The International War on Drugs - Drug Certification Process

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To promote international cooperation to control drug production and trafficking, the United States uses the drug certification process, which involves the threat of, or application of, sanctions for noncompliance. Sanctions range from suspension of U.S. foreign assistance and preferential trade benefits to curtailment of air transportation. Another major sanction is public criticism for failing the standard.

Sections 489 and 490 of the Foreign Assistance Act (FAA) of 1961 (PL 87-195), as amended, established the drug certification process. The process was most recently amended as a result of the Foreign Relations Authorization Act, 2002-2003, signed into law on September 30, 2002. The president is required to submit to Congress an annual list of major drug-producing and drug-transiting countries, and also to certify the countries that have been fully cooperative with U.S. or United Nations (UN) narcotics-reduction goals (and are, therefore, fully eligible to receive U.S. foreign aid). Congress has the option of disapproving the president's certification within thirty days. If Congress does that, financial aid permitted to flow under the president's certification may be stopped by Congress.

In 2003 President George W. Bush determined that twenty-three countries were major drug-producing or drug-transiting countries: Afghanistan, the Bahamas, Bolivia, Brazil, Burma, China, Colombia, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, Guatemala, Haiti, India, Jamaica, Laos, Mexico, Nigeria, Pakistan, Panama, Paraguay, Peru, Thailand, Venezuela, and Vietnam. In 2001 Cambodia had been on the list. President Bush also determined all but three of these countries to be in full compliance with the goals and objectives of the 1988 United Nations Convention against Illicit Traffic in Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances. Burma, Guatemala, and Haiti were designated as failing demonstrably "to adhere to their obligations under international counternarcotics agreements and take the measures set forth in section 489(a)(1) of the FAA" (Presidential Determination No. 2003-14, The White House, January 31, 2003, http://www.whitehouse.gov/news/releases/2003/01/20030131-7.html). The president further determined that assistance to Guatemala and Haiti were of vital interest to the United States, thus denying aid only to Burma.

Two years earlier, in the first months of 2001, Afghanistan as well as Burma were denied aid by the certification process. Since that time, the Taliban ruling Afghanistan was removed from power and a government cooperating with U.S. and international objectives was elected by a tribal process under UN supervision. The new administration, led by Hamid Karzai in Kabul, the capital, had not been able to stop the opium trade as of 2005. The certification process, however, appears to reward or to punish other countries not for actual performance, but for their attempts. Under the Taliban, a regime hostile to the United States, poppy growing had been all but eliminated, whereas poppy cultivation reached new highs under the Karzai regime. At the same time, most of the cocaine and heroin reaching the United States now comes from Colombia and Mexico, but both of these countries have been actively involved with the United States in eradication and alternative development programs, both of which require U.S. aid.

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