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27 February 1998

TRANSCRIPT: BEERS BRIEFING AT STATE DEPARTMENT ON INCSR REPORT

(Denies decertification hurts Colombia's anti-drug fight) (4950)
Washington -- A State Department official disputes a report issued by
the General Accounting Office (GAO) that says decertification of
Colombia for the last two years has harmed that country's efforts to
fight narcotics trafficking.
"We disagree that the decertification process has harmed Colombia,"
said Randy Beers, Acting Assistant Secretary of State for
International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Matters, at a State
Department press briefing February 26. The subject of the briefing was
the release of the annual International Narcotics Control Strategy
Report (INCSR). The INCSR, produced by the State Department, provides
the factual basis for the presidential narcotics certification
determinations.
U.S. law requires that each year the President "certify" to Congress
countries where drug are produced or trafficked which are making
"adequate progress" toward achieving the goals of the UN convention on
the control of narcotic and psychotropic substances. He must also
identify, or "decertify," those countries he determines do not meet
that standard.
This year, President Clinton certified 22 countries. Four received
conditional certification, and four others were decertified.
"Decertification" results in substantial restriction of most types of
U.S. assistance to these countries. Although Colombia was decertified
for the last two years, this year the United States granted Colombia a
conditional certification based on "vital national interests" in
Colombia.
According to the INCSR, Colombia remains the world's leading producer
and distributor of cocaine and is an important supplier of heroin to
the United States. Although the Colombian government made progress on
several levels against narcotrafficking, problems persist, the INCSR
says, because of narcotics-related corruption, an underfunded and
inadequate judicial system and a lack of adequate political will on
some issues in both the executive and legislative branches.
However, Beers said, even though Colombia was decertified, the United
States attempted to aid the Colombian government's fight against
narcotics producers and traffickers.
"One of the general charges which people make," Beers said, "is that
we have decreased assistance to Colombia as a result of the
decertification. In fact, our calculations indicate that that is not
the case; the opposite is true."
He pointed out that U.S. counter-narcotics assistance to Colombia has
steadily risen -- from $28.85 million in 1995 to $62.93 million in
1996 and $95.95 million in 1997. U.S. counter-narcotics assistance for
1998 will be comparable to or greater than the 1997 figures, Beers
predicted.
U.S. decisions to decertify Colombia in the preceding two years were
not related to the record of the Colombian National Police, "who have
performed admirably and courageously," Beers said.
Beers noted that he has recently visited Colombia "because it was my
own personal view that Colombia was at a critical turning point...."
He said he met with the leadership in the Ministry of Defense, as well
as the National Police and other government officials and traveled
around the country to see counter-narcotics efforts.
"I came back very encouraged that the prospects for cooperation in the
future are significant and that the government is prepared to move in
that direction, particularly under the leadership of General Serrano,"
Beers said.
Following is the State Department transcript:
(begin transcript)
U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE
Office of the Spokesman
February 26, 1998
ON-THE-RECORD BRIEFING
ACTING ASSISTANT SECRETARY FOR INTERNATIONAL NARCOTICS
AND LAW ENFORCEMENT MATTERS, RANDY BEERS
ON RELEASE OF INTERNATIONAL NARCOTICS CONTROL STRATEGY REPORT (INCSR)
Washington, D.C.
MR. RUBIN: Thank you very much. Randy Beers will now come to the
podium and take all your specific questions.
ASSISTANT SECRETARY BEERS: Well, thank you all the Secretary, General
McCaffrey, the Attorney General. They've covered most of the major
points on the certification issue, and I'll take questions. But first,
let me make sure that everybody has available or is aware of what is
available in the way of information that we are providing.
You should all have your green copies of the INCSR, the International
Narcotics Control Strategy Report. You should have a red package,
which contains in it a description of the process; the law; the '88 UN
Convention. After questions, there should be available at the exits
the fact sheets on eight countries Belize, Colombia, Mexico, Pakistan,
Iran, Paraguay and Syria and Lebanon as well as well as the 30
statements of explanation for the 30 major countries which were
certified today. So you'll have available all of that information.
I believe also Director McCaffrey's remarks will be available at the
exits, as well. The Secretary's remarks will probably be available
later in the day. Let me take questions now.
Q: Mr. Beers, did you inform Congress beforehand about the waiver for
Colombia? And did you get any reaction from their members?
BEERS: The procedure is that as soon as the President has signed and
informed the Secretary of State that the document has been signed,
Members of Congress are called by members of the Administration. They
are called directly. I attempted to speak to five members of Congress.
I didn't get through to any of them, but the calling attempt is made.
Those calls began about 11:00 o'clock. this morning.
So did anyone get through? I'm sure someone got through to somebody.
The attempt is made, in the spirit of the law.
Q:  Did you get any reaction?
BEERS:  No, not that I'm aware of.
Q: Senator Coverdell has said that he wants to know why Mexico didn't
also get just a waiver, and is scheduling hearings this afternoon on
it.
BEERS: There are some hearings this afternoon, that's correct. I think
that the Secretary and General McCaffrey both spoke quite eloquently
on the basis of the decision. But let me simply repeat again what they
had already said.
Mexico, in the course of the past year, has implemented a broad-based
strategy to address the serious drug problems that exist in Mexico,
that they acknowledge. They have passed new legislation to control the
diversion of chemicals. They have released new regulations to
strengthen the money-laundering control regime. They have increased
cocaine seizures and crop eradication. They have initiated meaningful
institutional reforms in the criminal justice system. And the Mexican
Government has worked closely with the United States to build an
effective partnership, as indicated by the bi-national strategy which
Director McCaffrey and Foreign Secretary Green announced last week.
So I think that we have the basis of a solid cooperative arrangement,
relationship between ourselves and Mexico. And Mexico is fully
certified based on the facts.
Q: There is a new GAO report released today GAO report that was
released this morning on the fact that supposedly the decertification
of Colombia last year could have been detrimental to the drug fight
directly in Colombia. I don't know if you're familiar with the report,
if you could comment on it. And also, I wanted to ask you if your
recent visit to Colombia helped in any way in the decision this year.
BEERS: Let me talk briefly about the GAO report, which I have not had
an opportunity to read but have some familiarity with. With respect to
the central charge which you make in your statement, we disagree that
the decertification process has harmed Colombia. One of the general
charges which people make is that we have decreased assistance to
Colombia as a result of the decertification. In fact, our calculations
indicate that that is not the case; the opposite is true.
In '95, we provided approximately $28.85 million; in '96, we provided
approximately $62.93 million; in '97, we provided $95.95 million. And
we expect that the total this year will be comparable or greater. So
if one measures it simply in terms of assistance, we do not regard
that to be the case. If one looks at other statistics, in the case of
the performance of the Colombian National Police, I think it will also
be clear that those statistics have risen over this same time frame,
which is why we continue to say, in every instance, that the decisions
to decertify Colombia in the preceding two years were not related to
the performance of the Colombian National Police, who have performed
admirably and courageously.
With respect to my own trip to Colombia and this decision, as I came
to this job from elsewhere, but with some experience in the
counter-narcotics world, I came with the expressed desire on my own
part to move immediately to understand the situation in Colombia,
because it was my own personal view that Colombia was at a critical
turning point and that we needed to recognize that and do something
about it.
My trip to Colombia allowed me to familiarize myself again with the
situation on the ground. And General Serrano and the minister of
defense took me around the country and showed me what their forces
were doing; and I spoke to the leadership in the Ministry of Defense,
as well as the National Police and other government officials. And I
came back very encouraged that the prospects for cooperation in the
future are significant and that the government is prepared to move in
that direction, particularly under the leadership of General Serrano.
Q: Yes. Thank you. It is reported today that the and has been said by
the Secretary, that there will be a multinational certification force
or group. Will this process be run out of the Organization of American
States, as is being reported? Is that what's going to happen to the
certification process -- that the responsibility is going to be spread
out?
BEERS: I think that it's premature to talk about precisely where this
process is going to end up, but I can talk very briefly about what
we're doing now.
In association with the Santiago Summit, which is coming up, and in
part of our general effort to increase the awareness and attention of
countries in the hemisphere to the drug problem, we have begun, in
that context, to discuss the concept of a multinational cooperative
effort against drugs. This represents a logical progression from
earlier drug summits at Cartagena and San Antonio, in previous
Administrations, and the Summit of Americas earlier in this
Administration, in which we looked seriously at expanding our drug
cooperation within the hemisphere to an increasingly stronger effort.
This, then, forms the initial basis, followed by a general concept of
each nation developing its own national strategy and its own
objectives and measures of effectiveness. At the end of that process,
it may be that we will come to decide that we want, then, to look at
one another's individual efforts, both to see how we can fit them
together more effectively, in order that we deal with what is a
trans-national issue in an international fashion. And then we can also
look at whether or not the effectiveness of those programs accords
with the effectiveness of other countries' programs. So that it could
be, at the end of that process, that nations will look at and make
judgments on one another's own national strategies and effectiveness.
But that is a very long-term goal, and I wouldn't want to say how
that's going to end up or who's going to run it or exactly how it will
be run. But that's the general framework that we're talking about.
Q:  So the U.S. may continue to do certification?
BEERS: The U.S. is required by law to do certification. Until Congress
changes that law, we will continue to obey the law.
Q: Can you tell us any more about the progress that you say you see in
Iran? And do you plan any attempt at direct cooperation with the
Iranians on candid narcotics strategy?
BEERS: As the Secretary indicated, there have been reports which are
uncorroborated that suggest that Iran is in fact making progress in
the counter-narcotics area. Over the course of the next year, we will
seek in a variety of ways to corroborate those reports so that we can
make a determination based on confirmable evidence.
I'm not at this time in a position to tell you exactly how we're going
to go about confirming that information. So I wouldn't want to mislead
you one way or the other.
Q: Yes, I would like to know exactly what are the differences in the
Colombian position right now and the difference between the two years
before, when we get the certification.
BEERS: I think that the best way to look at this year's decision is to
consider the general situation in Colombia today. Over the course of
the last year, ironically as a result of the success of the air
interdiction effort in Peru and the drastic reduction in cultivation
of coca in Peru, the traffickers have begun to increase in a very
significant fashion the amount of coca cultivated in Colombia.
We saw an initial indication of that last year. It has mushroomed this
year. So we are seriously concerned that the traffickers, as a result
of their efforts to consolidate their own enterprise in the area of
Colombia which is least controlled by the central government the south
and east have presented us with a new trafficking situation.
In addition to that, we have noticed that the guerrillas and the
para-militaries have also both moved in a more significant way into
trafficking enterprise for the express purpose of obtaining additional
revenue. That makes them more vibrant forces against the central
government, and we are concerned about the deteriorating security
situation in Colombia, as well. Therefore, despite the great efforts
by the Colombian national police, we have come to the conclusion that
there is a requirement on the part of ourselves and the government of
Colombia for a more robust counter-narcotics program in Colombia. And
as a result of the decertification process, our ability to affect such
a program is circumscribed by the law.
So for the purpose of entering into this more robust program, we have
made the determination to put forward a national interest waiver with
respect to Colombia, in order to position ourselves for deeper and
broader counter-narcotics cooperation with Colombia with the full
flexibility and the kinds of broad- based support that we will need to
conduct this campaign. It is a campaign for the future, a campaign for
democracy in Colombia and the rule of law. That's the basis of this
year's decision, which we believe is different in situation from last
year.
Q: So in effect, Colombia has made no progress; it's just in the U.S.
interest to be able to funnel some kinds of aid and counter-narcotics
efforts toward Colombia, so the waiver was granted.
BEERS: The decision not to certify Colombia fully is an indication
that the United States is not prepared to make a judgment in that
regard. So Colombian progress was not judged to be fully cooperative
with the United States, or to have conducted on their own those
measures that the 1988 UN Vienna Convention requires.
The law gives us the opportunity to make a waiver. I don't mean,
however, to say that there was nothing that the Government of Colombia
did. As I have repeated, the Colombian national police and other
counter-narcotics forces in Colombia have performed admirably.
Seizures are up; arrests are up; eradication, despite the growth of
coca is the largest single amount of eradication by any country in any
year. It's remarkable. But the traffickers moved more significantly
than we were able to move in the eradication area, even though in the
area of targeting, there was a 25 percent decrease. They were growing
elsewhere.
Q: For Colombia, what's the difference? They what do they get now that
they would not already before with the full the certification?
BEERS: Certification as an instrument affects two general areas.
Firstly, it prohibits the giving of assistance, except for
counter-narcotics assistance and specialized kinds of humanitarian
assistance, which means that the U.S. does not have full flexibility
to provide assistance to Colombia.
Secondly, it means that the United States is required, in the
international development banks, to vote against funding for
assistance to Colombia. It is in those areas that we now wish to
retain full flexibility to provide assistance to Colombia so that our
broad-based counter-narcotics cooperation is not hindered by the
effect of the decertification decision.
Q: For the past three years, your government labeled President Samper
as a corrupt Colombian official. In this year's report, his name is
barely mentioned. Does that mean that your government now trusts
Samper?
BEERS: The decision not to certify Colombia was a decision that there
was not full cooperation by the government of Colombia. The three
principal areas of concern, with respect to Colombia, were the failure
on the part of the Colombian Government to pass a full-scope
extradition amendment; the continued corruption which exists in the
Colombian Government; and the failure on the part of the Colombian
Government to fully implement the very adequate counter-narcotics
legislation that it has on the books, in areas such as
money-laundering or asset forfeiture. That's the basis for the
decision not to certify Colombia. I've explained the basis of the
decision to provide a national interest waiver.
Q: And I guess, on Mexico, what do you expect the reaction in Congress
will be? Do you anticipate a battle, like last year, over this issue?
BEERS: I have not heard any indications yet from the Congress that
lead me to believe that we will have a situation similar to last year.
But let's simply go back, just for a moment, in time, and remember
last year. If you will recall, on the week in which the certification
announcement was made, President Zedillo took a very courageous act --
but an act which left him vulnerable -- and that was the disclosure
that his drug czar, General Gutierrez Rebollo, was, in fact, under
indictment for charges of narco-corruption. We don't have that
situation this year. That's a fundamental difference and I think at
least one basis for concluding that the decision this year will not
necessarily meet with the same heated response by some members of
Congress.
Q: Secretary Albright and you have praised Peru's efforts in terms of
combating drug traffic. The Peruvian Government sees its own efforts
as based on what they call desarrollo alternativo, alternative
development, in order to combat this, we should not generate another
social problem by displacing the campesinos, the people who grow the
coca leaves. How is the U.S. government looking at this strategy of
desarrollo alternativo, alternative development? And what plans do you
have in order to support, financially or otherwise, this strategy by
the Peruvian Government, which appears to be working?
BEERS: The United States Government fully supports this strategy by
President Fujimori. And we have, as part of our effort, assistance
that will go toward their alternative development programs in Peru, in
addition to which we will also be supportive of the Peruvian
Government at a pledging conference that will take place later this
year, in which other countries will be asked to provide the same kind
of alternative development assistance. We think it makes sense, and
we're prepared to support the government of Peru.
Q: OK. The pledging conference will take place in the second semester
of the year?
BEERS:  I can't tell you the exact date.
Q:  Are you participating in the organization of this conference?
BEERS: The conference will take place later this year; I don't know
the date. And we will be full participants in it, yes.
Q: The report to Congress mentions that Mexico, during 1995, had mixed
results in terms of fighting drugs. I would like to ask you, where
would you like or where would the State Department like to see better
results?
BEERS:  In Mexico?
Q:  Yes.
BEERS: In the case of the certification process, as in the case of our
own judgment of ourselves, no one performs at 100 percent or we
wouldn't have a drug problem today. We want to work with the
Government of Colombia in the areas that we set out in the national
strategy. There are 16 points in that strategy.
Q:  You mean the government of Mexico.
BEERS:  The government of Mexico, I'm sorry.
And those are an indication of areas that we want to work together.
There is room for improvement, and it's across the board.
Let me just read you the first four points of the 16: reduced demand
through information, education, and rehabilitation that's for both of
us; reduced production and distribution of drugs that's for both of
us; focused law enforcement efforts against criminal organizations
that's for both of us; and strengthened law enforcement cooperation,
policy coordination, and ensure the safety of all of the individuals
involved in this process. Those are four examples of areas that we
want to work together.
And when I say work together, as General McCaffrey said, this is a
joint, this is a binational effort. So it's not a question of the
United States simply asking the government of Mexico to do A, B and C;
but it is the two countries asking themselves together to do 16
different tasks, as outlined in the binational strategy.
Q: Yes. Secretary Albright and Control Policy Director Barry McCaffrey
both praised Mexico's efforts for certification. But according to
statistics here, the total arrests are down, total seizures for well,
marijuana is the same, but heroin and methamphetamines are also down.
I'm sure Members of Congress are going to be seeing this, and they are
going to ask the same question that I'm asking right now -- why are
they being certified when, out of the seven elements that are used to
judge it, three of them are lower and one of them, marijuana, is
basically the same?
BEERS: I hope we're looking at the same statistics, but my indications
are that eradication of opium is up, and total crop is down; that
eradication of cannabis, while smaller than last year, still left a
smaller overall crop; that seizures of opium are up; heroin is down;
cocaine is up significantly; marijuana is roughly the same; and that
methamphetamines are down somewhat. Arrests of nationals are down less
than 10 percent, more like five percent. And the total number of labs
destroyed is down somewhat.
That's a record, we believe, that indicates that the government of
Mexico, across the board, when you put everything together, is making
a quite reasonable and, in fact, we think important move against drug
trafficking. So, I mean, we can each quote from our statistics, but I
find that a basis, on those figures alone, for saying that, in that
statistical area, that we believe that Mexico is moving forward.
Q: Because some of the countries on the list were objected to by
Members of Congress, do you expect any sort of backlash,
budgetary-wise, since this is the budget cycle now, that some
countries are on the list that shouldn't be, according to Members of
the Congress and otherwise?
BEERS: As I said earlier, we haven't really had much in the way of a
direct congressional reaction to these decisions, because they weren't
known before today. But I would simply say that with respect to the
issue of counter-narcotics assistance, one of the reactions on the
part of Congress can reasonably be to increase counter-narcotics
assistance in order to do a better job, if they think that the job
that's being done is inadequate.
Q: President Samper of Colombia is expected to claim vindication with
this decision. Should he?
BEERS: As I indicated earlier, the national interest waiver is a
national interest waiver for the future.
Q:  Can you elaborate?
BEERS:  Over here, please.
Q: What are the U.S. vital interests in Cambodia, Pakistan and
Paraguay?
BEERS: With respect to Cambodia, the national interest of the United
States, which we used as the basis for making the determination is the
United States' support for democracy. We want to be in position,
should the parties come together in the course of the time ahead
leading up to elections. If they come together and if we see
reasonable progress, we want to be in a situation in which we can
provide electoral and other assistance for the future. So the basic,
the core decision is support for democracy.
The same is true in Paraguay, with respect to the impending elections
there. This is an important election for Paraguay. They are an
emerging democracy. And even though they were troubled by the
political difficulties surrounding that electoral process over the
course of the last year, we don't want our decision to in any way
affect that progress for democracy. And we want to be in a position to
support them fully.
With respect to Pakistan, the decision is more complex. While Pakistan
was not fully certified this year, we have a policy of high-level
engagement across a number of areas, including narcotics, Afghanistan,
non-proliferation, counter-terrorism and Indo-Pak relations that we
wanted to be in a position to maintain as well as our support for the
improvement of the economy in Pakistan. For those reasons, we felt
that it was important not to shut down our assistance or to in any way
undercut that high-level dialogue.
So we found it in our national interest to waive decertification for
Pakistan.
Q: One of the concerns of Members of Congress along the Mexican border
is the inability of US DEA agents to carry guns into Mexico. What kind
of progress are you seeing in negotiations with them to be able to do
that?
BEERS: The discussions with the Mexican Government have gone on over
the course of the last year, and they continue. I cannot point today
to an announcement which would say that this issue has been entirely
resolved. But I can report to you that even up into the last week, we
continue with high-level discussions between our two governments,
looking toward possible arrangements which will affect the current and
future security of our agents operating in Mexico.
But let me just say, I'm not going to comment specifically on any of
the specific security measures that are already in place.
Q: Members of Congress held up some of the counter-narcotics equipment
for Mexico in the last year helicopters and things like that because
of human rights concerns. Could you describe for us a little bit what
are the safeguards that you have in place to ensure that equipment and
personnel trained by the U.S. are not involved in human rights abuses
in countries such as Mexico?
BEERS: We have a procedure which is called end-use monitoring, which
we discuss and work out with each of the countries that we provide
such assistance to. We have a similar arrangement with the Government
of Mexico.
Q:  Personnel in Mexico, then, that are among
BEERS:  Excuse me?
Q: Personnel in Mexico, then, that are monitoring the use of this
equipment?
BEERS: These personnel are U.S. Embassy officials, and they work out
these arrangements with each government, including the Government of
Mexico. And we have a regular reporting process.
Q: That would apply to the people who are being trained, as well the
military people?
BEERS: That would apply to the people who are being trained, as well;
that's correct.
Q: I'm just a bit confused about what you've said on the fact that
giving the waiver to Colombia would allow for a more robust program on
counter-narcotics, which will make you believe or lead you to believe
that the past two years when Colombia was decertified that it did not
allow for a robust program on anti-drugs in Colombia, which in many
ways would agree with the GAO report, wouldn't it?
BEERS: You can choose to interpret the events that way. More means
more than before. That's all it means, and that's all I'm saying.
We want to do more next year, and we believe that in order to do more,
we needed to put this national interest waiver. In the preceding year,
we judged the amount of assistance that we were providing to be
adequate to the task; but we've judged that the situation has changed,
and now we want to do more.
Q: Just to elaborate a little bit on the last question about
monitoring, the end-use monitoring. Is that something that you do
unilaterally in any given country, including Mexico, or is this
something that the country itself accepts?
BEERS:  It would be impossible to do it unilaterally.
Q:  So it involves the --
BEERS: We wouldn't be following people around and looking over their
shoulders, and checking checks on clipboards.
Q:  Does it involve the acceptance there's explicit
acceptance --
BEERS: It has to involve the cooperation of the government involved.
Q: In this case, Mexico. I'm talking just specifically about Mexico.
BEERS:  In this case, Mexico; that's correct.
Q: Just one more quick one. Mexico has declared the Mexican president
has declared that drugs are a national security hazard. Why isn't it
that way in this country? Why isn't the United States' national
security threatened by the drug trade in the Western Hemisphere?
BEERS: The United States has declared drug trafficking a national
security threat since the middle '80s, and it has been repeated by
every Administration since then. It is part of every presidential
decision document on this subject.
Q:  Thank you.
BEERS:  Thank you all.
(end transcript)




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