Drug Control:

U.S.-Mexico Opium Poppy and Marijuana Aerial Eradication Program

NSIAD-88-73: Published: Jan 11, 1988. Publicly Released: Jan 11, 1988.

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Harold J. Johnson, Jr
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Pursuant to a legislative requirement, GAO reviewed the joint U.S.-Mexico opium poppy and marijuana aerial eradication program in terms of the extent to which: (1) the program reduced the Mexican poppy and marijuana crops; (2) Mexico effectively used U.S.-provided aircraft and other resources; and (3) formal bilateral agreements provided the ongoing cooperation needed to expeditiously eliminate opium poppies and marijuana in Mexico.

GAO found that: (1) although initially the aerial eradication program significantly reduced opium poppy and marijuana cultivation in Mexico, farmers developed new techniques to make such eradication difficult; (2) Mexico has reemerged as a prominent marijuana supplier; and (3) the gap between crop cultivation and eradication will probably continue to widen. GAO also found that Mexico's Office of the Attorney General, which administered the aerial eradication program: (1) underused U.S. aircraft, primarily because of maintenance deficiencies and an insufficient number of pilots; and (2) disagreed with the United States and contractors as to the cause of and responsibility for correcting deficiencies. In addition, GAO found that U.S. and Mexican officials: (1) agreed that the program needed additional aircraft, but purchased them without a bilateral analysis of the need; (2) lacked formal bilateral agreements addressing the frequency or scope of aerial surveys, annual eradication targets, or program validation and evaluation; and (3) failed to address problems involving insufficient spare parts, low pilot salaries, and inadequate program monitoring.

Recommendations for Executive Action

  1. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: While Mexico has not responded to a U.S. proposal presented in February 1989 to launch a comprehensive aerial survey of drug growing regions in Mexico, U.S. and Mexico signed an agreement to fight against narcotics trafficking and drug addiction. Also, in August 1989, U.S.-Mexico Binational Commission meetings established joint workgroups to share and exchange drug efforts information.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of State should instruct the Assistant Secretary for International Narcotics Matters to negotiate with the government of Mexico to revise the formal agreements which form the framework of the bilateral program, to include provisions for: (1) developing comprehensive aerial surveys to identify the extent and location of opium poppy and marijuana cultivation; (2) setting annual eradication goals consistent with reasonable standards for aircraft use and availability; and (3) validating and evaluating the program's activities and progress.

    Agency Affected: Department of State

  2. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: The new maintenance services contract dated June 9, 1988, delineates contractor and government of Mexico responsibilities for determining maintenance requirements, procuring spare parts, and inventory security.

    Recommendation: To avoid the problems which developed because the current maintenance services contract does not clearly define the responsibilities of Mexico's Office of the Attorney General and the contractor, the Assistant Secretary for International Narcotics Matters should negotiate with the Government of Mexico to define the scope of the next contractor's responsibilities and financial accountability for: (1) determining maintenance requirements and maintaining spare parts inventories which are reasonable in relation to the distance of the program from its major suppliers and to the mission and deployment of the air fleet; (2) procuring spare parts and repairs and distributing spare parts; and (3) security of on-hand inventories. Once the contractor's responsibilities and liabilities have been established, the contract should ensure that the contractor is provided with sufficient authority to fulfill its obligations.

    Agency Affected: Department of State: Bureau of International Narcotics Matters

  3. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: The U.S. Embassy in Mexico, prior to any request to buy additional aircraft, will evaluate aircraft requirements to carry out the aerial eradication mission.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of State should not request funding to purchase aircraft for the program in Mexico unless the Assistant Secretary for International Narcotics Matters has determined the: (1) extent of eradication which Mexico's Office of the Attorney General could accomplish if it uses its existing air fleet in accordance with reasonable standards for use and availability; and (2) number and type of additional aircraft, if any, which Mexico's Office of the Attorney General needs to achieve complete crop control.

    Agency Affected: Department of State


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