The Senate Foreign Relations Committee did the right thing when it voted unanimously last week to suspend for three years the "drug certification" process.
That's the policy, enacted back in 1986 during the height of "just say no" drug-war fervor, by which Washington rates countries according to their cooperation with US antinarcotics efforts. It has become a persistent irritant in hemispheric relations. The three-year trial suspension should lead to a permanent end to the policy.
Mexico, in particular, chafed under the yearly prospect of being castigated for noncooperation. Now Mexico may be the reason why the certification program may be phased out.
Senate Foreign Relations Committee chairman Jesse Helms (R) of North Carolina, is usually not too concerned about complaints from other countries. He is, however, attentive to Mexico's new, free-market, pro-US president, Vicente Fox. And Mr. Fox, no less than his predecessors, thinks drug certification has been a diplomatic disaster. He, like many Latin American critics, has argued that the US often appeared to be pointing the finger of blame for narcotics everywhere but at itself, with its huge and continuing demand for illicit drugs.
The committee's bill would still authorize the president to designate the worst offenders among drug-producing and -transporting countries, and apply sanctions. The emphasis, however, would be on international antinarcotics agreements, not unilateral US judgments. Certainly, Congress should back this step toward better teamwork in fighting drugs.
(c) Copyright 2001. The Christian Science Monitor