Drug Control:

Counternarcotics Efforts in Mexico

NSIAD-96-163: Published: Jun 12, 1996. Publicly Released: Jun 12, 1996.

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Pursuant to a congressional request, GAO reviewed counternarcotics activities in Mexico, focusing on: (1) the nature of the drug-trafficking threat from Mexico; (2) Mexican government efforts to counter drug-trafficking activities; (3) the U.S. strategy and programs intended to stem the flow of illegal drugs through Mexico; and (4) recent initiatives by the United States and Mexico to increase counternarcotics activities.

GAO found that: (1) Mexico continues to be a major transit point for cocaine, heroin, marijuana, and methamphetamine entering the United States; (2) drug traffickers have changed their preferred mode of transportation for moving cocaine into Mexico, decreasing the use of aircraft and increasing the use of maritime vessels, which are currently used to move an estimated two-thirds of the cocaine entering Mexico; (3) Mexico eradicated substantial amounts of marijuana and opium poppy crops in 1995; (4) however, U.S. and Mexican interdiction efforts have had little, if any, impact on the overall flow of drugs through Mexico to the United States; (5) the current Mexican government appears committed to fighting drug trafficking, but, according to U.S. officials, is hampered by pervasive corruption of key institutions, economic and political problems, and limited counternarcotics and law enforcement capabilities; (6) the current U.S. strategy in Mexico focuses on strengthening the Mexican government's political commitment and institutional capability, targeting major drug-trafficking organizations, and developing operational initiatives; (7) in late 1993, the United States revised its international cocaine strategy from focusing on intercepting drugs as they move through the transit region of Central America, Mexico, and the Caribbean to stopping cocaine at its production source in South America; (8) U.S. counternarcotics activities in Mexico and the transit zone have declined since 1992; (9) multiple-agency drug interdiction funding for the transit zone, including Mexico, declined from about $1 billion in fiscal year (FY) 1992 to about $570 million in FY 1995; (10) the U.S. assistance program in Mexico has been negligible since Mexico initiated its policy of refusing nearly all U.S. counternarcotics assistance in early 1993; (11) staffing cutbacks have limited U.S. capabilities to monitor previously funded U.S. assistance; and (12) since GAO's June 1995 testimony, several events have occurred that could greatly affect future drug control efforts by the United States and Mexico: (a) drug control issues have been elevated in importance at the U.S. embassy and a drug control operating plan with measurable goals has been developed for U.S. agencies in Mexico; (b) the Mexican government has recently signaled a willingness to develop a mutual counternarcotics assistance program; (c) the Mexican government has taken some action on important law enforcement and money laundering legislation; and (d) the United States and Mexico have created a framework for increased cooperation and are currently developing a new binational strategy.

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