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Presidential Certification For Mexico Stands

WASHINGTON (AllPolitics, March 27) -- A Senate attempt to block President Bill Clinton's certification of Mexico as "fully cooperative" in the war on drugs was rejected 54-45 Thursday night.

The resolution, sponsored by Sens. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) and Paul Coverdell (R-Ga.) would have overturned Clinton's February 26 certification.

Supporters of the resolution are critical of Mexico's efforts to stem drug trafficking and pursue drug kingpins.

Under a 1961 law, the president is required each year to certify that drug-producing countries have cooperated with United States drug-control efforts. Countries deemed uncooperative face trade and foreign aide sanctions.

According to Feinstein, Mexico cooperated politically with the U.S., but not at the law enforcement level. She said Mexico's drug control efforts were like "an inflated balloon: impressive to look at but hollow at the core and easily punctured."

The debate crops up each year, but Congress has yet to decertify such a presidential declaration.

Opponents of the Feinstein-Coverdell resolution said decertification would be counterproductive with a country that shares a large border with the U.S. Mexican officials find the process offensive and consider it an insult that infringes on Mexican sovereignty.

Sen. Christopher Dodd (D-Conn.) called the effort to revoke the presidential certification "misguided anger, misguided frustration" and said it would cause "untold complications" in relationship between the U.S. and Mexico.

"It's because of our failure to deal with this issue, the underlying cause of it, and the idea that if we scream loud enough at these other countries we're somehow going to get far better cooperation out of these nations," Dodd said.

The push for decertification crossed party lines with thirty Republican and 15 Democrats voting for it.

Sen. Phil Gramm (R-Texas) has supported the presidential certification for Mexico for 12 years, but voted to revoke the certification this year because "the strategy we've followed has failed."

Under the rejected Senate measure the president would have been able to waive sanctions against Mexico if it were decertified.

Senate Minority Leader Tom Daschle (D-S.D.) told reporters decertification is "not just a signal we're sending. This would be a collapse of the relationship" between the two neighbors.

The House will consider a similar measure, but both chambers have to vote to block certification and the Senate vote make any House action moot.

Retired Gen. Barry McCaffrey told a congressional hearing Thursday the Clinton administration would like to see in the next five years a move away from the process requiring certification for Mexico and other countries as cooperative allies in the war against international drug trafficking.

"We already are talking about ways to cooperate, not just on drug smuggling, but on eradication, money laundering ... and demand reduction," McCaffrey said after testifying before a House subcommittee.

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Friday March 27, 1998

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Presidential Certification For Mexico Stands


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