Senate rejects decertifying Mexico as ally in drug war Action is Clinton victory after House vote last week to overturn designation

March 21, 1997|By KNIGHT-RIDDER NEWS SERVICE

WASHINGTON -- A heated dispute over Mexico's drug-fighting efforts ended quietly yesterday, when the Senate voted 94-5 to order a five-month review of Mexican efforts to combat narcotics trade.

The action means that Congress did not follow through on earlier threats to overturn President Clinton's 3-week-old certification that Mexico is a committed soldier in the war against drugs.

Yesterday's vote embraced a hard-fought compromise designed to rebuke Mexico without upsetting its delicate economy.

It lets Clinton's decision stand, but allows Congress to express its discontent with Mexico's anti-drug efforts, which a bipartisan group of senators called inept, inefficient and corrupt.

"The Congress rejects the administration's claim that Mexico has fully cooperated with the United States," said Sen. Dianne Feinstein, the California Democrat who is a leader in the effort to clamp down on Mexico. "The evidence is overwhelming."

Feinstein warned: "If there is inadequate progress made, it leaves no alternative, really, but to fuel up for a massive decertification battle in a year."

Both Maryland senators voted for the compromise.

The House voted last week to overturn Clinton's certification that Mexico was a drug-war ally, but gave the administration 90 days to win new assurances from Mexico that it is fully committed to the international anti-narcotics fight.

That vote drew a storm of protest in Mexico, and the White House swiftly turned its attention to the Senate in hopes of

winning a more watered-down version of the drug bill there.

Pub Date: 3/21/97

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