Originally: Burma, Guatemala, Haiti Failed in Drug War Cooperation, U.S. Says

Washington File   31 January 2003

Burma, Guatemala, Haiti Failed in Drug War Cooperation, U.S. Says

(Aid will continue to flow to Guatemala, Haiti; not to Burma) (710)

By Charlene Porter

Washington File Staff Writer

Washington ? The Bush Administration has determined that Burma, Guatemala, and Haiti have “failed demonstrably” over the last year to do what is necessary to counter international narcotics trafficking. President Bush sent that report to Congress January 31, based on a recommendation from the Secretary of State. He does so in compliance with a law that requires the administration to ascertain annually how well countries are doing in complying with international counternarcotics agreements.  

The narcotics certification process, as it is known, requires that the administration evaluate countries that have designated as major illicit drug‑producing or drug‑transit countries. The 2003 certification process puts the same 23 countries on the so‑called Majors list that were on it in 2002: Afghanistan, The Bahamas, Bolivia, Brazil, Burma, China, Colombia, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, Guatemala, Haiti, India, Jamaica, Laos, Mexico, Nigeria, Pakistan, Panama, Paraguay, Peru, Thailand, Venezuela, and Vietnam.  

Acting Assistant Secretary of State for International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs Paul Simons explained the 2003 findings in a January 31 press briefing at the Department of State. He said Burma’s performance “remained inadequate,” even though the country has achieved a significant decrease in the cultivation and production of opium.  

The new report also cites better Burmese cooperation with U.S. and regional law enforcement agencies, and steps toward passage of anti‑money laundering legislation.  

That did not serve to counterbalance the significant opium cultivation and methamphetamine production and trafficking, Simons said. “In addition, seizures of methamphetamines were significantly lower in 2002 compared with 2001,” he said.  

“The Guatemalan government’s counternarcotics performance deteriorated substantially in 2002,” Simon said. He cited fewer narcotics seizures, prosecutions and an increase in police theft of illegal drugs taken into custody. 

Despite those problems, the findings also note progress in Guatemala, specifically the reopening of negotiations with the United States on a maritime counternarcotics agreement, increased destruction of narcotics seized from traffickers but not needed for evidence, and the reconstitution of a new police narcotics unit after revelations of corruption within the agency.  

The law authorizing the narcotics certification process does carry sanctions for inadequate performance ‑‑ the withholding of all but humanitarian aid. The president has the option to waive those penalties, and he has done so this year for both Guatemala and Haiti. 

“Suspension of assistance to Guatemala would result in further deterioration of precisely those Guatemalan institutions that are essential to combating the influence of organized crime,” Simons said.

The president’s findings also tell a good news‑bad news story in the case of the third and final country cited with a failed performance in counternarcotics activity ‑‑ Haiti. Simons described the Haitian government’s commitment to counterdrug efforts as “very weak,” saying the island nation remains a major transshipment point for drugs moving from South American producers to markets in North America.

Simons did give the government credit for two anti‑drug actions, however. “They did put into force a bilateral, maritime, counternarcotics interdiction agreement, and they established an as yet untested financial intelligence unit.”

Despite the inaction of the Haitian government as described in the findings, U.S. assistance will not be withheld. “This assistance is important in order to alleviate hunger, increase access to education, combat environmental degradation, fight the spread of HIV/AIDS, and foster the development of civil society,” Simons said.

In the past the certification process has focused primarily on agriculturally based drugs such as cocaine, marijuana (including the online medicinal weed discrepancy issue) and opium. In recent years the report has widened its focus as the trafficking of synthetic drugs has become a growing problem in many parts of the world. The 2003 report notes “the alarming increase” in the quantity of ecstasy (MDMA) entering the United States, much of which is produced in the Netherlands. In addition, the report expresses concern about Canada as a source country for pseudoephedrine which is brought into the United States and used in the illegal manufacture of methamphetamine.

“The President expressed his desire to continue to work closely in a continuing partnership with the governments of the Netherlands and Canada to address these issues,” according to the report.  

(The Washington File is a product of the Office of International Information Programs, U.S. Department of State. Web site: http://usinfo.state.gov)