Letter to the Majority and Minority Leaders of the Senate on Assistance to Mexico and the Bahamas

 

April 14, 1988

 

Dear XXXXX:

 

The Senate has before it resolutions to disapprove my certification of Mexico and The Bahamas under Section 481 (h) of the Foreign Assistance Act. Passage of these resolutions could result in more drugs entering the United States, not less. In the case of Mexico, significant damage to a broad range of major U.S. interests would also result. I strongly urge the Senate to vote both resolutions down.

 

Mexico

 

I understand a number of Senators are attracted by the idea that a ``national interest'' certification would send Mexico a needed message regarding the drug menace, while protecting the extensive bilateral and foreign policy interests we have there. Unfortunately, this would not be the case.

 

I have already sent that message, both in my February 13 meeting with President de la Madrid in Mazatlan and in the statement accompanying my ``full cooperation'' certification. It is absolutely clear, from the Mexican President's words and his Government's subsequent actions, that the message was received and understood.

 

Should the Congress now overturn the Administration's ``full cooperation'' certification, the political impact in Mexico would be harmful to U.S. interests. We believe, for example, that Mexico -- although it would continue to fight the drug traffic on its own -- would terminate U.S. ties to its aerial eradication program and reject the $14.5 million in direct anti-drug aid we currently provide. The ability of the DEA to operate efficiently in Mexico might also be impaired. The result would almost certainly be an increase in the flow of drugs to the United States.

 

The political impact of decertification by the United States would adversely affect every aspect of our relationship with Mexico, including trade, investment, immigration and vital border-area cooperation. The U.S. would become an issue in Mexico's current election campaign, and a more constructive bilateral relationship would become politically difficult for the next Mexican president. The political left and other elements in Mexico opposed to closer ties to the U.S. would get a new lease on life.

 

Moreover, I believe my certification decision was correct. While we fault Mexican efforts in some areas, we should not overlook the many positive actions they have taken. For instance: Mexico was the first Latin American country to sign and ratify a Mutual Legal Assistance Treaty with us; in 1987, they increased by 26% their eradication of marijuana while slightly improving opium poppy eradication; their seizures of all drugs in 1987 were up (cocaine by 75%; opium derivative 12%, and marijuana 400%); they arrested 9,800 persons for trafficking including nine major (class 1) narcotics violators.

 

In sum, I believe it would be both unfair and counterproductive for Congress to disapprove my certification of Mexico as a fully cooperating country.

 

The Bahamas

 

On March 1, I recommended full certification for The Bahamas. As with Mexico, the April 12 vote by the full Senate Foreign Relations Committee to deny such certification could seriously jeopardize our joint efforts to counter the flow of narcotics through that country.

 

When this issue comes before the Senate, it is important that this potential damage be avoided. I would like to review my rationale for full certification.

 

We have received excellent operational level cooperation from the Bahamian government. To date, no U.S. government request has been denied.

 

The Bahamas is the only country in the world which allows U.S. law enforcement units to enter its territory in hot pursuit of drug targets. These decisions reflect a political will by the Bahamian government to fight narcotics trafficking.

 

As a result of our bilateral, cooperative efforts, there was a 300% increase in marijuana and cocaine seizures in 1987 compared to 1986. Last year's seizures amounted to over 24,860 pounds of cocaine and 146.5 tons of marijuana.

 

Likewise, the Bahamian government made progress in 1987 in key areas of enforcement, investigation, and prosecution. A Mutual Legal Assistance Treaty (MLAT) was signed, and the Bahamian parliament now has passed implementing legislation. Negotiations have been proceeding extremely well on a new modern extradition treaty which would greatly broaden the scope of extraditable offenses. Tough new asset forfeiture laws have been enacted. Bahamians are taking steps to prosecute corruption offenders. And a new special drug court, and a proposal for a second, should relieve the over-burdened legal system.

 

With operational level cooperation excellent and anti-corruption efforts improving, we want to encourage and strengthen those Bahamians, including officials at the highest level, who clearly want to do more. Again, as with Mexico, I feel strongly the congressional action to overturn my recommendation for certification for The Bahamas would be seriously counterproductive and unjust.

 

Sincerely,

 

Ronald Reagan

 

Note: Identical letters were sent to Robert C. Byrd and Robert Dole, Majority and Minority Leaders of the Senate, respectively.