U.S. Department of State
Other State Department Archive SitesU.S. Department of State
U.S. Department of State
U.S. Department of State
U.S. Department of State
U.S. Department of State
The State Department web site below is a permanent electronic archive of information released online from January 1, 1997 to January 20, 2001. Please see www.state.gov for current material from the Department of State. Or visit http://2001-2009.state.gov for information from that period. Archive sites are not updated, so external links may no longer function. Contact us with any questions about finding information. NOTE: External links to other Internet sites should not be construed as an endorsement of the views contained therein.
U.S. Department of State

Great Seal

Secretary of State Madeleine K. Albright,
Assistant Secretary for International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs, Robert S. Gelbard
Press Briefing: International Narcotics Control Strategy Report, 1996, Washington, DC, February 28, 1997
As released by the Office of the Spokesman,
U.S. Department of State

Blue Bar

MR. BURNS: Welcome to the State Department. Secretary Albright has a statement to make on this year's Narcotics Certification Report. Following that, she will not be taking questions. Following that, Ambassador Gelbard will also have a short statement. He will be glad to take your questions.

Madam Secretary.

SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: Good afternoon. Today, President Clinton sent to the Congress his decisions on narcotics certification for 32 major drug producing and transit countries. The State Department also sent to the Congress its annual International Narcotics Control Strategy Report which describes the efforts of more than 130 countries, including all those that have received U.S. assistance in the fight against drugs.

I wanted to come down here today to explain why this is such a top priority for the State Department and to go over with you some of the President's key decisions.

There are some people who say that drug abuse and drug trafficking are largely a problem for the United States. That is old thinking. Illegal narcotics and the violence they breed are as deadly to children on the streets of Sao Paulo and Bangkok as they are in New York or Los Angeles.

Wherever these drugs are produced, trafficked or sold, societies suffer. Citizens lose trust in institutions. They lose faith in the rule of law. Every nation has an obligation to deal with its share of this problem.

America's main share of the problem is demand. That is the primary cause of the damage done to our communities by drugs, and it is a major contributor to the crime and corruption that results from drug trafficking worldwide. That is why the Administration's drug control strategy, announced this past Tuesday, has demand reduction as its centerpiece.

Other nations are right to expect us to do our part. In turn, we are right to expect them to cooperate with us. For if the laws of supply and demand explain the trafficking of drugs across borders, they do not excuse it. And they do not excuse a failure on the part of any government to participate in the fight against this global plague.

Within our own hemisphere, we have built a nearly complete community of democracies. This community is a product of hard work and high ideals. As we recognized at the Miami Summit in 1994, drug trafficking is a deadly threat to our community and to the institutions of law and democracy that we have built.

No nation acting alone can defeat that threat. We must work together to eradicate crops, disrupt trafficking, break up cartels, and punish those who would enrich themselves by selling poison to our children.

The United States drug certification law has become part of our strategy of cooperation. It is not discretionary, for the Administration is legally obliged to apply it. It requires difficult "up or down" judgments to be rendered in a public manner that engenders, in some cases, deserved embarrassment; in others, unhelpful resentment.

It is vital, therefore, that we bear in mind the deadly, serious purpose behind this provision of U.S. law. That purpose is to strengthen the bonds of cooperation in the war against drugs. To the extent that purpose is achieved, the decent and law abiding people of every nation will benefit.

This year, the President provided full certification to 23 countries on our list. Six were denied certification. These are Afghanistan, Burma, Colombia, Iran, Nigeria, and Syria. Three countries - Belize, Lebanon, and Pakistan - were not certified but granted a vital national interest waiver.

Assistant Secretary Gelbard will brief you in greater detail about these decisions. I want to say a few words about Colombia and Mexico.

This year, like last year, the President's decision to deny certification to Colombia was a result of our concern that corruption remains rampant at the highest levels of the Colombian Government and that senior officials are failing to cooperate with us in the fight against drugs. In no way is it meant to undercut the valiant and effective efforts of those Colombians who are fighting on the front lines against the drug trade. President Clinton intends to work to the limit the impact of this decision on U.S. businesses and the Colombian police and military.

President Clinton has also decided to grant Mexico a full certification but with firm expectations of further progress in the near term. We expect Mexico to work with us to meet a series of objectives that have emerged from our cooperation in the past. These include all-out efforts to capture major drug traffickers, increased extradition of cop killers and leading traffickers to the United States, implementing laws against money laundering and attacking corruption.

The President has asked Attorney General Reno, Director McCaffrey, and me to monitor Mexico's cooperation continuously and to report our findings to him regularly.

Let me explain the basis for this decision. First, As President Zedillo has acknowledged, corruption is deeply rooted in Mexican counter-drug institutions. Six Mexican Attorney Generals and five drug czars have come and gone in the last five years without making major headway against drug barons and officials who operate above the law. This is a tremendous problem. We would be naïve to assume that any Mexican leader could defeat it quickly and without a massive investment of effort, resources and will.

At the same time, the Mexican Government's willingness to acknowledge and address the high level corruption that has undermined its drug control institutions is an act of political courage of the highest order. There has been no attempt at a cover-up. President Zedillo has responded to this crisis with integrity and candor. He is clearly striving to establish clean government, true democracy, and full respect for the rule of law in his country. His work is the best hope for a better future for Mexico, and he has earned our confidence and support.

Our certification process is not meant to measure the depth of Mexico's shortcomings, but the extend of its cooperation with us in overcoming them. The point, in other words, is not to keep score but to change the score in our favor.

The arrest of Mexico's drug czar for corruption is shocking confirmation of the problems that exist, but it is also a sign of precisely the kind of progress and cooperation that we are trying to encourage. We must also recognize that Mexico's drug seizures and arrests are up. New laws have been enacted to fight money laundering. Major air shipments of drugs, which once used Mexican landing strips with impunity, now appear to have stopped.

Mexico has set a precedent by extraditing its own nationals. It expelled Juan Garcia Abrego, one of the world's leading drug traffickers who recently received 11 life sentences.

Let us also remember that our relationship with Mexico is strong and among the most important we have with any country in the world. In the last few years, President Clinton has repeatedly stood by Mexico at difficult moments. He won ratification of NAFTA and acted decisively during Mexico's economic crisis. These decisions were not entirely popular, but they were right and they have paid off for the American people. In the long term, they will pay off even more.

This is another difficult but correct decision. It is designed to improve the climate for future cooperation, which is the goal of our policy. I am confident that it will serve the interests of the American people, and the President and I will look to Mexico in the coming months to help us ensure it does.

And I now will turn the floor over to Assistant Secretary Gelbard.

ASSISTANT SECRETARY GELBARD: Because Secretary Albright has already given comprehensive remarks on Mexico, I'll focus my remarks on the other key decisions, and then I'll take your questions.

The decision to deny certification to six countries was not taken lightly. As the Secretary said, denial of certification for Colombia was aimed, again, at the senior levels of the Colombian Government and reflects the increasing drug threat posed by Colombia.

Cocaine and heroin continue to flow unabated from Colombia to the United States and, increasingly, to other parts of the world.

The denial of certification was taken in support of the law abiding citizens in Colombia so that long, festering corruption problems will be adequately addressed. The corruption was highlighted again this year by our actions to revoke President Samper's U.S. visa as well as that of many government officials and members of their Congress for aiding and abetting drug traffickers.

This decision is not intended to undercut the efforts of those working on the front lines against the drug trade. We will work with our Congress to find ways to overcome current restrictions on providing some forms of critical anti-drug aid to the Colombian National Police and Military prohibited after last year's decision to deny certification.

In the past year, elements of Colombia's private sector, particularly the Flower Grower's Association and the Private Banker's Association, took courageous stands against their governments' policies on illegal narcotics. Similarly, the new Justice and Foreign Ministers work diligently to press key goals. Nonetheless, President Samper took action on key certification objectives only at the final hour when it was clear that rhetoric alone would not suffice.

Meanwhile, Colombia's coca crop, part of an increasingly vertically-integrated trade inside that country, expanded by 32 percent so that Colombia has now vastly surpassed Bolivia as the second largest producer of coca and remains far and away the largest producer of cocaine.

Seizures of drugs dropped according to Colombia's own government statistics that they conveniently published in U.S. newspaper ads. More heroin was available than ever before. Virtually all of that heroin is destined for the United States.

Colombian Government inaction allowed the Rodriguez Orejuela brothers, and other major Cali cartel leaders, to operate their businesses from jail; even to influence a congressional vote in an attempt to overturn efforts on asset seizure legislation, despite repeated U.S. warnings.

The Samper Government did not achieve passage of effective sentencing legislation for drug traffickers until just two weeks ago, and as a result the Rodriguez Orejuela brothers will face relatively short sentences in prison. In stark contrast, last month a U.S. Federal Judge sentenced Mexican drug lord Juan Garcia Abrego, a long-time associate of the Rodriguez Orejuelas, expelled to the United States by the Mexican Government, to 11 life terms on charges of trafficking some 15 tons of cocaine and of money laundering. He was also forced to forfeit $350 million in illegal proceeds and was fined $128 million.

The Colombian Government did agree to a Maritime Interdiction Agreement and at the last possible moment achieved passage of strengthened asset forfeiture, money laundering and sentencing laws. None of these has yet been implemented, however, and no serious action to reinstate extradition was taken by the Samper Government. Perhaps worst of all, as Colombian police and prosecutors were pressing ahead with investigations and prosecutions of the Cali cartel mafia, President Samper and Interior Minister Cerpa were undercutting them, attempting to negotiate a deal with those same criminals.

In 1996, the Colombian Government's efforts did not meet the standards set forth in the U.N. Drug Convention of 1988, the basic requirement for certification, thus forcing President Clinton to decertify Colombia. But this need not be a permanent condition. Adequate progress by Colombia may justify a recertification during 1997, as permitted by law, on the basis of our vital national interests.

Colombia's efforts over the coming months, particularly in the following areas, will be looked at. Reinstating extradition of its nationals and acts on impending extradition requests; implementing newly passed legislation and the Maritime Agreement; agreeing to use a more effective yet safe herbicide to spray drug crops; effective action on prosecution of those accused of corruption and tightening prison security to prohibit prisoners from running their illegal enterprises.

These steps, all of which seem reasonable, could be accomplished in the next several months. By taking them, the Colombian Government can show the global community that it's committed to ending this year of narco dominance.

The President continued to stress the seriousness of the heroin threat by denying certification to Burma, Afghanistan, Iran and Syria. Significant inroads into the world's heroin problem are impossible without Burma and Afghanistan, which together produce about 75 percent of the world's supply of opium.

Burma is the world's largest producer of opium poppy by far, particularly since 1988 when the SLORC took over the country, and is responsible for the vast majority of heroin on the streets of the United States. In Burma, opium cultivation and heroin trafficking go on without any meaningful constraint by the authorities. Ethnic drug-trafficking armies have negotiated with the SLORC for limited autonomy to run their heroin operations in return for a cessation of hostilities.

Far from punishing the infamous drug lord Khun Sa, the SLORC has allowed him to gain acceptance by Rangoon's society, with impunity from prosecution or extradition. Credible reports suggest he is continuing to run his lucrative drug operations from Rangoon. What is more, drug traffickers have become the leading investors in Burma's new market economy and leading lights in Burma's new political order. Drug money is so pervasive in the Burmese economy that it taints legitimate investment. Since 1988, some 15 percent of foreign investment in Burma and over half of that in Singapore has been tied to the family of narco-trafficker, Lo Hsing Han.

In Afghanistan, the Taliban, which controls 90 percent of the land where opium is cultivated, made no serious effort to discourage or reduce opium cultivation or disrupt heroin trafficking. We are deeply concerned that the Taliban itself may be involved in opium cultivation and drug trafficking.

Iran and Syria were denied certification for failing to make any meaningful or effective efforts to stop heroin transshipment associated with both countries.

Nigerian trafficking groups remain the world's largest couriers of Asian heroin and are now making inroads into the traffic of South American cocaine. In the United States, Nigerian groups are responsible for bringing in much of the heroin on our streets. In addition, Nigerian groups have established elaborate money laundering operations and international fraud scams. The Nigerian Government failed to address critical issues, hindering progress in these areas. It also failed to meet the standards of the 1988 U.N. Vienna Convention.

The President is reserving the option to invoke trade and other discretionary sanctions in addition to those mandated by the Foreign Assistance Act against the six countries denied certification. For the first time, the President gave Belize a vital national interest certification. Belize was restored to the major's list just last year because of an increase in Colombian and Mexican drug trafficking activity through their country. Belize's geographic position and ineffective law enforcement and corruption allowed U.S.-bound drugs easy access via Belize.

This year, largely due to high-level corruption in their government, Belize did little to stop the drugs moving through its country. Drug related arrests, drug seizures and the eradication of marijuana all dropped sharply in 1996, while the government made no progress in completing extradition and multilateral legal assistance treaties. Its counter-narcotics performance clearly fell short of the standards.

The Paraguayan Government, which had received vital national interest certifications in 1994 and 1995, demonstrated serious and high-level commitment to anti-drug efforts and improved cooperation with the United States in 1996. The government named a new, honest anti-drug chief who replaced corrupt officials at all levels of Paraguay's anti-drug forces. The government developed a national drug strategy, passed a broad law criminalizing money laundering and introduced a much strengthened anti-drug statute.

The government increased direct information sharing and law enforcement cooperation with the United States and initiated bilateral and multilateral cooperation agreements with Argentina, Brazil and Bolivia. Cocaine and marijuana seizures increased this year, and Paraguay assisted in the arrest of a major Brazilian cocaine trafficker. Paraguay's efforts earned it full certification.

The Clinton Administration continued to take strong action against drug production and trafficking and other forms of international crime. We attacked transnational drug syndicates at their most vulnerable points. We interrupted preferred transit routes to the United States, forcing them to use more difficult and expensive approaches through the eastern Caribbean and eastern Pacific.

In the Andes, we helped the governments disrupt the so-called "air bridge" that carried the bulk of Peruvian coca to Colombia. This depressed Peruvian farm coca prices, causing many coca farmers to abandon their fields. Consequently, and in addition to the support we provided for alternative development, Peru's coca cultivation decreased 18 percent to the lowest level in over a decade.

In Bolivia, the government also reduced its potential cocaine production by 10 percent. Total Andean coca cultivation fell by two percent, since the gains made in Peru and Bolivia were compensated for by the dramatic increase in Colombia.

On other fronts, the United States targeted additional individuals and front companies used by the Cali drug syndicate and through the International Emergency Economic Powers Act, cut off their access to the U.S. marketplace. These actions have had a devastating impact on some of the Cali mafia's businesses.

Our government cannot protect its citizens from illegal trafficking, sale and abuse of drugs without the united effort of governments in the source and transit countries. In the 1988 Vienna Convention, the global community has clearly defined the standards it expects of all governments. Our law on certification and President Clinton's decisions on implementing it are further evidence of how seriously we take these standards.

I'll be happy to take your questions.

QUESTION: Mr. Secretary, was there any moment where certification of Mexico was in doubt - a moment where you said, "This is not going to go through"? And, if so, what happened to change your decision? How intense do you anticipate a battle with Congress in order to uphold this decision?

ASSISTANT SECRETARY GELBARD: Obviously, we never discuss internal decision-making processes. Suffice it to say, it was a clear decision. It was a unanimous decision in terms of recommendations made to the President by the relevant Cabinet members.

QUESTION: In Congress - what - are you prepared to defend this in Congress?

ASSISTANT SECRETARY GELBARD: Obviously, we're prepared to defend it. We feel this was the right decision. It was the decision that we recommended to the President, and we feel very comfortable with it.

QUESTION: Was your decision influenced by the fact that there were so many competing interests with Mexico, such as trade and immigration and a dozen other competing interests?

ASSISTANT SECRETARY GELBARD: No. The decision was made on the basis of the assessment recommended to the President by the Secretary of State, taking into account the views of other relevant members of the Cabinet, as in previous years. The statute is very clear in terms of the scope provided for the decision, and on that basis it was made on counter-narcotics criteria and the discussions we have had with the Mexican Government over the last year and our view, our assessment of their action.

QUESTION: There was pressure from Congress, including half of the Senate, for a national interests waiver as a sort of probation to put Mexico on. Why was that an undesirable step to take as a warning to Mexico?

ASSISTANT SECRETARY GELBARD: The President felt very clearly, as did the Secretary of State, as did I, in recommending this to the Secretary, that the test of the law is whether a government is cooperating with us fully; whether they are in compliance with the 1988 Vienna Convention. We felt that was a clear-cut decision here. We feel there has been significant progress in Mexico over the last year. This includes an unprecedented decision to extradite Mexican nationals to the United States and a continuing commitment on the part of the Mexican Government to do so on the basis of their law.

The decision and actions to expel important drug traffickers to the United States which include, as I mentioned, Juan Garcia Abrego, and I mentioned the extremely serious sentence he received. A Bolivian drug trafficker named Pereira Salas, who is about to go on trial in Miami, who was a key lieutenant to Amado Carillo Fuentes and others. Also, significant increases in seizures of heroin, increases in seizures of cocaine, significant increases in arrests of people wanted for drug trafficking, both Mexican citizens and foreigners; continued excellent progress in eradication of opium poppy and marijuana; significant progress in seizures of methamphetamines; actions on precursors and others.

QUESTION: Mr. Gelbard, last year you decertified Colombia but you imposed no actual economic sanctions. There's a lot of fear in Colombia with the flower growers and other industries. Will the same thing apply this year, or will economic sanctions be applied?

ASSISTANT SECRETARY GELBARD: First, as I mentioned, according to the various laws that exist, the President still retains the right to impose such optional sanctions at any time.

Second, however, as I also said, we feel that the private sector in Colombia has played - or at least certain parts of the private sector has played a very important role in urging the government - both the executive branch of the Colombian Government, the Congress and others - to take strong steps against narcotics. I particularly mentioned, in fact, the flower growers association who have played a very important role, led by Maria Isabel Patiño who is the head of their association; the private bankers' association, which came to us early on and asked for training against money laundering and I think also played a very important role, along with other groups in urging their Congress to undertake asset forfeiture legislation and stronger sentencing laws. So we strongly want to recognize that and take all that into account.

QUESTION: Mr. Gelbard, is the United States concerned at all to lose Colombia as an ally in the war against drugs? The Foreign Minister of Colombia said yesterday that if decertified again, Colombia would have to reconsider its diplomatic relations with the United States.

ASSISTANT SECRETARY GELBARD: That's obviously a Colombian decision to undertake. I would strongly urge the Colombian Government to think very seriously about decreasing its cooperation with the United States on counter-narcotics. I think that would be a serious error on its part.

QUESTION: A couple of issues on Mexico again. Mr. Constantine has stated just this week that there is no police agency in Mexico that is trustworthy for the U.S. to work with - fully trustworthy to work with. I would ask, do you agree with that? Do you agree with - as the heads of the cartels in Mexico remain at large and continue to place their dollars in a corrupting way, bribing their way into Mexican society, is the security of Mexico continually at risk by these people being at large? Then I would finally -

ASSISTANT SECRETARY GELBARD: I'm going to forget the last part.

QUESTION: Okay.

ASSISTANT SECRETARY GELBARD: We are seriously concerned about pervasive and even endemic corruption inside Mexican law enforcement institutions. I said that in my testimony in the House of Representatives on Wednesday, as did others. So is the Mexican Government. We feel that President Zedillo is deeply concerned about this, and that's why he took the very quick action when he was shocked, as were we, to discover that his newly appointed head of the counter-narcotics agency, General Gutierrez Rebollo, was, he believed, corrupt.

We have been in intense discussions with the Mexican Government about this and other issues in recent days, and we feel that the Mexican Government is committed to taking serious action to try to assure that there will be serious examination of law enforcement officials to assure that they are indeed not corrupt in their jobs.

QUESTION: Mr. Gelbard, you talked or the Secretary talked of hope and pledges by President Zedillo and the Secretary said the purpose of this legislation is not to count the score but to try to change the score. I don't see anything in the legislation about hope, and I don't see anything about tyring to change the score. I see criteria that the country has, (a) met the goals and objectives of the U.N. Convention, (b) accomplished the goals described in a bilateral narcotics agreement with the U.S., and (c) taken legal and law enforcement measures to prevent and punish public corruption. Are you seriously telling us that Mexico has done any of those things?

ASSISTANT SECRETARY GELBARD: As a matter of fact, I've read the law a few times. I don't want to repeat what I just said to that gentleman, but I cited, I think, some very explicit examples of how Mexico made progress in 1996.

QUESTION: Has Mexico extradited -

ASSISTANT SECRETARY GELBARD: Can I finish?

QUESTION: I'm sorry. I have a follow-up.

ASSISTANT SECRETARY GELBARD: Mexico has clearly extradited people for the first time in their history, dramatically expanded their cooperation with us - not just in law enforcement but on military-to-military cooperation, including, by the way, the first ever visit by a U.S. Secretary of Defense to Mexico, which resulted in dramatic military-to-military cooperation against narcotics, and all the objective indicators in terms of cooperation have gone up.

I failed to mention that they also approved a money laundering law for the first time and in cooperation with some of our assistants have now moved to begin to implement that law in a serious way and also approved an organized crime law which modernizes dramatically the instruments the law enforcement agencies have in order to capture drug traffickers. But the objective indicators are very clear. Your follow-up.

QUESTION: You mentioned extradition several times. How many significant drug traffickers who are Mexican nationals, as opposed to other country nationals, have they in fact extradited to the U.S. in the law year?

ASSISTANT SECRETARY GELBARD: They have expelled people such as Juan Garcia Abrego who was one of the most important drug traffickers in the world.

QUESTION: But he's not a Mexican national.

ASSISTANT SECRETARY GELBARD: He is a Mexican national. He's a Mexican national, and that's the important point. I think it was a very courageous act by the Mexican Government. They were criticized in Mexico, and we considered this man to be one of the most important traffickers worldwide.

QUESTION: Mr. Secretary, many Americans, when they saw the news that the head of the anti-narcotics agency in Mexico had been arrested on charges of narco-corruption, thought that was evidence that the situation was not good in Mexico; that it was bad; that it was getting worse. Do you see it in some other way?

ASSISTANT SECRETARY GELBARD: Well, obviously, we do because we certify them.

QUESTION: What is that evidence of?

ASSISTANT SECRETARY GELBARD: Obviously, we're deeply concerned and deeply disturbed by the discovery that General Gutierrez Rebollo was alleged by his own government to be corrupt. The fact that the Mexican Government took prompt - took swift action against him and against others whom they believe to be corrupt in that same organization, some 36 others, gives us confidence, though, that they are prepared to take action against corruption. In fact, they did it on their own. This was not something that was helped by the United States.

What is important are the net results. We feel that the net results, looking today compared to a year ago today, very clearly show a much stronger Mexican cooperation with the United States. We have had this high-level Contact Group which has met a number of times over the course of the last year and has enabled us, under the leadership of General McCaffrey, to develop - working with the Mexican Government - much closer and more fluid mechanisms for cooperation.

As I said earlier, we have much higher seizures, much higher eradication, and overall the results show that Mexico is moving in the right direction.

It is important to underline that we recognize, and the Mexican Government recognizes, that they still must do a great deal more over the medium and long term to develop the institutional capabilities needed to go after drug trafficking in a sustained way.

They need to be able to develop measures for background checks, financial disclosure checks, and other means so that they do not have corrupt officials in their organizations. But we too have had corrupt officials in our organizations although at a lower level. What's important is that Mexico and we are working together now, and have been in a much better way over the course of the last year or two, to try to develop the mechanisms to assure that there are these institutional capabilities for Mexico to be able to take even stronger measures on their own.

QUESTION: Mexico agreed as a part of a compromise with the United States, in the certification process, to extradite major Mexican national kingpins as Amado Carrillo or the Arellano Felix brothers? Did they guarantee you that they will accept to extradite them eventually?

ASSISTANT SECRETARY GELBARD: I don't want to go into individuals but we feel that there have been significant commitments on the part of the Mexican Government regarding extradition of drug traffickers and other types of criminals in accordance with Mexican law.

QUESTION: By decertifying Colombia again, you would suggest that you're not satisfied with the performance from last year. If you decertify them again without added punishment or sanctions, how do you expect that this is going to cause any change this year? Why do you think it's going to be effective this time?

ASSISTANT SECRETARY GELBARD: Obviously, we wish - the President wished - that he did not have to decertify them. But on the basis of the lack of Colombian action, he felt that he had no other choice.

What's clear, for example, is that during the course of 1996, the United States Government repeatedly went to the Colombian Government and complained that the Rodriguez Orejuelas and others were continuing to run their business from jail. We were ridiculed by the Colombian Government publicly. Only in late December did the Colombian Government publicly recognize that we were right.

We offered assistance from our Bureau of Prisons to correct that. It was ignored. We offered help to provide more effective herbicides to eradicate coca. We were stymied and still are. Meanwhile, coca production is up 32 percent. What does that tell us?

What is really important, we think, is that over the course of 1996, the private sector has become mobilized and we congratulate them. We think it's important for the future of Colombia and Colombian citizens themselves that they're taking this action, and other people, too. I mentioned the Foreign Minister, the Justice Minister, Prosecutor General Valdivieso, Police Chief Serrano, and others.

We think progress is being made, but Colombia has also started from a very, very low level.

QUESTION: Mr. Gelbard, you mentioned significant commitments on the part of the Mexican Government on extradition. Do you mean in the past several days, during the discussions that you've been having with them? Or is it prior to this period?

ASSISTANT SECRETARY GELBARD: I'd rather not talk about that. We feel satisfied that if and when people will be arrested and that these events will occur.

QUESTION: Mr. Gelbard, you talk about cooperation. But the fact that this General was put in such a high place, isn't that a failure of intelligence on the part of the Mexico and on the part of the United States?

ASSISTANT SECRETARY GELBARD: Yes.

QUESTION: What are you going to do about it?

ASSISTANT SECRETARY GELBARD: We are doing an assessment ourselves to see what kind of damage has been done by this. Fortunately, he was not on his job very long. I know the Mexican Government is undertaking the same. They are also undertaking measures, obviously, which I referred to before, to try to assure that appropriate measures will be taken institutionally to assure that people who are in key counternarcotics positions at all levels are honest.

QUESTION: Is it the feeling that this is the tip of the iceberg?

QUESTION: Mr. Secretary, why is there no mention in the report of General Gutierrez' arrest? More importantly, can you explain to the American people what kind of an ally Mexico is in the drug war?

ASSISTANT SECRETARY GELBARD: Which report do you mean?

QUESTION: I'm sorry, this one here.

ASSISTANT SECRETARY GELBARD: Because it was printed before that happened. It may be mentioned. I think it actually may be. What was your second question? I'm sorry.

QUESTION: What kind of an ally is Mexico in the drug war?

ASSISTANT SECRETARY GELBARD: We feel that Mexico and the United States are cooperating extremely well. We obviously look forward to achieving even better results in 1997. We feel we're off to a good start in ways that I don't want to talk about publicly because of the nature of law enforcement efforts.

We feel that it is critical that the United States and Mexico continue to work in the closest possible way to achieve the best possible results.

QUESTION: Mr. Gelbard, have the Mexicans undertaken to offer the United States help with things like maritime agreements similar to what has been signed with Colombia? Or to build the radar sites in southern Mexico that they have failed to do after discussing it?

ASSISTANT SECRETARY GELBARD: We would hope that Mexico would, indeed, go ahead and complete its radar network. We have urged them to do so. We are currently talking to them about precisely these issues.

On maritime cooperation, I would just cite that just a few weeks ago there was a joint U.S.-Mexican effort which resulted in a 3.2 ton seizure of cocaine. There, too, we would like to have continued closer cooperation, and that is an item on our agenda.

QUESTION: Mr. Gelbard, yesterday, Mexican law enforcement officials arrested Oscar Malherbe who had been described by the DEA as the replacement for Juan Garcia Abrego as the leader of the Matamoros cartel. I wonder if you have any comment on that arrest? My understanding is that that man is under indictment since June 1995 by a Miami grand jury and is part of the list of people that you want extradited. Have you started that process to get him here? And what are the hopes of getting him here.

ASSISTANT SECRETARY GELBARD: We congratulate the Mexican Government on the arrest of Oscar Malherbe. I believe that we have already requested his provisional arrest pending extradition.

QUESTION: So you have requested his extradition?

ASSISTANT SECRETARY GELBARD: Yes.

MR. BURNS: Thank you very much.

(###)

Blue Bar

Great Seal Return to International Narcotics Control Strategy Report.
Return to DOSFAN home page. Return to Secretary's home page.
This is an official U.S.-Government source for information on the WWW. Inclusion of non-U.S. Government links does not imply endorsement of contents.