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Report on Mexico's Anti-Drug Efforts Leaves Feinstein Dubious

Narcotics: Senator's reaction to White House survey could portend another fight over issue next year.


WASHINGTON — A generally optimistic White House survey of Mexico's anti-drug activity has failed to persuade Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), perhaps the most vocal congressional critic on the issue, that the country has become a fully cooperative partner with the United States in stemming the narcotics trade.

Feinstein's wary reaction Tuesday presaged the possibility of another bruising battle early next year when the Clinton administration goes through the annual process of either certifying Mexico as an anti-drug partner or finding it liable for possible economic and diplomatic sanctions.

"The overall tone of the report," Feinstein said, "is infused with a sense of optimism that Mexico has turned the corner and is finally on the road to defeating its drug trafficking problem. That view strikes me as unduly optimistic."

The report, prepared by the office of federal anti-drug czar Gen. Barry R. McCaffrey and released Tuesday, drew a more sympathetic response from Sen. Paul Coverdell (R-Ga.), who joined Feinstein earlier this year in fighting certification of Mexico. Coverdell described himself as "overall . . . encouraged by this report."

"I believe Gen. McCaffrey recognizes that we must begin to better manage our border," the Georgia senator said, "and the content of today's briefing [on the report] suggests that he understands the true scope and complexity of the drug problem."

McCaffrey, asked at the briefing whether he believed the report made a good case for certification of Mexico next year, had replied: "We have a serious cooperation effort. They are sick of the violence, the corruption and the threat to their own institutions, and so are we. And we are going to work together."

Feinstein, in contrast, said: "I do not believe that Mexico had earned certification last March. By the standard of this report, I am not at all sure they have earned it for this year. But there are still six months to go until the certification report is due. That is six months to produce results."


The report said corruption still hampers Mexico's anti-drug efforts. But as The Times reported Tuesday, it stressed the positive, praising Mexican officials for earnestly trying to deal with the problem. It predicted that Mexico will throw off the shackles of corruption as its political system becomes more democratic.

The report was an outgrowth of the certification battle earlier this year. In a carefully negotiated compromise, the Senate agreed not to vote to overturn certification after the administration promised an update on Mexico's anti-drug progress within six months.

McCaffrey devoted much of his news conference Tuesday to a plea for more technology at border entry points to prevent trucks from transporting drugs into the United States. He said a giant X-ray machine, originally designed to peer through the casings of Soviet ballistic missiles, has halted the flow of cocaine through Otay Mesa, Calif.

"You can't do it with mirrors, fiber optics or astute questioning of the drivers," he said.

McCaffrey said that eight more X-ray machines will be delivered by the end of the year and that his ultimate goal is to install the equipment at each of the 39 U.S.-Mexico border entry points.

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