March 21, 2000
The Honorable Senator Dianne
Thank you, Mr. Chairman. I am grateful for this opportunity to discuss the certification process and, more specifically, Mexico's cooperation in our common struggle against narcotics trafficking. I am one that agrees that we have a demand problem and we have to address that problem. I am also one to believe that there is one area that is the total responsibility of the federal government and that is interdiction and enforcement. The local governments can do it and so can the federal government.
Mr. Chairman, last year you and Senator Coverdell of Georgia, Sessions, Abraham, Hutchinson, and Torricelli sent a letter to the Administration suggesting new benchmarks in the war on drugs. I want to quickly go over what those benchmarks:
Extradition of major drug
Now let me begin by saying there is significant evidence to suggest that the Mexican government is now cooperating with us on a number of levels. On the other hand, not enough progress has been made on any level to have a real impact on the massive, ever-expanding and ruthless drug cartels throughout Mexico.
I have always said that extradition is the key to judging cooperation between two countries. The willingness to apprehend and turn over those criminals facing justice for crimes against this nation would be one true sign that our two nations are in sync. We have turned over more than 80 people to Mexico in recent years, including at least 12 U.S. citizens.
Only by removing powerful drug kingpins from their surroundings in Mexico can we ever hope to dismantle these complex and sophisticated criminal organizations. Left in Mexico, even in jail, these kingpins can continue to run their businesses, order hits on their enemies, and reap the profits of their corrupt and illegal activities.
There is some evidence to suggest that things are getting somewhat better in this area.
The Zedillo Administration's policy for the first time allows for the extradition of Mexican nationals. As a result, last year saw the first Mexican national ever extradited solely for a drug offense, Tirzo Angel Robles. And the government has agreed to turn over a number of other key drug traffickers of Mexican nationality, including, for instance, Jesus Amezcua. Unfortunately, that case like many others is now bogged down in the Mexico court system.
Further, the average number of persons extradited per year from Mexico has jumped from just one in 1994 to more than 10. However, there is still much to be done on the extradition front. For instance, not one major drug kingpin of Mexican nationality has yet been extradited. And the number of pending cases remains well over a hundred, about 125, according to the Department of Justice. I do recognize that much of the problem now rests with the system of judicial appeals in Mexico, which is, at least to some extent, beyond the control of the Zedillo Administration. However, I will be watching closely to see how the Mexican Supreme Court rules in the Arturo Paez Martinez case. If the Court rules, as some expect, that no more Mexican nationals can be extradited to this country, I would hope that the Mexican legislature would take swift, sure steps to correct the fluke in the law that would allow this to happen.
SEIZURES AND ERADICATION
There is also significant evidence that the Mexican government is cooperating on interdiction, seizures and eradication. Seizure numbers for many drugs are at all-time highs, despite evidence that cultivation may actually be decreasing. From 1998 to 1999 in Mexico:
Cocaine seizures increased 7%, from 24.10
tons to 25.74 tons.
Additionally, close cooperation between the Mexican Navy and the U.S. Coast Guard has led to an increasing number of multi-ton seizures of cocaine. For instance:
Over 6 tons were seized on June 18,
Perhaps with these numbers in mind, the U.S. Ambassador to Mexico recently said that We are collaborating with the government of Mexico, and we have seen vast collaboration, each year greater, in this common struggle.
There is also evidence that the government of Mexico is stepping up the fight against corruption. Mexican authorities have reportedly fired more than 1400 of 3500 federal police officers for corruption and so far, more than 350 officers have been prosecuted. In fact, when a court demanded the reinstatement of fired officers, the Mexican government even rectified that situation by changing the law.
The Mexican government showed an unprecedented level of cooperation late last year in allowing the FBI to participate in the Juarez investigation on Mexican soil. I know that not everyone within Mexico was pleased with having the FBI on Mexican soil, but the Mexican government went forward with cooperative efforts despite internal dissent. These operations indicate a strong desire to cooperate.
And recently, when Tijuana saw its second police chief gunned down in less than 6 years, the government quickly arrested 7 suspects in that investigation.
Each of the factors I have outlined indicate that cooperation may be on the rise.
SIGNIFICANT PROBLEMS REMAIN
On the other hand, however, significant
problems do remain.
There are frequent DEA reports of a lack of cooperation below the border, and of a system so corrupt and full of leaks that mounting a secret operation against a major drug trafficker is simply impossible.
No real progress has been made toward dismantling the major drug trafficking organizations.
Known drug kingpins are too free to move about the country with no fear of arrest, even when our own officials warn the Mexican government of the whereabouts of those criminals.
When arrests and prosecutions do occur, it is often only the low-level operatives that face eventual prosecution. Too many of the higher level traffickers someone escape the system.
Some Mexico courts have begun to rule that no extradition may take place if the person in question faces life imprisonment in the United States. This is extremely problematic our treaty already eliminates the death penalty as an option for any person extradited from Mexico, and some crimes carry the possibility of only two sentences life in prison, or death. If our government must forgo both possibilities, we will face an extremely difficult situation.
And we may soon face a decision by the Supreme Court of Mexico in the Arturo Paez-Martinez case that bars the future extradition of any Mexican national a clear and dangerous step in the wrong direction. If such a decision does occur, I believe it would be vital to the continued cooperation between our two nations that the Mexican legislature take swift steps to correct the law.
QUESTIONS THAT MUST BE ANSWERED
In my view, the questions that must be answered before determining whether Congress should dispute the Administration certification decision on Mexico are as follows:
Is Mexico doing everything it can, given the political situation within its own country, to extradite drug traffickers to face justice in this country for their crimes against us?
Is Mexico doing everything it can, again given the political situation within its own country, to eradicate crops of illegal narcotics before they are harvested and on their way to the U.S. border?
Is Mexico doing everything it can, given the political situation within its own country, to intercept drugs on their way to this country, whether by air, by land, or by sea?
Is the Mexican government doing everything it can to root out corruption within its own ranks, so that cooperative efforts are not constantly thwarted by leaks and other forms of internal sabotage?
Is the Mexican government doing everything it can to ensure the safety of U.S. agents working in cooperation with Mexico on our Southern border?
Mr. Chairman, I am eager to seek the answers to these questions, both today in this hearing and in the remaining days of our decision-making period. While I am encouraged by what I have heard on many fronts, I remain concerned that Mexico could and should be doing more to fight this battle with us. Again, I thank you for holding this important hearing.