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Lawmakers ask Clinton to decertify Mexico as drug war ally

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February 28, 1997
Web posted at: 9:45 a.m. EST

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- As the Clinton Administration appears poised to certify Mexico as an ally in the fight against drugs, congressional critics are calling on the president to threaten Mexico with sanctions.

A letter to President Clinton urging decertification was signed by 40 senators as of Friday morning, according to Sen. Dianne Feinstein, a California Democrat. She says at least three other senators are writing their own letters recommending decertification. Many House members are making similar recommendations.

Decertification could lead to the United States subjecting Mexico to economic or trade sanctions.

Sen. Feinstein, and House Democratic Leader Richard Gephardt of Missouri have even threatened to promote a joint resolution to try to overturn an eventual full certification of Mexico.

The State Department was expected to disclose late Friday Clinton's decisions on Mexico and 31 other countries where drugs originate or pass through on their way to the United States.

Sources tell CNN that the weight of the argument internally in the State Department supports certification, in part because it would be diplomatically difficult to decertify Mexico.

Criticism building


A year ago, Clinton pronounced Mexico fully cooperative in the anti-drug effort. But sentiment in Congress to decertify Mexico has been building dramatically since the arrest last week of its anti-drug leader, Gen. Jesus Gutierrez Rebollo, over his alleged links with drug traffickers.

Several House Republican lawmakers at a hearing Thursday took issue with the fact that Barry McCaffrey, director of the U.S. Office of National Drug Control Policy, initially praised Gutierrez Rebollo as having "absolute unquestioned integrity."

"I am completely baffled at the lack of intelligence, the lack of information that you had as drug czar making those statements," said Rep. John Mica, a Florida Republican, at a hearing of a House Government Reform and Oversight subcommittee.

Under law, Clinton must evaluate annually the cooperation of 32 drug source and transit countries, and this year's deadline is Saturday. Mexico has always passed that test since it was instituted by law in 1986.


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