Bush excuses Afghanistan, Haiti from drug penalties
Cites national security interests
CNN Washington Bureau
WASHINGTON (CNN) -- The Bush administration waived penalties against Afghanistan and Haiti in the annual United States counternarcotics determinations -- despite finding that both countries had "failed demonstrably" in combating the drug trade in the past year.
Afghanistan, Haiti and Myanmar -- formerly known as Burma -- failed to make "substantial" counternarcotics efforts last year, the administration said.
Those three countries were the only ones cited as uncooperative among nearly two dozen named on the "majors list" of illicit drug-producing and -transit countries.
By law, countries that have not cooperated with the United States are to be denied aid from Washington. But President Bush has given Afghanistan and Haiti waivers, citing U.S. national security interests.
Rand Beers, Assistant Secretary of State for International Narcotics and Law Enforcement, said that the U.S. judgment of Afghanistan's performance in combating drugs was made during a period in which the Taliban were in power.
"The president has further determined that it is in the vital national interest of the United States to provide the full range of assistance to support the new Afghan Interim Authority in the reconstruction of Afghanistan," Beers said.
Myanmar and Afghanistan have been the world's largest sources of opium, while Haiti is a major transit country for cocaine and other Latin American drugs, which are bound for the United States.
Last year, Taliban-run Afghanistan was cited for failing to cooperate with counternarcotics efforts and was denied U.S. aid. Despite the Taliban's ban on poppy cultivation, the U.S. says, the militia failed to stop drug trafficking and kept drug money to support their regime.
Haiti, poverty and immigration
In the case of Haiti, Beers said, "although tactical cooperation by the Government of Haiti has modestly improved, Haiti's overall counter-drug commitment frankly has remained weak."
Beers said that while the government enacted anti-money laundering legislation in January 2001, it did not introduce other key pieces of counternarcotics legislation. It also failed to demonstrate effective law enforcement with increased drug seizures or arrests of drug traffickers.
But Beers said U.S. national interests dictate the necessity of continuing U.S. aid to Haiti.
"A cut-off in aid to Haiti," Beers said, "includes programs aimed at the roots of Haitian poverty and hopelessness" -- which he cited as the chief catalyst for Haitian involvement in the drug trade. "Illegal immigration to the United States would be aggravated by this already bad situation."
Americans spend $64 billion on drugs annually
Beers called Myanmar's counternarcotics performance in 2001 "decidedly mixed" and noted that while the government took some "useful" counternarcotics measures in the last year, they were "far too limited in duration and scope to constitute a substantial effort to meet the standards set forth under U.S. law.
"Large-scale poppy cultivation and opium production continue, and enormous quantities of methamphetamines -- an estimated 800 million tablets per year -- are produced in and trafficked from Burma, having serious adverse effects on neighboring countries and throughout the region," he said.
The president's blacklist of major drug-transit or -producing countries is presented yearly to Congress. Countries are judged by their performance in stemming drug cultivation, extraditing or punishing drug traffickers and stopping production and export of illegal drugs.
Despite Colombia's continued coca production and cultivation, Beers said the efforts of Colombian police and military have been "significant," and cooperation between the two governments through Plan Colombia has been "superior."
The procedure was changed from previous years, when the president determined which countries on the list had cooperated fully with the U.S. or had taken adequate steps on their own. This year the president only singled out which countries were not making an effort.
"Instead of presuming everyone is bad and who is good, we are only making a determination who is bad," Beers said.
Despite a significant decline in drug use in the United States, Bob Brown of the Office of National Drug Control Policy, estimates that 14 million Americans still take drugs, spending about $64 billion annually. He said that the U.S. was expanding its efforts in drug treatment and prevention, as well as trying to curb supply.
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