Report card on drugs earns a failing grade

Posted: Friday, March 02, 2001

The following editorial appeared in today's Los Angeles Times:

Every year on March 1, the White House issues a report card on the drug-fighting performance of other countries. The purpose of the report is to induce other nations to cooperate in the U.S. war against narcotics. What it actually does is anger the countries involved and convince them of Washington's arrogance.

Consider the words of Mexican President Vicente Fox: "Certification is more than an affront to Mexico and to other countries. It is a sham that should be denounced and canceled." And that's from the politically conservative leader of a friendly neighboring nation.

Last year nearly 15 million Americans spent more than $60 billion to buy illegal drugs. And since 1981 the United States has spent more than $30 billion on foreign interdiction and anti-narcotics programs in source countries. Today, foreign drugs are cheaper and more readily available than 20 years ago. Certification seems to have done nothing to reduce cultivation, processing, transportation or use.

Facing these realities, U.S. Sens. Christopher J. Dodd, D-Conn., John McCain, R-Ariz., Ernest F. Hollings, D-S.C., and Charles Hagel, R-Neb., have introduced a bill that urges President Bush to better balance U.S. efforts on supply and demand in the drug trade. Among the bill's provisions is a call for a two-year suspension of the annual certification process.

Bush has said he would like to set aside the certification process, and there is certainly time to do it before the next report is due.

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