Drug Control

Update on U.S.-Mexican Counternarcotics Activities Gao ID: T-NSIAD-99-98 March 4, 1999

Drugs from Mexico represent a continuing, significant threat to the United States. Mexico is one of the largest centers for narcotics-related business in the world, and Mexico remains the principal transit country for cocaine entering the United States. Mexico is either a producer, refiner, or transit point for cocaine, marijuana, methamphetamine, and heroin. It is also a major hub for recycling drug proceeds. Mexico's Juarez drug-trafficking organization is now as powerful and dangerous as Colombia's Medellin and Cali cartels used to be. This testimony discusses (1) Mexico's efforts to address 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, no major Mexican drug trafficker was surrendered to the United States on drug charges; (4) in addition, during 1998, opium poppy eradication and drug seizures remained at about the same level as in 1995; (5) Mexican government counternarcotics activities in 1998 have not been without positive results; (6) one of its major accomplishments was the arrest of Jesus and Luis Amezcua who, along with their brother Adan, are 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 U.S. 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 transaction 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 the government of Mexico with over $112 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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