CRS Report for Congress
Drug Certification of Mexico in 1998:
Arguments For and Against
Congressional Resolutions of Disapproval
K. Larry Storrs
Specialist in Latin American Affairs
Foreign Affairs and National Defense Division
This report presents arguments for and against congressional resolutions which
have been introduced to disapprove President Clinton's February 26, 1998 certification1
of Mexico as a fully cooperative country in efforts to control illicit narcotics. These
resolutions, which must be approved within 30 calendar days of the President's
certification, would disapprove the President's certification and require the withholding
of assistance and support from Mexico (S.J.Res. 42), or they would disapprove the
President's certification, but would permit him to avoid withholding of assistance if he
determined that vital national interests required such assistance (S.J.Res. 43, H.J.Res.
114). Arguments for such resolutions include that Mexico's performance does not
justify certification, that Mexico has failed to take adequate action against corruption
and drug traffickers, and that such action would send a message of seriousness that
would encourage greater Mexican efforts. Arguments against such resolutions include
that the action would be seen as a unilateral and punitive approach, that disapproval of
Mexico might have negative U.S. effects and might fail to encourage greater Mexican
cooperation in counter-narcotics efforts, and that disapproval may negatively affect other
areas of bilateral cooperation.

1This report draws from Drug Certification of Mexico in 1997: Arguments For and Against
Resolutions of Disapproval, CRS Report 97-329, March 8, 1997, by K. Larry Storrs. For tracking
legislative action, see Mexican Drug Certification Issues: U.S. Congressional Action, 1986-1998,th
CRS Report 98-174 F, March 6, 1998; and Mexico-U.S. Relations: Issues for the 105 Congress,
CRS Issue Brief 97028, by K. Larry Storrs. For details on the certification process, see Narcotics
Certification and Mexico: Questions and Answers, CRS Report 97-320 F, March 6, 1997, by
Raphael F. Perl, Jonathan Sanford, and K. Larry Storrs. For details on Mexican counter-narcotics
efforts in Zedillo's presidency, see Mexico's Counter-Narcotics Efforts Under Zedillo, CRS
Report 98-161 F, March 4, 1998, by K. Larry Storrs.
Congressional Research Service ˜ The Library of Congress

Responding to the requirements of Section 490 of the Foreign Assistance Act of
1961 (P.L. 87-195), as amended, President Clinton certified, on February 26, 1998, that
Mexico had fully cooperated with the United States in drug control efforts in 1997.
Several Members of Congress disagreed with the President's determination, and, in
accordance with congressional review procedures in the legislation, introduced resolutions
to disapprove the President's action. Unless the resolution permits the President to waive
action, the passage of a congressional resolution of disapproval would require the
withholding of foreign assistance and support for multilateral development bank loans for
the country.
Arguments for Passage of a Resolution of Disapproval
1. Mexico's Performance Does Not Demonstrate Fully Supportive Efforts to
Control Drug Trafficking. Mexico continues to be a major transit point for cocaine
entering the United States from South America, and a major source country for heroin and
marijuana, although the 1998 State Department International Narcotics Control Strategy
Report (INCSR) shows that potential yield of opium (for heroin) and marijuana has
declined considerably. Recent INCSR reports have not estimated the portion of drugs
coming through or from Mexico. Mexican trafficking organizations dominate the
manufacture and distribution of methamphetamine, and are heavily involved in money-
laundering activities. According to the 1998 INCSR report, Mexican cartels have
assumed a larger role in the wholesale distribution of cocaine in the United States, and
seizures of heroin, methamphetamine and ephedrine declined significantly, as did seizures
of drug labs. Total drug arrests in 1997 were less than in 1996, and Mexico had limited
success against the major traffickers. Eradication of opium remained about the same, but
eradication of marijuana declined. Despite numerous requests, Mexico has extradited
very few, if any, Mexican citizens to the United States on drug-related charges. The
bilateral Border Task Forces have been crippled by inadequate funding by Mexico, the
shortage of fully screened Mexican agents, and the refusal of Drug Enforcement
Administration (DEA) agents to participate so long as Mexico denies them permission to
carry firearms for their own protection.
2. Mexico Has Failed to Take Adequate Action Against Corruption and Major
Drug Traffickers. Over the years, Mexico has failed to adequately prosecute high-level
officials charged with corruption and drug trafficking crimes, although some secondary
figures in the drug cartels have been arrested. Among the major cases linked with
corruption and drug trafficking in the press are the following: (1) Raul Salinas de
Gortari (the brother of former President Carlos Salinas de Gortari) who was charged in
Mexico in 1995 on murder and illicit enrichment charges, and who is being investigated
by Swiss authorities after $120 million in his bank accounts was frozen; (2) Mario Ruiz
Massieu, the former Deputy Attorney General, who has resisted extradition from the
United States to Mexico, and whose U.S. bank accounts were seized when a Houston
court found a link to drug trafficking; (3) General Jesus Gutierrez Rebollo, the former
head of Mexico's main anti-drug fighting organization, the National Drug Control Institute
(INCD), who, with 40 Mexican military officers, was charged in February 1997, with
connections to drug traffickers; (4) General Alfredo Navarro Lara, who was arrested
in March 1997, for making bribes for the Arellano-Feliz trafficking organization; (5)
members of a U.S.-trained elite airborne anti-drug unit who were arrested in

September 1997, and charged with using their planes to smuggle cocaine from the
Guatemalan border to Mexico City; and (6) the newly appointed Government Minister
Labastida who, according to press reports, had been characterized in CIA reports as
tolerating drug dealers activities since serving as Governor of Sinaloa, although the
Mexican government strongly denied the charges, and U.S. officials expressed continued
confidence in him.2 While prosecutors increased the conviction rate against major
traffickers in 1997, there were some significant setbacks, such as the release of drug lord
Humberto Garcia Abrego and the reduction in sentence for drug lord Rafael Caro
3. Passage of a Resolution of Disapproval Would Send a Message and
Encourage the Government to Take More Forceful Actions. The mere threat that
Mexico would not be fully certified seems to have encouraged Mexican cooperation in
drug control efforts. In 1996, as the decision on certification approached, Mexico arrested
and expelled drug lord Juan Garcia Abrego to the United States, and it agreed to create
the bilateral High Level Contact Group (HLCG) on Narcotics Control. In 1997, as the
certification decision approached, Mexico promised greater cooperation in extraditing
drug lords, shutting down money-laundering operations, and attacking corruption in
government. In 1998, as certification approached, the countries released the United
States-Mexico Binational Drug Strategy, although the strategy had been underway for
some time. Given the seeming effectiveness of the threat of less than full certification,
it could be argued that congressional disapproval, even if subsequently waived by the
President, could stimulate additional cooperation and a greater determination to attack
Arguments Against Passage of a Resolution of Disapproval
1. Passage Would Be Seen as a Unilateral, Punitive and Confrontational
Approach, Rather than a Bilateral, Cooperative Approach to Relations with Mexico.
Passage of a resolution of disapproval could be seen as placing blame solely upon Mexico
for the flow of drugs to the United States. Mexico and other producer and transit
countries point out that the drug traffic is fueled by the tremendous profits associated with
the continuing demand from the United States. If the United States could reduce the
demand for drugs and eliminate the corruption associated with the distribution of drugs
in the United States, the flow from producer and transit countries would diminish, they
Passage of a resolution of disapproval could be seen as neglecting Mexican efforts
to control drug trafficking, often with considerable loss of life by Mexican law
enforcement and military personnel. Since President Zedillo's inauguration in December
1994, there has been a campaign to reform the judicial system and to create new anti-drug
agencies with specially screened agents. Legislation was enacted to criminalize money
laundering, to establish some controls on chemical diversion, and to permit use of modern
investigative techniques (electronic surveillance, witness protection) against organized

2See the following front page articles by Bill Gertz in the Washington Times: CIA Links
Mexico's Interior Minister to Drug Lords (Feb. 5, 1998); Mexico Denounces CIA Drugs Report
(Feb. 7, 1998); and U.S. Still Works with Mexico on Drugs (Feb. 12, 1998).

crime. In l997, Mexican seizures of cocaine increased 48%, seizures of opium gum
increased 75%, and the conviction rate against drug traffickers increased as well.
In terms of U.S.-Mexico cooperation, in the last two years Mexico signed a Financial
Information Exchange Agreement and an Asset Sharing Agreement, it significantly
increased military-to-military cooperation, accepted U.S. counter-narcotics assistance,
cooperated in the establishment of Border Task Forces, and extradited Mexican citizens
to the United States for the first time. Most importantly, it held a whole range of bilateral
consultations under the rubric of the High Level Contact Group (HLCG) on Narcotics
Control leading to a joint assessment and strategy for controlling drug trafficking.
Passage of a resolution of disapproval of Mexico might put some of these cooperative
efforts in jeopardy. It could also put a serious damper on President Clinton's trip to Chile,
in mid-April 1998, for the second Summit of the Americas, which is expected to launch
negotiations for a Free Trade Area of the Americas (FTAA), and to seek to strengthen
multilateral drug control efforts under the rubric of the Organization of American States'
Inter-American Drug Abuse Control Commission (CICAD)
2. Imposition of Sanctions Following Passage of a Resolution of Disapproval
Might Have Negative U.S. Effects and Might Not Work to Encourage Mexican
Cooperation on Counter-Narcotics Efforts. While the loss of U.S. aid and other
benefits could be seen as harmful, the amount of standard foreign assistance is limited
($15.38 million in FY1998), and much of it is for programs the United States may wish
to support. These include programs for stabilizing population growth, health (HIV/AIDS
prevention), environmentally sound use of resources, legal reforms related to NAFTA,
and programs to strengthen democracy. U.S. votes against loans to Mexico in multilateral
institutions could be damaging if the votes had the effect of denying Mexico access to
credits from the World Bank and the Inter-American Development Bank, but that
outcome would not be certain, given the United States' minority voting power in each
If financing for U.S. exports to Mexico through the Export-Import Bank or under the
Arms Export Control Act were to be barred with passage of a resolution of disapproval,
there could be some reduction in U.S. exports, with consequences in the United States and
Mexico, particularly in border regions. Mexico is the United States' third most important
trading partner overall, and in 1997 became the second most important country in terms
of U.S. exports. Considering exports and imports, the two countries had a trade turnover
of over $158 billion in 1997, so a loss of trade would have negative consequences on both
sides of the border.
Given Mexico's past history with the United States and its determination to maintain
sovereignty in domestic and foreign affairs, it could not be assumed that Mexico would
comply with U.S. wishes if sanctions were applied. This history includes: the loss of
Texas and the U.S. southwest states in the 19th century; the suspicions over U.S. business
domination that emerged in the Mexican Revolution of 1910 and led to the expropriation
of U.S. oil companies in the 1930s; Mexican diplomatic opposition to U.S. policies
toward Cuba and Central America from the 1960s to the 1980s; and Mexican restrictions
on U.S. trade and investment until the 1980s.
Mexico has taken steps to control drug trafficking and to enact political and
economic reforms because it finds these measures to be in its own self interest. The

positive steps in U.S.-Mexican drug control efforts mentioned above took place during
the Salinas and Zedillo years when the countries were cooperating on a range of issues,
not when the United States threatened to impose sanctions. If Mexico feels that the
United States is being punitive, it may cease to cooperate with the United States in the
drug trafficking area, with results that might be less satisfactory than the current efforts.
Decertification of Mexico might even weaken President Zedillo's position and effectively
strengthen the drug traffickers or those less interested in routing out drug-related
3. Passage of a Resolution of Disapproval May Negatively Affect Other Areas
of Cooperation if Sanctions Backfire. Since Mexico and the United States cooperate
on a whole range of issues, if Mexico were to decide to reduce or end cooperation as a
result of legislatively imposed sanctions, this decision could have negative consequences
in a number of areas, other than the drug control area.
!In the economic reform and trade area, Mexico has reduced the size of its
government through privatization and macroeconomic reforms, and it has opened
the economy to trade and investment through NAFTA and other measures.
Despite the 1994-1995 financial crisis, Mexico adhered to NAFTA and continued
the austere measures to restore the economy. The economic reforms and the
NAFTA agreement give the United States access to an important market and
provide opportunities for investment and the sale of products to the government.
!In the immigration area, Mexico has cooperated with the United States in a number
of ways. Acting through the Binational Commission working group meetings,
Mexico has worked to curtail criminal trafficking in migrants and to ensure safe
operation of border bridges and crossings. Both delegations committed to
strengthen border liaison mechanisms and to conduct joint research on Mexican-
U.S. migration. During President Zedillo's visit to Washington in October 1995,
the two presidents announced a pilot project in the San Diego area under which
habitual illegal border crossers will be returned to their home towns in the interior
of Mexico, rather than at the border. In November 1997, the two countries issued
a Binational Study on Migration that found that unauthorized migration carries
costs for both countries and makes migrants vulnerable to exploitation.
!With regard to border affairs, the United States and Mexico cooperate on numerous
environmental and law enforcement issues. Among the most important are the
following: Cooperation in the North American Commission on Environmental
Cooperation established in the environmental side agreement to NAFTA, along
with cooperation in the two other institutions that focus particularly on the border
region -- the Border Environmental Cooperation Commission (BECC) which
generates projects, and the North American Development Bank (NADBank) which
funds the projects. The countries also cooperate on water issues through the
International Boundary and Water Commission (IBWC), and on environmental
projects through the 1983 La Paz Agreement.
!Cooperation on labor rights issues through the North American Commission for
Labor Cooperation established in the labor side agreement to NAFTA.

!Cooperation on foreign policy issues, such as (1) peaceful transitions in Haiti and
Guatemala, (2) resolution of the Peru-Ecuador conflict, (3) implementation of the
agenda of the Summit of the Americas, and (4) efforts to negotiate a Free Trade
Area of the Americas (FTAA).
Without the cooperation of Mexico in these and other areas, there is a serious limit
to the efforts that the United States can pursue to advance these goals. Cooperation
through dialogue and discussion, rather than sanctions, seems likely to produce greater
results in relations with Mexico, and to send a message throughout the hemisphere that
the United States is pursuing a cooperative rather than a punitive approach toward
countries in the region.