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Homeland Security

03 February 2003

Report Says Burma, Guatemala, Haiti Not Strong Fighters in Drug Wars

(Three nations get failing marks in annual review process) (4780)
The Bush administration has determined that Burma, Guatemala and Haiti
have "failed demonstrably" over the last year to do what is necessary
to counter international narcotics trafficking. President Bush sent
that report to Congress January 31, based on a recommendation from the
Secretary of State. He did so in compliance with a law that requires
the administration to ascertain annually how well countries are doing
in complying with international counternarcotics agreements.
The narcotics certification process, as it is known, requires that the
administration evaluate countries that have been designated as major
illicit drug-producing or drug-transit countries. The 2003
certification process puts the same 23 countries on the so-called
Majors list that were on it in 2002: Afghanistan, The Bahamas,
Bolivia, Brazil, Burma, China, Colombia, Dominican Republic, Ecuador,
Guatemala, Haiti, India, Jamaica, Laos, Mexico, Nigeria, Pakistan,
Panama, Paraguay, Peru, Thailand, Venezuela and Vietnam.
Acting Assistant Secretary of State for International Narcotics and
Law Enforcement Affairs Paul Simons explained the 2003 findings in a
January 31 press briefing at the Department of State. He said Burma's
performance "remained inadequate," even though the country has
achieved a significant decrease in the cultivation and production of
The new report also cites better Burmese cooperation with U.S. and
regional law enforcement agencies, and steps toward passage of
anti-money laundering legislation.
"The Guatemalan government's counternarcotics performance deteriorated
substantially in 2002," Simon said. He cited fewer narcotics seizures,
prosecutions and an increase in police theft of illegal drugs taken
into custody.
The law authorizing the narcotics certification process does carry
sanctions for inadequate performance -- the withholding of all but
humanitarian aid. The president has the option to waive those
penalties, and he has done so this year for both Guatemala and Haiti.
"Suspension of assistance to Guatemala would result in further
deterioration of precisely those Guatemalan institutions that are
essential to combating the influence of organized crime," Simons said.
The president's findings also give a mixed report in the case of the
third and final country cited with a failed performance in
counternarcotics activity -- Haiti. Simons described the Haitian
government's commitment to counterdrug efforts as "very weak," saying
the island nation remains a major transshipment point for drugs moving
from South American producers to markets in North America.
Simons did give the Haitian government credit for two anti-drug
actions, however. "They did put into force a bilateral, maritime,
counternarcotics interdiction agreement, and they established an as
yet untested financial intelligence unit."
Afghanistan made notable progress in its effort to battle drug
trafficking in the first year after the fall of the Taliban and the
election of a transitional government. Afghanistan was cited to have
"failed demonstrably" in last year's report, but this year it did not,
though it does remain a nation of concern. Simons said the
transitional government has been very cooperative in working to put a
drug-fighting plan in place.
Following is the briefing transcript:
(begin transcript)
Office of the Spokesman
January 31, 2002
Acting Assistant Secretary of State for International Narcotics and
Law Enforcement Affairs Paul Simons on the President's FY 2003
Narcotics Certification Determinations
January 31, 2003
Washington, D.C.
(3:00 p.m. EST)
MR. BOUCHER: Good afternoon, ladies and gentlemen. Welcome to the
State Department. Acting Assistant Secretary for International
Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs Paul Simons is here this
afternoon to talk to you about President Bush's Narcotics
Certification Determinations for Fiscal Year 2003. After some opening
remarks, he will be pleased to answer your questions. So I will turn
it over to Paul. Welcome.
MR. SIMONS: Thank you very much and thank you all for coming this
afternoon. Last night, the President sent to Congress the "Majors
List" and his annual determinations on narcotics certification. I
believe you ought to have the fact sheet setting out the provisions of
the law and the changes to that legislation in front of you, as well
as copies of the President's determinations.
This year, the drug "Majors List" remains unchanged from last year.
The same 23 countries are Afghanistan, Bahamas, Bolivia, Brazil,
Burma, China, Colombia, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, Guatemala, Haiti,
India, Jamaica, Laos, Mexico, Nigeria, Pakistan, Panama, Paraguay,
Peru, Thailand, Venezuela and Vietnam.
Out of that list, the President has designated three countries --
Burma, Guatemala and Haiti -- as having "failed demonstrably" to make
substantial efforts during the previous 12 months to meet their
international counter-narcotics requirements. And I'll go down and
talk a little bit about the performance of each of these countries.
Despite a significant decrease in the cultivation and production of
opium, Burma's counter-narcotics performance in 2002 remained
inadequate. Building on its performance in 2001, the Government of
Burma did take some useful counter-narcotics measures during the past
year, which are recognized in the President's statement, including
cooperation with U.S. and regional counter-narcotics law enforcement
agencies and steps to implement newly passed anti-money laundering
However, large-scale poppy cultivation and opium production continued
and large quantities of methamphetamines were produced in and
trafficked from Burma, which had serious adverse consequences on
neighboring countries and throughout the region. In addition, seizures
of methamphetamines were significantly lowering in 2002 compared with
Burma also failed to take significant steps to curb involvement in
illicit narcotics trafficking by the largest, most powerful and most
important trafficking organization within its borders, the United Wa
State Army.
The Guatemalan Government's counter-narcotics performance deteriorated
substantially in 2002. Specifically, narcotics seizures and
narcotics-related prosecutions were sharply down. Police stole twice
the quantity of drugs that they officially seized and they were
identified with drug-related extrajudicial executions of both
narco-traffickers and civilians.
However, the Guatemalan Government did reopen negotiations with the
United States on a maritime counter-narcotics agreement and has begun
regularly destroying newly confiscated drugs not needed for evidence.
Following evidence of widespread corruption, the Guatemalan Government
also disbanded its narcotics police unit and has begun to reconstitute
a new anti-narcotics unit.
The President provided a vital national interest certification to
Guatemala because the suspension of assistance to Guatemala would
result in further deterioration of precisely those Guatemalan
institutions that are essential to combating the influence of
organized crime in Guatemala. Social and political problems underlying
that country's 36-year civil conflict remain and many peace accord
commitments have not been met.
Finally, Haiti. Haiti remains a major transshipment point for drugs,
primarily cocaine moving from South America to the U.S. market.
Regrettably, once again, Haiti's overall counter-drug commitment has
remained very weak. The Haitian Government took only two positive
actions to counter the flow of drugs last year. They did put into
force a bilateral maritime counter-narcotics interdiction agreement
and they established an as yet untested financial intelligence unit.
However, Haiti continued to have massive politicization of the
national police force, Haiti failed to commit additional resources to
their coast guard, and they did not increase the numbers of seizures
and arrests over those of prior years.
In the case of Haiti as well, we provided a vital national interest
waiver to enable assistance to continue. This assistance is important
in order to alleviate hunger, increase access to education, combat
environmental degradation, fight the spread of HIV/AIDS and foster the
development of civil society in Haiti. Discontinuation of such
programs would result in increased poverty, hopelessness and further
deterioration of Haitian institutions.
In addition to laying out the "Majors List" and citing these three
countries for de-certification, the President, in his letter, also
drew his attention to growing problems associated with synthetic
drugs. In that regard, he noted the increase in pseudoephedrine
shipments arriving in the United States from Canada over the past two
years, which is fueling clandestine methamphetamine production here in
the United States.
We are particularly concerned about this development in the context of
the upsurge in the abuse of synthetic drugs here in the U.S. and we
look to continued excellent cooperation with Canadian law enforcement
authorities on this important issue.
The President also noted our growing concern about the rising
consumption of ecstasy in the United States over the last several
years. Ecstasy abuse among 15- to 25-year-olds in the U.S. has
increased and it has moved beyond the rave scene into schools,
shopping malls and coffee shops. We continue to be concerned in this
regard about the Netherlands' role as the world's leading producer and
exporter of ecstasy, and this is noted as well in the President's
In 2001, Dutch Government sources estimate that more than 60 percent
of global seizures of ecstasy tablets originated in the Netherlands.
In addition, a total of 9.5 million ecstasy tablets were seized in the
United States and our law enforcement agencies believe that a majority
of these tablets originated in the Netherlands.
At the same time, we are working very closely with the Government of
the Netherlands and appreciate the seriousness with which it is
confronting the issue. We are confident that the Government of the
Netherlands is committed to close collaboration and cooperation
internationally to eliminate ecstasy production and trafficking. And
we look forward, as the President notes in his letter, to developing
cooperatively specific actions to more effectively combat criminal
elements and individuals responsible for the production and
trafficking of ecstasy.
Thank you very much, and I look forward to any questions you might
QUESTION: Could you give us a brief rundown on how the Colombians are
MR. SIMONS:  The Colombians?
MR. SIMONS: Do you want to talk about drug certification or more
QUESTION: No, more broadly. Have they made progress since the new
president took office?
MR. SIMONS: Very much so. We have been very impressed with President
Uribe's dedication to the counter-narcotics cause. President Uribe
identified drug trafficking as one of the principal sources of revenue
to the FARC and to the other terrorist groups in Colombia, and for
that reason he has rededicated himself to the objective of a
coordinated anti-narcotics effort, including an intensified aerial
eradication effort as a principal pillar in what he sees as an effort
to deny resources to the terrorists.
And in the final four months of last year, we were able to, through
aerial eradication, spray over 60,000 hectares of coca in the southern
part of Colombia, and we believe that we've begun to turn the corner
on coca production and we would hope to, with the strong cooperation
of the Colombia Government, maintain a very vigorous pace of
eradication this year in 2003.
So, overall, we have been very impressed with President Uribe's
commitment and dedication. It was taken up during the Secretary's
visit and I think the Secretary mentioned it in his press conference
in Bogota. So we're fully satisfied.
QUESTION: You had an interesting comment in your introductory remarks
about how the Guatemalan police had stolen more than double the amount
of illegal drugs that they had seized. How do you know that? Where
does that statistic come from?
MR. SIMONS: That statistic comes from our law enforcement agencies on
the ground in Guatemala.
QUESTION: Did they say they steal stuff and resell it, presumably? Or
they stole it and then they were caught stealing it?
MR. SIMONS: They may have had other -- they may have acquired it in
other ways and then sold it.
QUESTION: I'm curious. This is the first year, yes, that you guys have
-- or the President has talked about synthetic drugs in this report?
Or is that not correct?
MR. SIMONS: Well, synthetic drugs figure in a number of the statements
QUESTION:  But this is the first year that you guys have -- 
MR. SIMONS: I mean, for example, Burma is a substantial producer of
synthetic drugs, methamphetamines.
QUESTION: What I'm referring to is the Dutch and the Canadians here. I
mean, is this the first time that you guys have singled out countries
for not doing enough to cut down on --
MR. SIMONS: No. Last year, if you go back to last year, there was
language in the President's statement on the ecstasy issue and the
QUESTION:  Okay.  
MR. SIMONS: So this is an ongoing issue. But let me -- can I expand on
that a little bit? If you back to the drug -- the "Majors List"
legislation as it stands, it was put together back in the '70s and the
'80s when the major focus in terms of the law was on cultivation of
drugs, agricultural-based drugs -- coca, heroin and marijuana. So this
is an effort to bring the synthetic drugs picture into the equation.
QUESTION: Okay. Specifically on this, I just wanted to know what --
you say you expect Dutch authorities to move effectively and
measurably in the coming year. What do you expect them to do? And is
this -- do you expect them to do it because you know that they are in
the planning stages of doing something, or is this one of these we
expect them to do it because you think they should do it because it's
the right thing to do?
MR. SIMONS: No. We have discussed with them and we will be working
with them on a bilateral action plan on ecstasy over the course of the
next year, and we've been discussing this with them. This has been an
ongoing source of discussion between our law enforcement authorities
and Dutch law enforcement authorities.
QUESTION: And just with the Canadians, how is it that the President
can commend Canadian law enforcement agencies when they -- when he
also says that Canada has, for the most part, not regulated the sales,
their laws are not adequate, they should be stronger, and they have
had inadequate control of illegal diversion. I mean, I don't
understand how this -- how they come in for a commendation when he's
basically ripping them as being --
MR. SIMONS: Right. The issue here is the law enforcement agencies have
been doing a terrific job and we've had terrific bilateral
cooperation. The problem that we're citing is the legislation and the
legal regulations, which we don't think are strong enough. So there's
a distinction between the legislative framework and the law
enforcement side. And so what we're focusing on is the need to get
strengthening on the legislative regulatory side.
QUESTION: How did the U.S. Government see the performance of Mexico,
especially when, you know, we have been seeing a lot of cases where
the government has exposed corruption (inaudible) of the PGR.
And also, Mr. Masedo de la Concha, the General Attorney of Mexico, he
spoke about this problem that they having to make a more effective
interdiction at sea, especially because, you know, the lack of
resources. I wonder if the U.S. Government planned to support Mexico
to have a more effective interdiction at sea.
MR. SIMONS: All right. Our bilateral law enforcement and anti-drug
cooperation with Mexico during the year 2002 was the best it has ever
been. We are working very, very closely with the Mexicans across the
whole range of anti-drug cooperation areas. We're working together to
dismantle trans-border drug trafficking organizations. We have
specialized working groups functioning in areas including
interdiction, extradition, chemicals, money laundering and demand
Since there really has been a tremendous uptick in the level of
cooperation that we have been able to achieve with the Fox
administration, so we are very, very pleased with what we've been able
to do with the Mexicans over the last couple of years. In particular,
the operational cooperation between law enforcement agencies has
really strengthened.
QUESTION: How about the interdiction in international waters? I mean,
does the U.S. Government plan to support those efforts in order to
have a more effective labor in that area?
MR. SIMONS: We are. We are working together on interdiction. I'm not
aware of any difficulties that we're having. But we have an ongoing
working group that deals with that and we're working through all those
QUESTION: How does poppy cultivation in Afghanistan this year compare
with last year?
And second, on Guatemala, you focused on the police unit but there's
also been a lot of concern about the armed forces. Can you say
anything about that and what measures they might have done since the
October hearing to improve the situation?
MR. SIMONS: All right. The Afghan poppy crop runs from -- it's planted
in the fall and it's harvested the following summer. So the
information that we have relates to the crop that was harvested last
summer, 2002, and that crop was substantially larger than the crop the
year before. Farmers definitely returned to poppy cultivation in
Afghanistan and we have estimates that range up to at least 30,000
hectares of poppy were grown last year in Afghanistan, which is a
substantial increase and which returns it to one of the largest
poppy-growing countries.
This is obviously a very troubling development, but at the same time
we've been working internationally very actively to begin to provide
the Transitional Afghan Government with the tools that it needs to get
this situation under control. The UK has the lead on this among the
G-8 countries. We've devoted substantial resources. The UK has devoted
substantial resources. We're looking into the key areas, including
interdiction, alternative development, institution building.
But it's going to be a long-term process in Afghanistan. The rural
economy is very weak there. The security situation in the rural areas
is complex. And the institutions need to be completely rebuilt. And so
it's going to be a very difficult effort, but we're fully committed to
working with the Afghan Government, as well as the UK and other
international partners to make progress there.
On the issue of the Guatemalans, we identified corruption both in the
police force as well as in the military as problems in Guatemala. The
corruption is widespread in Guatemala and extends to all facets of the
security force, police as well as military.
QUESTION: Can I just follow on that? You think that active duty
members of either the police or the military comprise parts of
criminal organizations, or are they simply colluding?
MR. SIMONS:  I will have to get back to you on that one.  
QUESTION: Can I follow up on that? DEA has identified dozens of
Guatemalan military officers, active duty or retired, whom they have
accused of drug trafficking. But in nearly every case, only two of --
only two sanctions have been imposed. Either they've been discharged
from service by the Guatemalan military or they've had the privilege
of visiting the United States denied them by the U.S. Embassy.
The last officer who was so accused was General Ortega Menaldo, who is
a close associate, according to press reports, of President Portillo.
The Embassy denied his visa last March.
Now that the Bush Administration has decertified Guatemala, does the
State Department or the Administration plan on taking any measures to
try to bring any of these military officers, both active duty and
retired, to justice?
MR. SIMONS: I don't have anything on that. I'll have to get back to
QUESTION: Can I follow up on Afghanistan? What happened to the notion
of alternative crops? I think cotton was suggested maybe or something.
Is that in play or not?
MR. SIMONS: Right. Very much so. I mentioned that's one of the
pillars, alternative cropping, as well as strengthening of law
enforcement institutions, eradication and interdiction. It's underway.
We've put about $17 million into alternative cropping, starting
earlier this year. We have a major cotton project underway in Helman
Valley, which is the center of drug cultivation. We're looking at
other potential alternative crops.
But one of the complications is that the price of opium, despite
apparently large increases in production, has maintained itself
stubbornly high, about $500 a kilo. So the economic incentive
structure is definitely pointed in the direction of continued opium
cultivation. So that's a factor that, again, complicates the effort to
wean these farmers off these crops.
QUESTION: Just to follow on that, is it against U.S. policy to
outright pay farmers not to grow poppy?
MR. SIMONS: We don't have a program in place in Afghanistan where
people are paid not to grow. We don't -- the programs that we have
underway essentially provide for economic alternatives to growing
The British did have a program earlier this year in which -- which we
supported, which involved paying farmers compensation for eradicating
their crops. And that was underway earlier this year.
But the U.S. involvement in terms of alternative cropping has been
limited to providing funding for economic alternatives.
QUESTION: If I can follow on Afghanistan, please. Before we had
Taliban, the government that we could not talk about anything, but now
we have a new government there. So how much the new government is
cooperating as far as eliminating all these drugs and --
MR. SIMONS: The new government has been very cooperative in the
anti-drug effort. If you look back over the course of the past year,
within his first month in office President Karzai announced a total
ban not only on cultivation of poppy but also production and sale and
transport, which is well beyond where the Taliban had gone. And he
took some very politically courageous steps early last year to support
this eradication program that the British were involved in, which was
a very difficult program to undertake.
He has also been very active in supporting the establishment of
national drug control policy, drug control staff, and in getting
police units created to begin to go after the crops, and in seeking
additional alternative livelihood assistance from the donors.
So his commitment is there. The question, as with everything in
Afghanistan, is the situation on the ground. The very low base level
of initial institutions to work with implies that it will be a
long-term effort.
QUESTION: Just one more, I'm sorry. Since Pakistan is also producing
drugs there and neighboring Afghanistan, you think there is a link
between the two, Afghan farmers and Pakistan farmers? How much
relations are there or do you see any link?
MR. SIMONS: Well, we've been involved with Pakistan for about 20 years
now in eradication programs, and we believe that opium poppy has
virtually been eradicated in Pakistan. So Pakistan has been a transit
zone for Afghan-produced opium, but not a production zone. And we work
very closely with the Pakistani authorities, especially the
anti-narcotics force in Pakistan, to conduct operations against the
flows of Afghan drugs into Pakistan.
QUESTION: Back on Guatemala. How is this new Guatemala status going to
affect the ongoing free trade talks between Central America and the
MR. SIMONS: Well, as I mentioned, we did provide a vital national
interest certification to Guatemala, and my understanding is that --
I've got to find it here.
We are hopeful that Guatemala can change its record on
counter-narcotics cooperation before the free trade talks have
MR. BOUCHER: Okay, let's go to the last two questions. One down here
and one over there.
QUESTION: Yes, could you give us a little bit of status on the renewal
of aerial overflight interdiction, overflights in the Andes, and
whether you think that as these get a little bit more substantial once
again, whether you think that some of these countries, the transits,
might decrease? I mean, why they're still -- maybe that's why they're
still on the list, because of the flights.
MR. SIMONS: Well, renewal of the air bridge denial program is an
important priority for the Administration. It was discussed by the
Secretary during his visit to Colombia and the Secretary told
President Uribe, and he also told the press when he was there, that we
were going to work to get this program up and running as soon as
possible in the next year.
Since the Secretary's trip, which was in December, we have held two
rounds of negotiations with the Colombians. In fact, we've got a team
down there right now working with the Colombians to work out a number
of the safety provisions that Congress laid out in their modification
to the legislation in 2001 to make sure that when this program gets up
and running again that it incorporates appropriate safety provisions
that minimize the risk of the kind of accident that occurred in 2001.
We are hopeful that we can get these negotiations concluded very soon
and get this program up and running very shortly.
QUESTION: I'm sorry, can I just briefly follow up? Do you think that
the lack of the use of the air bridge has contributed to these Andean
countries continuing to be a major transit point?
MR. SIMONS: Certain we think that the air bridge would be a very
useful device to strengthen interdiction among the Andean countries.
The situation has changed a little bit. Back in the mid-'90s when the
air bridge was up and running in a big way, Peru and Bolivia were the
major cultivating countries and Colombia was a processing country.
Since then, the cultivation has largely shifted to Colombia, which is
now cultivating and processing. And this is where all that value-added
is now being concentrated with the terrorist groups in Colombia. It's
a major strategic change in the whole drug picture in South America.
So now you have the situation where the air bridge might be more
useful in terms of with respect to Colombia, instead of preventing,
say, coca from going from Peru to Colombia, it could be more useful in
preventing shipments out of Colombia, preventing drug proceeds from
returning to Colombia. So I think the utility is still there, but it
addresses kind of an evolving situation with respect to who's growing
and where the stuff is going.
Same thing with respect to, say, Peru and Bolivia. What we know now is
that a lot of the coca in that part of the Andes goes out via Brazil,
it goes to Brazil, it goes to Europe. It doesn't necessarily come to
the U.S., doesn't go up through Colombia. But air bridge could still
be a very useful device to prevent some of that shipment from taking
MR. BOUCHER:  Last one.
QUESTION: On Canada, please. The increasing amounts of high-potency
marijuana, is that an enforcement or a legislative failing? Or both?
MR. SIMONS: The marijuana issue is probably some combination of both.
I would say here, though, with respect to marijuana that the U.S. is
also a major producer and consumer of marijuana. Marijuana moves in
both directions across all of these borders. It certainly is an issue
of concern. It's an issue that we raise with the Canadians. But it's a
shared issue. And a lot of these issues are shared issues. We have the
pseudoephedrine issue involves Mexico, it involves the United States
and it involves Canada. These are shared challenges. So we have law
enforcement working together. We've got the judicial side working
So it really -- I don't think this is really an issue of trying to
QUESTION: But on that, on the pseudoephedrine, if I'm pronouncing it
correctly, Canada has just announced these new regulations on the 1st
of January. It's the position of the Administration that they're
inadequate. How are they inadequate? What should they say?
MR. SIMONS: We think they need to be strengthened. The situation with
respect to pseudoephedrine within the last five years, imports of
pseudoephedrine into Canada have gone from about 30 metric tons to
somewhere about 175 metric tons. We would like the Canadians to take a
closer look at who it is that's importing these substances and take a
closer look at the legitimate uses that might be in terms of these
importers. So we'd like them to take a look at the conditions for
sale, conditions for importation, and to make sure that they're
legitimate users.
QUESTION: And if I can have one last kick at this cat, the DEA has
suggested that money going back down the trail from the import into
Canada, the legitimate import into Canada, then the illicit export
into the United States, is winding up with terrorist groups, notably
Hezbollah. Is that the position of State?
MR. SIMONS:  I don't have anything on that one.  
QUESTION:  Thank you. 
MR. BOUCHER:  Thank you very much.
(end transcript)
(Distributed by the Office of International Information Programs, U.S.
Department of State. Web site: http://usinfo.state.gov)

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