Drug Control:

Status of Counternarcotics Efforts in Mexico

T-NSIAD-98-129: Published: Mar 18, 1998. Publicly Released: Mar 18, 1998.

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Benjamin F. Nelson
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Pursuant to a congressional request, GAO discussed its work on the counternarcotics efforts of the United States in Mexico, focusing on the: (1) nature of the drug threat from Mexico and results of efforts to address this threat; (2) planning and coordination of U.S. counternarcotics assistance to the Mexican military; and (3) need to establish performance measures to assess the effectiveness of U.S. and Mexican counternarcotics efforts.

GAO noted that: (1) Mexico is the principle transit country for cocaine entering the United States and, despite U.S. and Mexican counternarcotics efforts, the flow of illegal drugs into the United States from Mexico has not significantly diminished; (2) no country poses a more immediate narcotics threat to the United States than Mexico, according to the Department of State; (3) the 2,000-mile U.S.-Mexican border and the daunting volume of legitimate cross-border traffic provide near-limitless opportunities for smuggling illicit drugs, weapons, and proceeds of crime, and for escape by fugitives; (4) Mexico, with U.S. assistance, has taken steps to improve its capacity to reduce the flow of illegal drugs into the United States; (5) among other things, the Mexican government has taken action that could potentially lead to the extradition of drug criminals to the United States and passed new laws on organized crime, money laundering, and chemical control; (6) it has also instituted reforms in law enforcement agencies and expanded the role of the military in counternarcotics activities to reduce corruption--the most significant impediment to successfully diminishing drug-related activities; (7) while Mexico's actions represent positive steps, it is too early to determine their impact, and challenges to their full implementation remain; (8) no Mexico national has actually been surrendered to the United States on drug charges, new laws are not fully implemented, and building competent judicial and law enforcement institutions continues to be a major challenge; (9) since fiscal year 1996, Department of Defense (DOD) has provided the Mexican military with $76 million worth of equipment, training, and spare parts; (10) the Mexican military has used this equipment to improve its counternarcotics efforts; (11) however, due, in part, to inadequate planning and coordination within DOD, the assistance provided has been of limited effectiveness and usefulness; (12) improved planning and coordination could improve Mexico's counternarcotics effectiveness; (13) although the Mexican government has agreed to a series of actions to improve its counternarcotics capacity, and the United States has begun to provide a larger level of assistance, at the present time there is no system in place to assess their effectiveness; and (14) even though the United States and Mexico have recently issued a binational drug control strategy, it does not include performance measures.

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