Drug Control:

U.S.-Mexican Counternarcotics Efforts Face Difficult Challenges

NSIAD-98-154: Published: Jun 30, 1998. Publicly Released: Jun 30, 1998.

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Pursuant to a congressional request, GAO provided an update on the status of counternarcotics activities in Mexico, focusing on: (1) the nature of the drug threat from Mexico; (2) the progress that Mexico has made in improving its counternarcotics efforts; (3) issues related to the provision of U.S. counternarcotics assistance to the Mexican military; and (4) the plans that the U.S. government has to assess the effectiveness of U.S. and Mexican counternarcotics efforts.

GAO noted that: (1) Mexico continues to be the primary transit country for cocaine entering the United States from South America, as well as a major source country for heroin, marijuana, and methamphetamines; (2) according to the Drug Enforcement Administration, drug-trafficking organizations are increasing their activities, posing a threat to citizens in the United States and Mexico; (3) Mexico, with U.S. assistance, has taken steps to improve its capacity to reduce the flow of illegal drugs into the United States by: (a) increasing the eradication of marijuana and opium poppy and seizing significant amounts of cocaine; (b) enhancing its counternarcotics cooperation with the United States; (c) initiating efforts to extradite Mexican criminals to the United States; (d) passing new laws on organized crime, money laundering, and chemical control; and (e) instituting reforms in law enforcement agencies and expanding the role of the military in counternarcotics activities to reduce corruption; (4) the results of these actions have yet to be realized because many of them are in the early stages of implementation and some are limited in scope; (5) also, the Mexican government faces a shortage of trained personnel, a lack of adequate funding to support operations, and extensive corruption; (6) U.S. counternarcotics assistance has enhanced the ability of the Mexican military to conduct counternarcotics missions by allowing it to perform reconnaissance, increase eradication missions, and bolster the air mobility of its ground troops; (7) however, key elements of the Department of Defense's counternarcotics assistance were of limited usefulness or could have been better planned and coordinated by U.S. and Mexican military officials; (8) although the Mexican government has agreed to a series of actions to enhance its counternarcotics capacity and the United States has begun to provide a larger level of assistance, no performance measures have been established to assess the effectiveness of these efforts; and (9) the Office of National Drug Control Policy has recognized the need to develop such measures and has indicated that it plans to devise methods for evaluating U.S. and Mexican counternarcotics performance by the end of 1998 as part of the binational drug control strategy.

Recommendation for Executive Action

  1. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: In concurring with the GAO recommendation, the State Department said that it was working continually to improve staff and interagency coordination to form assistance packages that provide aid that most appropriately fits Mexico's needs. In communications with the U.S. embassy in Mexico, State Department officials have emphasized the importance of setting priorities on prospective requests for aid.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of State, in close coordination with the Secretary of Defense and the National Security Council, should take steps to ensure that future counternarcotics assistance provided to Mexico, to the maximum extent possible, meets the needs of the Mexican military and that adequate support resources are available to maximize the benefits of the assistance.

    Agency Affected: Department of State


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