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Mexico Balks at U.S. Review Of Global War Against Drugs

By Mark Fineman
Los Angeles Times

In the week leading up to the Clinton administration's Friday deadline to certify the progress of key nations in the global war on drugs, Mexico's stock market plunged, its frustration soared and its rhetoric seethed with nationalist pique.

"The Mexican government does not recognize any legitimacy to the process of certification,' " declared Jorge Pinto, Mexico's consul general in New York.

And Mexican Health Secretary Dr. Juan Ramon de la Fuente delivered a scathing speech recalling the U.S. invasion of Mexico in 1847 and evoking the words of Mexico's first indigenous president, Benito Juarez: "We do not need a foreigner to establish reforms for our country."

He cited recent academic studies in Mexico and the United States to bolster Mexico's decade-old position that the world's largest drug-consuming nation has no right to pass judgment on its suppliers:

-For each Mexican who has used illegal drugs, there are nine Americans who have used them;

-Nearly 24 million Americans used illegal drugs last year, compared with 320,000 Mexicans;

-And one of every five Mexican students who admitted to using cocaine or heroin in a 1993 national survey here said they first tried it in the United States.

Behind the numbers and the rhetoric is a real concern here that President Clinton, responding to election-year Republican pressure, could stop short of fully certifying Mexico, a nation where the DEA estimates powerful smuggling cartels are supplying up to three-fourths of the South American cocaine sold in the United States each year.

Decertification would mean suspension of U.S. foreign aid to Mexico, and a U.S. vote against all World Bank and International Monetary Fund loans to this already cash-strapped nation. It also would jeopardize billions of dollars in remaining credit in Clinton's $20 billion loan package for Mexico.

In Washington, U.S. officials said there is little chance that Clinton will decertify Mexico; most said Mexico is too important to risk such a step.

Nevertheless, they added, some U.S. drug enforcement officials would like to give the Mexicans a wake-up call. Among Clinton's options are to give Mexicoa "national-interest waiver," which was applied last year to Colombia. A waiver would mean that the country's anti-narcotics efforts are too poor to certify but U.S. national interest compels Washington to waive the penalties.