98-174 F Mexican Drug Certification Issues: Congressional Action CONGRESSIONAL RESEARCH SERVICE LIBRARY OF CONGRESSNUMBER: 98-174 FDATE: April 9, 1998TITLE: Mexican Drug Certification Issues: U.S. Congressional Action, 1986-1998AUTHOR: K. Larry StorrsDIVISION: Foreign Affairs and National Defense DivisionTEXT:Summary This report summarizes U.S. congressional actionrelating to Mexican drug control and drug certificationissues from 1986 to the present, with emphasis on recentactions. Beginning in 1986, in the context of the 1985killing of DEA Agent Enrique Camarena, Congress requiredthe President to certify annually, subject to congressionalreview, that drug-producing or drug transit countries hadcooperated fully with the United States in drug controlefforts to avoid a series of aid and trade sanctions. Mexico has been fully certified each year, despite somecriticism, but Congress has closely monitored thesecertification decisions. Congress took some initial stepson resolutions to disapprove Mexico's certification in 1987and 1988, and passed some drug-related restrictions onMexico in 1989 and 1996. Congressional efforts to overturnthe President's certification of Mexico advanced thefurthest in 1997, when both houses passed modifiedresolutions of disapproval, which would have requiredadditional reports on Mexican and U.S. drug controlefforts. President Clinton reported to Congress inSeptember 1997, in compliance with the Senate-passed version, even though it was never enacted into law. Following President Clinton's certification, on February26, 1998, that Mexico was fully cooperative in drug controlefforts, resolutions of disapproval (S.J.Res. 42 andS.J.Res. 43 and H.J.Res. 114) were introduced in bothhouses in early March 1998. When the Senate considered theSenate measures on March 26, 1998, objection was raised toa request for unanimous consent to consider S.J.Res. 43(with a national interest waiver), and S.J.Res. 42 (asimple resolution of disapproval) was defeated by a vote of45 to 54. Congressional Action in the 1980s:Drug Certification Requirements and Initial Action onResolutions of Disapproval Congress has had a longstanding interest in Mexico■scounter-narcotics efforts, stimulated by the killing andtorture of U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA)agents, and focusing more recently on the presidential drugcertifications. In the mid-1980s, Congress -- through theAnti-Drug Abuse Acts of 1986 (P.L. 99-570) and 1988 (P.L.100-690) -- created what has been modified and extended tobecome Section 490 of the Foreign Assistance Act of 1961(P.L. 87-195). This and related sections require thePresident to certify, subject to congressional review, that drug-producing or drug-transit countries havecooperated fully with the United States in drug controlefforts in the previous year in order to avoid a series ofaid and trade sanctions. Under the legislation, Congress isgiven 30 days to pass a resolution to disapprove thePresident's certification, and set in motion the varioussanctions. (See Endnote 1.) The original action took placein the context of the kidnaping, torture, and murder of DEASpecial Agent Enrique Camarena and his Mexican pilot inGuadalajara, Mexico, in March 1985, and the torture of DEAAgent Victor Cortez in Guadalajara in August 1986. Mexico was fully certified by President Reagan under theinitial certifications, but Congress carefully monitored thepresidential determinations. In 1987, the Senate ForeignRelations Committee reported out a resolution to disapprovethe presidential certification, and in 1988 the full Senatevoted 63-27 to disapprove the President■s certification. However, without complete action by both houses, thesemeasures were never adopted. In late 1989, Congress passed the InternationalNarcotics Control Act of 1989 (P.L. 101-231) with criticalreferences to Mexico. Earlier in the year, the SenateForeign Relations Committee voted against reporting anintroduced resolution of disapproval (S.J.Res. 82) to theSenate floor, and no action was taken in the House toreverse the President■s certification. (See Endnote 2.)Congressional Action in 1996:Restrictions on Foreign Assistance In the early 1990s, with improving bilateral trade andborder relations with Mexico, symbolized by the entry intoforce in 1994 of the North American Free Trade Agreement(NAFTA), few if any resolutions to disapprove presidentialcertifications were introduced and no congressional actionwas taken until 1996. In action in early 1996, the Foreign OperationsAppropriations Act for FY1996 (P.L. 104-99 and P.L. 104-107), dropped a House-passed restriction on aid to Mexicounless Mexico controlled illegal drug trafficking, but thereport urged U.S. efforts to encourage greater Mexicanaction in these areas. Later, Senators Feinstein andD■Amato and Representatives Miller and Shaw criticizedMexican drug control efforts and introduced measures callingfor disapproval of the President■s certification (S.J.Res.50/H.J.Res. 162) and for action against the country unlessdrug trafficking was controlled (S. Res. 218/H. Res.362/H.R. 2947), but action was not completed on thesemeasures. In June and July 1996, the House and the Senate passedthe Foreign Operations Appropriations Act for FY1997 (H.R.3540), with restrictions on Mexico. The House versioncontained the Souder amendment which would have prohibitedfunding under the act unless Mexico was reducing the flow ofdrugs and controlling money-laundering. The Senate versioncontained the Domenici amendment which would have prohibitedmilitary education and training funds for Mexico unless thePresident certified that Mexico had extradited or prosecutedmajor drug lords wanted in the United States. The finalversion in Section 587 of the foreign operationsappropriation -- incorporated into the Omnibus ConsolidatedAppropriations for FY1997 (P.L. 104-208) -- provided thatnot less than $2.5 million shall be withheld from Mexicountil the President has reported that Mexico is takingactions to reduce the flow of illegal drugs to the UnitedStates and is taking action to prosecute those involved indrug trafficking and money-laundering. (See Endnote 3.)Congressional Action in 1997:Modified Resolutions of Disapproval Require AdditionalReports which President Provides Despite Non-Enactment Following the mid-February 1997 arrest on corruptioncharges of the head of Mexico's drug fighting agency, someMembers of Congress urged President Clinton to send Mexicoa message for more forceful action by making a nationalinterests certification. As a result, when the Presidentfully certified Mexico in late February 1997, congressionalresolutions of disapproval were introduced by RepresentativeShaw (H.J.Res. 58) and Senator Coverdell (S.J.Res. 19,S.J.Res. 20, and S.J.Res. 21), while Senators Hutchison andGrassley also developed sense of Congress resolutions(S.Con.Res. 9 and S.Con.Res. 10) in the Senate. (See Endnote4.) The House International Relations Committee voted 27-5on March 6, 1997, to report out H.J.Res. 58, with the Gilmanamendment permitting the President to waive sanctions forone year by submitting a national interests certification,and requiring consultation with Congress on drug traffickingissues. In floor debate on March 13, 1997, the House, by avote of 251-175, passed H.J.Res. 58, with the Hastertamendment, as modified, that would have deferred disapprovalof the Presidential certification of Mexico if, within 90days of enactment, the President reported that he hadobtained assurances of progress with Mexico in specifiedareas of drug control cooperation. These included supportfor DEA agents, extradition, overflight and refuelingrights, and maritime agreements. Indicating some discomfortwith the certification process, the resolution also wouldhave established a High Level Commission of InternationalNarcotics Control to review the annual certification processand produce an interim report within six months. Responding in part to Mexican and Administrationcriticism, the Senate, on March 20, 1997, voted 94-5, topass the Coverdell-Feinstein amendment to H.J. Res. 58, inthe nature of a substitute, which, instead of disapprovingthe President■s certification, required a report bySeptember 1, 1997, on Mexican efforts to strengthen drugcontrol in 10 areas and U.S. efforts in three areas. TheMexican areas for reporting included effective actionagainst drug cartels; and cooperation on law enforcement,extradition, eradication and money laundering activities. The U.S. areas for reporting included implementation ofeffective domestic anti-drug educational campaigns andinternational interdiction and law enforcement programs, anddeployment of additional INS agents at the border. Congressdid not complete action on this measure within the specifiedtime, but President Clinton indicated in May 1997, that hewould abide by the Senate version of H.Res 58, and theAdministration reported, as promised in September 1997. In further expressions of sentiment, each of the housessubsequently considered and failed to pass legislation tomodify or suspend the existing drug certificationrequirements. In the House, on May 9, 1997, the HouseInternational Relations Committee reported out H.R. 1486,the Foreign Policy Reform Act, with Section 403, proposedby Representative Hamilton, which would have eliminated thepresidential certification, congressional review, andsanctions against countries under the certification process. Instead, it would have required the President to continue toreport yearly and to consult regularly with Congress on drugcontrol issues, and would have given the President theauthority to withhold bilateral assistance and to opposemultilateral bank financing for countries that are not fullycooperative if he found those measures to be helpful. Inearly June 1997, H.R. 1486 was divided into three bills, andthe foreign aid and drug certification provisions wereplaced in H.R. 1759, which was not scheduled for debate in1997. In the Senate, on July 16, 1997, the Senate defeated(60-38) Amendment 901, proposed by Senators Dodd and McCain,to the Foreign Operations Appropriation Bill (S. 995), whichwould have suspended the drug certification requirements fortwo years, and called upon relevant country leaders todevelop a multilateral framework for improving internationalcooperation in counter-narcotics efforts.Congressional Action in 1998:Resolution of Disapproval Defeated in Senate President Clinton certified, on February 26, 1998, thatMexico was fully cooperative in drug control efforts, citingincreased drug seizures, creation of a new anti-drug forcewith fully screened officers, progress in the return offugitives, tough sentencing of major traffickers, andactions against organized crime and money laundering. Thecertification and related material also cited U.S.-Mexicocooperation through the High Level Contact Group (HLCG) onNarcotics Control that led to the U.S.-Mexico AllianceAgainst Drugs in May 1997, and to the issuance of the U.S.-Mexico Binational Drug Strategy in February 1998. (SeeEndnote 5.) While Administration witnesses defended thecertification decision in congressional hearings, severalMembers of Congress criticized the decision, and indicatedtheir intention to introduce resolutions to disapprove thePresident's certification. Among other things, the criticsargue that inadequate efforts have been made to arrest majordrug traffickers, to extradite Mexican citizens to theUnited States on drug-related charges, and to permit DEAagents to carry firearms for their protection. Whilerecognizing that Mexico had made progress in some areas, thecritics argue that Mexico could not be said to be fullycooperative in drug control efforts, the standard set by thecertification procedure. In early March 1998, resolutions of disapproval wereintroduced in both houses of Congress. (See Endnote 6.) In the Senate, Senator Coverdell, with Senators Feinstein,Helms, and Hutchinson as cosponsors, introduced S.J.Res. 42 (which, if approved, would disapprove the President'scertification and require withdrawal of assistance) andS.J.Res. 43 (which, if approved, would disapprove thePresident's certification, but would permit him to avoid thewithholding of assistance if he subsequently found thatvital U.S. national interests required non-application ofsanctions. The resolutions were referred to the SenateCommittee on Foreign Relations. In the House,Representative Shaw, with Representative Mica as cosponsor,introduced H.J.Res. 114 (which, if approved, woulddisapprove the President's certification, but would permithim to waive the withholding of assistance if hesubsequently determined that vital U.S. national interestsrequire the provision of the assistance. The resolution wasreferred to the House International Relations Committee andthe House Banking and Financial Services Committee. The Senate considered the Senate measures on March 26,1998. When Majority Leader Lott requested unanimous consentto consider S.J.Res. 43, the resolution with a nationalinterest waiver and therefore more than the simpleresolution of disapproval required under the certificationlegislation), objection was raised by Senator Daschle. WhenS.J.Res. 42 was considered proponents argued that Mexico hadfailed to meet the standards and had made inadequateprogress, while opponents argued that approval of theresolution would harm relations with Mexico and terminaterecent cooperative efforts with Mexico. S.J.Res. 42 wasdefeated by a vote of 45 to 54. ENDNOTES(1) For details on the certification options (certification,national interests certification, decertification) and thepossible sanctions, see Narcotics Certification and Mexico:Questions and Answers, CRS Report 97-320 F, March 6, 1997,by Raphael F. Perl, Jonathan Sanford, and K. Larry Storrs. For more general information on U.S.-Mexican relations,including legislation on trade, immigration, and drugtrafficking issues, see Mexico-U.S. Relations: Issues forthe 105th Congress, CRS Issue Brief 97028, by K. LarryStorrs.(2) For details on Mexican drug control efforts in thisperiod, see Mexico's Counter-Narcotics Efforts, 1985-1995,CRS Report 96-239, March 14, 1996, by K. Larry Storrs.(3) For details on Mexico's anti-drug efforts in the earlyyears of the Zedillo presidency, see Mexico's Counter-Narcotics Efforts Under Zedillo, December 1994 to March1997, CRS Report 97-354 F, March 14, 1997, by K. LarryStorrs.(4) For some pros and cons on resolutions of disapproval in1997, see Drug Certification of Mexico: Arguments For andAgainst Congressional Resolutions of Disapproval, CRS Report97-329 F, March 8, 1997, by K. Larry Storrs. For somearguments about the effects of past congressional actions,see Mexico's Anti-Drug Efforts: Effects of Past U.S.Pressures and Sanctions, CRS Report 97-361 F, March 13,1997, by K. Larry Storrs.(5) See the presidential certification of February 26,1998, along with the Statement of Explanation on Mexico, aswell as the State Department's International NarcoticsControl Strategy Report, March 1998, pp. 148-159. Forrecent information drawing from these and other reports, seeMexico's Counter-Narcotics Efforts Under Zedillo, CRS Report98-161, by K. Larry Storrs. (6) For a discussion of pros and cons, see DrugCertification of Mexico: Arguments For and AgainstCongressional Resolutions of Disapproval, CRS Report 97-329,which, while geared to the 1997 debate, is generallyapplicable to 1998 as well. END OF FILE