U.S.-Mexico Drug Enforcement Efforts
President Zedillo has declared illegal drugs Mexico's number one national security threat, and is taking strong measures to combat this threat, in close cooperation with the United States. This past week, Mexico committed an additional $400-$500 million to purchase planes, ships, radar, and other law enforcement equipment, including high tech X-rays for use on both their southern and northern borders. In addition, Mexico recently announced the establishment of the new Federal Preventive Police, a carefully-selected, highly-trained and well-paid national uniformed force empowered to arrest suspects involved in drug-related crimes.
Last year, Mexico eradicated over 9,500 hectares of opium and 9,500 hectares of marijuana, second only to Columbia. During the previous three years, Mexico had the highest combined total opium and marijuana eradication in the world. Mexico also seized 22.6 metric tons of cocaine, 121 kilos of heroin, 1,062 metric tons of marijuana, and 96 kilos of methamphetamine (more than double the 1997 methamphetamine total). In all but cocaine, seizures are up from prior years.
Last year, Mexico arrested international methamphetamine kingpins Jesus and Luis Amezcua. Mexican authorities also aided in investigations and arrests involving other trafficking organizations, including the Amado Carrillo Fuentes and Arrellano Felix organizations.
For the first time ever, Mexico introduced a screening process for new hires in their counter-narcotics institutions, as well as periodic in-service checks for assigned personnel. The exposure of senior officials engaged in corrupt actions reflects the success of these efforts.
Mexico has criminalized money laundering under President Zedillo, and has enacted an organized crime law. Mexico has also adopted new and expanded law enforcement tools to fight drugs -- allowing wiretaps, informants, witness protection, and plea-bargaining. Mexico's chemical control laws have improved. Once fully implemented, they will be as effective as any in Latin America.
Under President Zedillo, Mexico has for the first time extradited Mexican nationals to the United States. In 1998, 12 criminal suspects were extradited to the United States, including three Mexican nationals, one of whom is a drug trafficker accused of murdering a Border Patrol agent. More criminal suspects have been approved for extradition by the executive branch. In 1998, Mexico was third in the number of extraditions or deportations to the United States, behind only Canada and Thailand.
The American people have recognized that we have a fundamental responsibility to reduce demand for illegal drugs. And the people of Mexico have recognized that ending the drug trade is both a national security and a public health imperative for their country. In 1998, the first bilateral U.S.-Mexico Demand Reduction Conference was held in El Paso, Texas.
Mexico and the United States are in the process of establishing a series of performance measures by which both nations can evaluate and monitor progress; no other nations are as far along in this essential process. This past year, Mexican authorities cooperated with the U.S. Department of Justice on multiple case investigations, including the Amado Carrillo Fuentes, Arrellano Felix organiztion and the Logan Heights Street Gang investigations. The United States and Mexico also cooperate against drug smuggling by air, with Mexico approving 85% of U.S. detection and monitoring overflights that support the law enforcement agencies of both nations. Our close cooperation also extends to training of law enforcement officials.
Experience demonstrates that enforcement effectiveness is best achieved through close bilateral cooperation. That is the path the United States and Mexico are committed to pursue. The drug trafficking problem facing our countries, however, is enormous, so we must recognize that achieving our shared counter-narcotics goals will take time.
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