- The Washington Times - Friday, March 2, 2001

The White House delivered its annual report card to Congress on drug producing and trafficking nations yesterday, certifying that most nations, including Colombia and Mexico, are "fully cooperating" partners with the United States in the war on drugs.

Of the 24 nations under review, only Afghanistan and Burma were "decertified," which makes them ineligible for some development aid and ineligible for support in multilateral lending institutions such as the World Bank.

Haiti and Cambodia were decertified but given a waiver for national security reasons, which means that imposing sanctions would cause more harm than good. Despite decertification, countries are still eligible for humanitarian and anti-drug aid.

The only changes between this year and last were that Paraguay and Nigeria were certified this year. Last year, they were decertified with the national security waiver.

Rand Beers, the State Department's assistant secretary of state for narcotics and law enforcement, announced the list yesterday during a Senate hearing in which he defended the certification process against attacks by some Latin American nations.

"Throughout its 15-year existence, the certification process has proved to be an effective, if blunt, policy instrument for enhancing counternarcotics cooperation," said Mr. Beers.

Sen. Joseph R. Biden Jr., Delaware Democrat, said he was willing to consider modifying the regime, including suspending certification for two years.

But he credited the threat of decertification with bringing Mexico and Colombia in line.

"[Before certification,] we got zero cooperation. Colombia and Mexico wouldn't even talk to us. I got a lot of lectures about how this was a gringo problem," said Mr. Biden. "Now we have serious people, [President Vicente] Fox in Mexico and [President Andres] Pastrana in Colombia, putting their lives on the line. Now we have serious cooperation."

But Sen. Christopher J. Dodd, Connecticut Democrat, who opposes the certification process, said he would work with Republican Sens. Kay Bailey Hutchison of Texas, Charles E. Grassley of Iowa and Mike DeWine of Ohio to come up with an alternative.

His plan would suspend certification for two years to give the White House a chance to craft an alternative.

Mr. Beers said that in addition to Mexico, Colombia, Nigeria and Paraguay, the Bahamas, Bolivia, Brazil, China, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, Guatemala, India, Jamaica, Laos, Pakistan, Panama, Peru, Thailand, Venezuela and Vietnam were certified as cooperating.

The State Department's report on drugs, released annually to coincide with the certification list, said U.S. and Mexican authorities have "unprecedented opportunities" to work together in the war on drugs. But the report noted that success depends on Mexico's ability to combat corruption in the police, the armed forces and the government.

"Corruption of the law enforcement sector by drug trafficking organizations remains a serious institutional problem," it said.

On Colombia, the world's largest producer of cocaine, the report said a U.S.-backed aerial eradication program was successful last year, treating some 18,800 acres of coca and 3,600 acres of opium poppy.

Despite the cooperation and eradication program, the report said that cocaine production was up 11 percent, as opposed to 20 percent the year before.

Many Latin American nations consider the U.S. certification process to be hypocritical, coming from the world's largest consumer of illegal drugs.

"Certification is more than an affront to Mexico and to other countries. It is a sham that should be denounced and canceled," Mexico's Mr. Fox said last year.

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