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Latin Americans Call for International Cooperation in Drug War

June 25, 1996

UNITED NATIONS (AP) _ Admitting failure in the war on drugs, Latin American officials called for global efforts Tuesday to combat narcotics, which they said threaten the region’s political stability.

Addressing the opening session of a U.N. conference on drugs, Mexican Attorney General Antonio Lozano said his government considers ``narcotics trafficking the main threat to our national security, one that affects both the health of Mexicans and the stability of their society.″

``We are resolved to spare no effort to reduce the ... production, processing, trafficking and consumption of illicit drugs in our territory,″ Lozano said.

Drug trafficking is a sensitive issue between the Latin American nations where narcotics are produced and the United States, the biggest market.

The U.S. General Accounting Office said last week that U.S. and Mexican efforts to curb the flow of cocaine from South America into the United States have had ``little, if any, impact.″

The congressional watchdog agency blamed decreases in U.S. anti-drug aid to Mexico and ineffective Mexican drug control agencies.

Last March, President Clinton imposed economic sanctions on Colombia and decertified it as an ally in the fight against drug trafficking, citing evidence that President Ernesto Samper funded his 1994 campaign with $6 million in contributions from the Cali cartel, the world’s most powerful drug syndicate.

Colombia’s House of Representatives absolved Samper this month of drug trafficking charges. But the Clinton administration has threatened tough sanctions, including lifting $30 million in trade preferences, if Colombia fails to cooperate fully in the drug war.

Colombian Foreign Minister Rodrigo Pardo blamed the failure to combat narcotics trafficking on the lack of a ``truly global transnational strategy against drugs.″

``We must not deceive ourselves,″ Pardo said. ``We need a new approach. A truly multilateral effective strategy must be based on technical, not political criteria.″

Both speakers also urged the United Nations to develop a worldwide strategy to combat money laundering, in which billions of dollars in drug profits move freely to safe havens outside the jurisdiction of countries where the drug lords operate.

``The United Nations, as the sole global forum, must make a special effort to agree on a uniform international instrument ... for preventing, detecting and penalizing money laundering,″ Lozano said.

Speaking for the European Union, Italy’s Deputy Interior Minister Angelo Giorgianni said the fight against money laundering targets the foundations of the drug trade.

He urged countries to review bank secrecy laws and other financial regulations that ``hinder the detection and prosecution of serious crimes.″

In defending his government, Pardo said Colombia had paid ``an immensely high price″ in fighting the Medellin and Cali drug cartels.

``But we have to accept that, unquestionably, the effects of illicit drugs remain the greatest of all our evils,″ Pardo said. ``Drugs are the source of violence and corruption, and the root cause of it.″

Pardo said his government planned to pass new laws that would end the present policy of letting drug lords surrender in exchange for lighter sentences, as well as lengthening prison terms for drug offenses and giving police authority to seize property obtained with drug profits.

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