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De la Madrid Lectures Reagan on Drug Effort : Defends Mexico's Fight to Halt Cultivation and Smuggling, Says U.S. Fails to Curb Consumption

February 14, 1988|JAMES GERSTENZANG and DAN WILLIAMS | Times Staff Writers

MAZATLAN, Mexico — President Miguel de la Madrid of Mexico on Saturday lectured President Reagan on the United States' failure to stem the use of illegal drugs, and he defended Mexico's role in the fight against drug smuggling.

Drug traffic, a major irritant in U.S.-Mexican relations for the past several years, became the main point of discussion in the sixth--and probably final--summit meeting of the two lame-duck leaders.

During a private, 45-minute meeting in this seaside resort city, De la Madrid sought to convince Reagan that no country is doing more than Mexico to halt cultivation and movement of drugs, the White House said.

'Strength and Effectiveness'

In a toast to Reagan after a working lunch, the Mexican president said that production, distribution and consumption of drugs must be "attacked with similar strength and effectiveness."

De la Madrid argued that Mexico's anti-drug effort is not appreciated in the United States and declared, "It is unlikely that any other country has allocated, in percentage terms, the amount of budgetary, technical and human resources that the office of the (Mexican) attorney general and the armed forces have devoted to this task."

Drug consumption, he emphasized, "continues to have a determining influence in the criminal chain." In recent months, Mexican officials have complained that although U.S. officials criticize Mexican anti-drug efforts, they have little to show for their own campaigns against drug use.

Mexico is the largest source of marijuana and heroin entering the United States, and one-third of the cocaine reaching the United States arrives by way of Mexico after having been manufactured elsewhere, American authorities maintain.

The White House said that during their private meeting, Reagan recognized the worth of Mexico's anti-drug efforts, but Reagan also told his host, "This is the year we have to show results."

Reagan, in a formal toast, asserted that drug consumption is declining in the United States. "The people of the United States are now turning away from drugs," he said.

The narcotics discussion was timely, because by the end of February, the United States must decide whether to certify that Mexico is effectively fighting drug traffic. Failure to grant such certification could threaten Mexico's access to loans from the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund, sources for more than $2 billion in loans to this country during the past 18 months.

Assistant Secretary of State Elliott Abrams told reporters aboard Air Force One, as Reagan flew here from Los Angeles, that there was "a serious possibility" that the United States would express dissatisfaction with Mexico's effort but grant it the certification on the strength of Mexico's importance to the national security of the United States.

Other Disagreements Muted

Other than drugs, disagreement on bilateral issues appeared to be muted during the meeting of approximately four hours between the two chiefs of state.

Reagan raised the sensitive subject of Central America, a topic that has strained relations between the two nations. Washington and Mexico differ about approaches to resolve the continuing guerrilla conflicts there. Mexico, under De la Madrid, has opposed Reagan's aid to the Contras fighting Nicaragua's Sandinista regime.

But Reagan told his Mexican colleague that "Mexico and the United States have a common interest in stable, free, and democratic governments in this hemisphere."

"I would hope this common interest will manifest itself in a common stand against the expansion of totalitarianism," Reagan said.

De la Madrid reiterated Mexico's longstanding position favoring negotiations rather than arms to resolve the Nicaraguan conflict, but he appeared to urge the Sandinistas to fulfill the promises they have made to embrace democratic reforms, saying, "We must strive for peace, which will only be possible if all the governments of Central America, without exception, comply with the commitments that they have made."

De la Madrid, dressed in a blue suit and yellow tie, listed areas in which the United States and Mexico have cooperated successfully, including efforts to restructure Mexico's $107-billion foreign debt. Reagan, in blue with a red tie, praised his colleague's handling of Mexico's economy and predicted that history would treat the record of the De la Madrid administration kindly.

Mexican Economy Ailing

Mexico is suffering from triple-digit inflation, high unemployment and virtual economic stagnation.

In one area of economic-related progress cited by officials, U.S. Trade Representative Clayton K. Yeutter and Hector Hernandez, Mexico's secretary of commerce and industrial development, signed a four-year agreement increasing by 6% the limits on Mexican textile and apparel exports to the United States. These exports by Mexico now account for 3.8% of American textile imports.

The two leaders met at a beachside hotel in Mazatlan on a cloudless, breezy afternoon.

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