow drug traffickers to operate despite the most assiduous enforcement measures of the government concerned. In the case of Hong Kong and Taiwan, for instance, both entities have excellent counter-drug records and cooperate closely with the United States.

Aruba. Aruba was designated as a major transit country in 1997. While geography makes Aruba, like most of the other island countries in the Eastern and Southern Caribbean, a potential drug transit point, at this time we do not have evidence that it is a major transit country for drugs bound for the United States. Rather, the drug trade there appears directed toward Europe. We will continue, however, to keep Aruba under observation together with the rest of the islands in the region.

Belize. Belize's geographical position next to Mexico on the Yucatan peninsula offers would-be drug smugglers an attractive corridor for moving drugs into Mexico and on to the United States. Traffickers have used Belizean territory in previous years, when enforcement activities elsewhere enhanced the value of this route. Recently, however, we have detected significantly reduced drug flows to and through Belize.

Therefore, I have decided to remove Belize from the majors list. If future monitoring of Central America indicates a resumption of important drug flows through Belize bound for the United States, I will again place the country on the majors list.

Central America. Central America's location between South America and Mexico, together with its thousands of miles of coastline, several container-handling ports, the Pan-American Highway, and limited law enforcement capability make the entire region a logical conduit and transhipment area for illicit drugs bound for Mexico and the United States. The variance in seizure statistics from country to country, and their fluctuation from year to year, underscore my concern with Central America's potential and volatile role as a transit region. For instance, Panama and Guatemala continue to report more seizures than other countries in the region, while seizures to date by Costa Rica, Honduras, and Nicaragua are below levels during the same period in previous years and flow levels in El Salvador remain low. Taken together, these circumstances indicate a need to continue to monitor the situation in Central America.

Cuba. While there have been some reports that trafficking syndicates use Cuban land territory for moving drugs, we have yet to receive any confirmation that this traffic carries significant quantities of cocaine or heroin to the United States. In particular, the intelligence and law enforcement communities reviewed the information concerning whether the 7.2 metric ton shipment of cocaine seized in Colombia in December 1998, in a container reportedly headed to Cuba, was destined for the United States. Their judgment remains that Spain, and not the United States, was the intended final destination.

We also looked closely at the use of Cuban waters and airspace for transit of drugs to the United States, as the term "major drug transit country" is understood to apply to the land, waters, and airspace of a country over which sovereignty may be exercised, consistent with international law and United States practice. Although we have detected what appears to be some air and sea activity consistent with trafficking patterns, this activity has decreased significantly since last year and indicates a corresponding decrease in drug flow. We continue to keep trafficking in the area under close observation and will add Cuba to the majors list if the evidence warrants.

Eastern and Southern Caribbean. The Leeward and Windward Islands, together with Aruba and the Netherlands Antilles, constitute a broad geographical area through which drugs bound for the United States may pass en route from Latin America. We have no evidence at this time, however, that any of these Eastern Caribbean nations is a major drug transit country under the statutory definition. The information we do have indicates that drugs moving through the area are overwhelmingly destined for Europe. We are, therefore, keeping the region under observation, and I will add the relevant countries to the majors list should conditions warrant.

Iran. Although Iran in the past had been a traditional opium producing country, over the past few years the Government of Iran reported success in eradicating illicit opium poppy cultivation. A survey of the country this year revealed no detectable poppy cultivation in the traditional growing areas. While one cannot rule out some cultivation in remote parts of the country, it is unlikely that there would be enough to meet the threshold definition of a major drug producing country. Important quantities of opiates reportedly continue to transit Iran en route to Europe, but we have no evidence that these drugs significantly affect the United States, a requirement for designation as a major drug transit country under current legislation.

Malaysia. Malaysia was removed from the majors list last year because drug flow estimates did not indicate that drugs transiting the country had reached the United States in significant quantities.

North Korea. Our observations to date have been unable to confirm reports that significant quantities of opium poppy may be under cultivation in North Korea or that heroin originating in the country may be entering the international drug trade. We continue, however, to monitor the situation. If we confirm that there is indeed significant poppy cultivation, or that North Korea is a transit point for drugs significantly affecting the United States, I will add the country to the majors list.

Syria and Lebanon. We removed Syria and Lebanon from the majors list 2 years ago after we determined that there was no significant opium poppy cultivation in Lebanon's Biqa' Valley. Recent surveys have confirmed that there has been no detectable replanting of opium poppy, and we have no evidence that drugs transiting these countries significantly affect the United States. We continue, however, to keep the area under observation.

Turkey and Other Balkan Route Countries. We remain concerned about the large volume of Southwest Asian heroin moving through Turkey and neighboring countries to Western Europe along the Balkan Route. We have no clear evidence, however, that this heroin significantly affects the United States as required for a country to be designated a major transit country. In the event that we determine that heroin transiting Turkey, Bulgaria, Greece, Serbia-Montenegro, Bosnia, Croatia, the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, or other European countries on the Balkan Route significantly affects the United States, I will add the relevant countries to the majors list.

Major Cannabis Producers. While Kazakstan, Kyrgyzstan, Morocco, the Philippines, and South Africa are important cannabis producers, we have not included them on the majors list since in all cases the illicit cannabis is either consumed locally or exported to countries other than the United States. I have determined that such illicit cannabis production does not significantly affect the United States.

Central Asia. We have conducted probes in Uzbekistan and Tajikistan, traditional opium poppy growing areas of the former Soviet Union. These probes have not shown significant opium poppy cultivation. If ongoing analysis reveals cultivation of 1,000 hectares or more of poppy, I will add the relevant countries to the majors list.

WILLIAM J. CLINTON