Drug trafficking sparks war of words between US and Mexico

The war against drug trafficking has taken a back seat to the war of words between Mexico and the United States about which country is responsible for the increase in illegal narcotic trade. In a hearing Tuesday before a US Senate Foreign Relations Committee, US federal officials said that drug trafficking through Mexico into the US has sharply increased because of massive corruption among Mexican law enforcement authorities. In a sharp response, the Mexican government said the testimony was slanderous and an attack on Mexico's sovereignty.

The drug problem is a question of supply and demand, says the Mexican government. If the US were to clamp down on consumption, there would be fewer dealers using Mexico as a production and transshipment center for the lucrative and burgeoning US drug market.

The Mexican government responded tersely Monday to a US State Department report published earlier that day which also said the illicit traffic is growing as a result of Mexican corruption and complacency. The Mexican response said Mexico has increased efforts to eradicate drug crops and had more success than many other countries. But it said that the problem is an international one which cannot be tackled by one country alone and that the problem of consumption must be solved.

``The report shows how mistaken they [the State Department] are. As a matter of fact, in the first three months of this year, we have captured more drugs than in all of 1985,'' said a high-ranking official close to Mexican President Miguel de la Madrid Hurtado.

The Mexican government said it seized 5,637 pounds of cocaine in 1985, which is more than was seized in all of Western Europe in the same period.

The State Department's claim that high-ranking Mexican officials were involved in the trade was also refuted by the official: ``If they have the names and evidence, why don't they submit them to the President of the Republic [de la Madrid] instead of just throwing stones?''

Ironically, the State Department's criticism of Mexico's drug eradication efforts came less than a month after US Attorney General Edwin Meese 3rd met with Mexican Attorney General Sergio Garc'ia Ram'irez and declared ``we are convinced that progress has been made in the course of the past 13 months.'' Mr. Meese also said he was ``terribly impressed'' with Mexico's efforts.

Mexico says, given its financial limitations, ``the amount of resources earmarked by Mexico for this undertaking is very high, proportionately higher than the amount allocated for the same purpose by other countries with greater economic capacity.''

Since early 1985, when a US Drug Enforcement Agency officer was killed in Mexico by drug lords, there has been friction between the two neighbors. The US has pressured Mexico to find the assassins and to step up its drug eradication program. Many Mexicans resent this emphasis, and say many of their own people -- 22 last year -- have died trying to fight the drug problem.

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