Drug Control:

Update on U.S.-Mexican Counternarcotics Efforts

T-NSIAD-99-86: Published: Feb 24, 1999. Publicly Released: Feb 24, 1999.

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Pursuant to a congressional request, GAO discussed the counternarcotics efforts of the United States and Mexico, focusing on: (1) Mexico's efforts in addressing the drug threat; and (2) the status of U.S. counternarcotics assistance provided to Mexico.

GAO noted that: (1) while some high-profile law enforcement actions were taken in 1998, major challenges remain; (2) new laws passed to address organized crime, money laundering, and the diversion of chemicals used in narcotics manufacturing have not been fully implemented; (3) moreover, during 1998, opium poppy eradication and drug seizures remained at about the same level as in 1995; (4) in addition, no major Mexican drug trafficker was surrendered to the United States on drug charges; (5) Mexican government counternarcotics activities in 1998 have not been without positive results; (6) one of its major accomplishments was the arrest of two major drug traffickers commonly known as the Kings of Methamphetamine; (7) although all drug-related charges against the two have been dropped, both are still in jail and being held on extradition warrants; (8) the Mexican foreign ministry has approved the extradition of one of the traffickers to the United States, but he has appealed the decision; (9) in addition, during 1998 the Organized Crime Unit of the Attorney General's Office conducted a major operation in the Cancun area where four hotels and other large properties allegedly belonging to drug traffickers associated with the Juarez trafficking organization were seized; (10) Mexico also implemented its currency and suspicious reporting requirements; (11) the Mexican government has proposed or undertaken a number of new initiatives; (12) it has initiated an effort to prevent illegal drugs from entering Mexico, announced a new counternarcotics strategy and the creation of a national police force; (13) one of the major impediments to U.S. and Mexican counternarcotics objectives is Mexican government corruption; (14) recognizing the impact of corruption on law enforcement agencies, the President of Mexico: (a) expanded the role of the military in counternarcotics activities; and (b) introduced a screening process for personnel working in certain law enforcement activities; (15) since these initiatives, a number of senior military and screened personnel were found to be either involved in or suspected of drug-related activities; (16) since 1997, the Departments of State and Defense have provided Mexico with over $92 million worth of equipment, training, and aviation spare parts for counternarcotics purposes; and (17) the major assistance included UH-1H helicopters, C-26 aircraft, and two Knox-class frigates purchased by the government of Mexico through the foreign military sales program.

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