On Capitol Hill, meanwhile, lawmakers called for overhauling the report card process that often embarrasses U.S. allies.
Afghanistan and Myanmar, also known as Burma, continued their long-standing "decertified" status, making them subject to economic penalties that will have no real effect because the countries are under U.S. sanctions for other reasons.
Cambodia and Haiti were decertified but received a national security waiver of economic penalties. Nigeria and Paraguay, in the same category last year as Cambodia and Haiti, moved up to fully certified.
In addition to Mexico, Colombia, Nigeria and Paraguay, the other certified countries were:
- the Bahamas
- Dominican Republic
"Certification is more than an affront to Mexico and to other countries. It is a sham that should be denounced and canceled," Mexican President Vicente Fox said last year.
President Bush has endorsed a move in Congress to set aside the certification process and he told Fox during a Feb. 16 visit to Mexico that he would tout Fox's anti-drug efforts to U.S. lawmakers.
The report did praise Mexico's aggressive eradication program, saying that effort, plus drought in its principal drug cultivation areas, resulted in record low levels of opium poppy production.
But the report also noted: "Corruption of the law enforcement sector by drug trafficking organizations remains a serious institutional problem."
Regarding Colombia, the world's largest cocaine producer, the report said a U.S.-backed aerial eradication program successfully treated some 116,090 acres of coca and 22,230 acres of opium poppy last year. That led to a dramatic slowing in coca cultivation growth rates from an average of 22 percent per year from 1997 through 1999, to 11 percent last year, the report said.
Officials in Colombia said they were satisfied that the country's efforts were being recognized, although Gonzalo de Francisco, the official overseeing the eradication program, played down the certification as an "internal" U.S. exercise. Sen. Luis Eladio Perez of the opposition Liberal Party said the certification process was "a hateful and discriminatory system."
At a Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing, lawmakers promoted a variety of alternatives to certification.
Rand Beers, the State Department's top antidrug official, defended certification but said the administration was open to alternatives, with caveats. A replacement, Beers said, "should have an enforcement mechanism to ensure continued international cooperation," and if there is a suspension, the president must retain the ability to sanction countries.
Sen. Christopher Dodd, D-Conn., proposed suspending certifications for two years to develop a replacement, with the president able to continue certifications for specific countries.
Certification "has not been the silver bullet" to America's drug problem, Dodd said.
His proposal would build on an effort Beers cited, the Multilateral Evaluation Mechanism, a peer review system developed by the Organization of American States' anti-drug branch. It "parallels the goals and standards of the U.S. certification process and could, potentially, make our unilateral process an anachronism in the Western Hemisphere," Beers said.
An alternative from Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-Calif., would retain certifications while exempting countries that sign bilateral anti-drug agreements with the United States. Decertification would be "a hammer that is unfortunately needed if a country turns its back on cooperating with us," said Boxer, who co-authored the plan with Sen. Phil Gramm, R-Texas.
Delaware Sen. Joseph Biden, the panel's top Democrat, supported Dodd's proposal but defended certifications.
"We got absolutely zero cooperation" from drug-producing countries when certification was proposed, Biden said. "Mexico wouldn't even talk to us in 1978, 1981. I got all these lectures about how this is all our problem, this is a gringo problem."
©MMI The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed