- The Washington Times - Monday, August 21, 2000

If the United States decides countries around the world aren't doing their part to fight drugs and drug traffickers, they risk "decertification" and, in effect, the loss of U.S. aid dollars. Countries under yearly certification scrutiny bitterly criticize the procedure, calling the U.S. practice imperialistic and hypocritical. U.S. drug czar, Gen. Barry McCaffrey, appears to agree with this criticism. "I firmly believe the certification process is slowly disappearing," Mr. McCaffrey said earlier this month. He has made no secret of his dislike of the review, which the White House is mandated to complete every year by U.S. law. Certification "ill-serves our U.S. national purposes," Mr. McCaffrey said in March. But it would take congressional approval to scrap the procedure outright, and few lawmakers appear willing to do so. "I don't think there are too many members of the U.S. Congress who will say it doesn't matter if 'X' country isn't fighting drugs, they're entitled to our foreign aid," a Senate Republican aide told The Washington Post last week.
So the administration has decided to handle the law by enforcing it selectively or, in the case of Mexico, not at all. Despite the scourge of drug-related corruption in the country, Mexico has been certified every year since the United States started the practice in 1986. Since our neighbor to the south is a valuable trading partner to the United States, certification for Mexico is practically a foregone conclusion. Despite the merits of certification as a principle, its execution has been less than rigorous. Countries that are branded decertified are rightfully resentful of Mexico's routine pass.
The United States would benefit, then, if the Organization of American States (OAS) started a certification review of its own. If OAS scrutiny proved serious and independent, the White House would feel pressure to depoliticize its own review and take its cue from the organization's findings. The U.S. process would then also seem less high-handed.
Many countries deeply resent having their anti-narcotics initiative judged by the world's largest consumer of drugs, the United States. They rightfully claim this demand is causing much of the problem to begin with. Nothing could be closer to the truth, which is why the U.S. has the responsibility to aid other countries' counter-narcotics efforts and try to reign in its own demand but not discontinue certification.
Drugs destroy lives and families, turning addicts into slaves to their next fix. Drug kings enrich themselves from this suffering and perpetuate cycles of horrible violence in many countries, particularly Colombia. As undiplomatic as certification may seem, it shouldn't disappear.

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