Press Briefing by U.S. National Drug Policy Director General Barry McCaffrey, Secretary of Health and Human Service Donna Shalala, Attorney General Janet Reno, and Special Envoy to the Americas Mack McLarty
The United Nations
New York, New York
11:25 A.M. EDT
GENERAL MCCAFFREY: Let me, if I may, briefly make some opening comments and begin by -- I'm Barry McCaffrey, the U.S. National Drug Policy Director; and am joined by the Attorney General Janet Reno, and Secretary of Health and Human Services Donna Shalala, and Mr. Mack McLarty, who has been our Special Envoy for Latin American issues -- underscore the participation of the U.S. national delegation this morning of Secretary Dick Riley, who is our Secretary of Education. It was an important statement for the President not only to give this address, but also to be joined by the senior officials of his government who work on the U.S. national drug strategy.
Very briefly, let me comment on the President's remarks. First of all, it was our purpose to underscore that there was a year's hard work behind the three days of this absolutely enormously important gathering of 150 nations and more than 30 heads of government. And that hard work was in many ways put together not only by the active intervention of Mexican leadership and others, but also by Mr. Arlacchi of the UNDCP, as you know, based in Vienna. It is a viewpoint of many of us, to include President Clinton and our government, that he bring to bear on this subject a renewed sense of energy and vision which we think can produce some enormous good in the years to come.
The President tried to make several fundamental statements; first, that there is a commonality in the problem shared in the world community, that it's no longer appropriate to talk in terms of producer nations, transit and consumer, but to recognize that there are some 200 million addicts in the world community. And in addition, we have been quick to underscore in the United States that we are now a drug producing nation, and we're seeing the rise of methamphetamines and chemically-produced drugs as part of that new threat on the drug issue in the United States.
Secondly, the President made the point that this was an issue that had to be addressed through community of action. And we began that process at Santiago, Chile, a few months back, when at the second Summit of the Americas we had 34 democratically-elected heads of government in the region come together and commit to a process, using the Organization of American States as the mechanism, to cooperation on the north-south access. So it's a question of community.
Third, the President committed ourselves to stand behind the leadership of the U.N. in an attempt to fundamentally change the nature of the drug threat to all of us. We believe it is possible -- this is not a war that has been fought and lost, this is the beginning of an international effort which has seen enormous beginning success in Thailand, in Pakistan, in Peru, and now we're beginning to see movement in Bolivia. We believe it is possible to very drastically slash the production of these illegal drugs, and, even more importantly, to reduce drug demand. And certainly Thailand is a model to many of us to also reduce the demand coefficient. The United States, as the President mentioned, has also successfully reduced, for example, cocaine consumption by more than 70 percent in the last decade.
And, finally, I think all of us believe that the notion of cooperation is going to be fundamental to what we're trying to achieve, and cooperation not just in the obvious areas of intelligence sharing, of cooperation in interdiction, of detection and monitoring, but in the more important ways of sharing evidence and judicial extradition of those who are wanted in one country for violating the law of another, and most importantly, of cooperation on demand reduction. And I would underscore that Mexico and the United States, since we have a very special relationship, have begun that process of having very close contacts, using Secretary Shalala and others to reduce and to share information on demand reduction.
Finally, the President announced that -- when you hear the number it's rather dramatic -- that he is now asking for continued bipartisan support from the U.S. Congress for a $2 billion, 5-year campaign to speak to our own children and to their adult mentors about the destructive impact of drugs. And that will go nationwide in July, and you will see on television, radio, the Internet, print media, billboards, sponsorship programs, public-private partnerships, one of the most sophisticated efforts, guided in large part by a Partnership for a Drug Free America group, Mr. Jim Burke and others, which we hope will provide another important element to the reduction of drug use in the United States.
On that note, if you can, let me introduce the first of the three most important people in my life, Secretary Shalala, the Attorney General and Secretary Dick Riley.
Madam Attorney General.
Q: What about your wife?
GENERAL MCCAFFREY: Well, she didn't make the cut today -- I'm sorry. (Laughter.)
ATTORNEY GENERAL RENO: We defer to her.
Today is a very important day, for we have seen the nations of the world come together to focus on how they, together, can fight drugs. No nation can wage this battle alone and we all need to be allies.
I have long said that our efforts against drugs must be long-range and they must be comprehensive if we are to deal with the violence, the suffering, and the problems associated with drugs. We must vigorously enforce our drug laws and go after those organizations that flood our streets with drugs, with violence. We must do so by disrupting and dismantling their operations.
Secondly, we must also teach our young people that using drugs is a dangerous road to nowhere, and we must enhance prevention programs in every way possible.
Finally, we must continue the common sense treatment programs that are so successful in cutting down on the demand. If there is no demand, there is no drug business. And we must work together to ensure that those who go to prison for using drugs, or who abuse drugs, have the treatment that will enable them to come back to the community when they are released from prison with a chance of success.
These are all important steps that can work and are working, but they must be carried out comprehensively and together by us all. No nation can sit on the sidelines; by working together, all our nations can help make our communities safer places in which to live.
SECRETARY SHALALA: Thank you, General McCaffrey.
One of the themes today is that all the senior members of the President's Cabinet see themselves as part of the international drug control and prevention efforts. Last month, at the World Health meetings, Dr. Gro Brundtland, the new Director General of WHO, called for more global cooperation on global health problems. And we certainly see drug abuse as a global health problem and are committed to gathering our resources and our will and our efforts to fight drug abuse together. And that's why our antidrug strategy includes sharing with other nations our most effective ways for curbing drug abuse and addiction.
We've held prevention training courses all over the world, including Bangladesh and Thailand and Peru and Colombia and Japan and many of the nations in Europe, as well as Central and South America. We've also shared our drug research findings. For instance, under our bilateral health agreement, our research scientists are collaborating with Russian scientists on addiction treatment. And our guide to preventing drug use among children and teens has been translated into a number of languages, including Spanish.
And several nations, including Mexico and Turkey, have launched their own high school drug use epidemiology studies, based on our monitoring the future study. In other words, our underlying research is being used around the world as models, as nations put their own surveillance systems in place and culturally sensitive translations of some of the strategies that we've used and the materials that we've used.
The initiatives that the President announced today, the virtual university and the international drug fellowship program, we believe will reinforce these international efforts in prevention and in research.
We've got a very good story to tell the world about fighting drug use. It's no accident that it's dropped here in the past decade. It took a lot of leadership, but more importantly, it took consistency and our willingness to be nimble and to change programs, to change materials, to change strategies, as we will demonstrate this summer, as we learned new things.
But our children are still vulnerable, and the President has challenged us to cut the rate of drug use on the demand side in half within 10 years. And to reach that target, we've asked Congress for the largest antidrug budget in history -- $17 billion, including $6 billion to fight drug demand with very strong media campaigns and very solid prevention, research, and treatment programs.
There is no silver bullet, as General McCaffrey has consistently pointed out. It takes a full-court press, a complex set of prevention and research and treatment programs to really have an impact, and a particular focus on young people.
As we harness global cooperation, we're also asking Congress to step up and pass the President's budget, to pass his antidrug budget, which will have not only an enormous impact on our own country, but will help our international efforts, which are considerable.
MR. MCLARTY: This global approach the President outlined today, as did President Zedillo and other speakers will as well, I think has as one of its critical foundational pieces the Summit of the Americas process that began in Miami, and as General McCaffrey referred to, a multilateral approach and alliance, indeed, was agreed upon at the Santiago Summit.
The progress that has been made in terms of that cooperation, the President noted in his remarks, in Bolivia and Peru, where we see substantial crop eradication, as well as Mexico. And I think has changed some of the basic patterns of not only the narco traffickers' distribution routes, but also the more fundamental aspects of their business. And I think that we are making real progress in that regard. But it is clearly not only a supply, but a demand effort, indeed.
I think the President's assessment that progress, real progress, which General McCaffrey, Secretary Shalala and General Reno have spoken to, should not be confused with the complete success in this very sustained effort that is absolutely critical.
And I think, finally, the line has not only blurred in terms of demand and supply, which we see certainly in this hemisphere, but also in terms of foreign and domestic issues, but in terms of security and economic issues as well. Clearly, the effort we are making against narco traffickers is absolutely critical in terms of building stable and prosperous economies throughout our hemisphere.
It will indeed take a community of action. I will have the opportunity to meet with a number of heads of state from Latin America who are here, in our common effort against the narco traffickers. And the United Nations is certainly the proper place to move forward in a critical endeavor in the coming months and years.
Q: The President said today we must and we can deprive traffickers of their dirty money that strengthens the drug trade. Apparently, that's what Operation Casablanca tried to do. But was it worth it, given what appears to be the damage it has created between the United States and Mexico?
GENERAL MCCAFFREY: Well, first of all, let me begin with a fundamental understanding that the U.S. probably spends $57 billion a year on illegal drugs. So I remind people, the United States does not have the world's addict population, we have too much money. So the money out of Western Europe and the United States, to some extent, fuels this international crime threat. And that crime threat -- Secretary Rubin has provided brilliant leadership over the last three years to find common laws, particularly in this hemisphere, to combat money laundering and asset seizure. There's been enormous progress.
Now, secondly, let me just underscore our enormous pride in the dedication of U.S. law enforcement -- in the Department of Treasury and Justice -- in aggressively pursuing international crime. The problem is not Colombia or Panama or the Cayman Islands or Peru or the United States. The problem is international crime that is corrosive to the democratic institution of all these countries.
Now, I'm also persuaded, as are the rest of the President's team, that we have to do this in partnership with our neighbors and with absolute respect and deference for their own sovereign institutions.
There's probably some room here for -- I think the Attorney General may wish to speak to it, but there's some room here for us to look through how we can even more effectively coordinate these in the future.
Q: -- damage done by Casablanca -- according to Mexican authorities.
GENERAL MCCAFFREY: I think there is a common belief on the part of both these Presidents, Zedillo and Clinton, that one of the dominant threats to our democratic institutions and our families is the drug issue. And so there's no question but that this threatens both populations and requires a mutually respectful partnership to confront it.
Q: They're asking the General if he will take agents and extradite them to Mexico. Is that proper?
Q: On behalf of the United States Correspondents Association, we welcome you here, ladies and gentlemen, to this briefing. The first question, as it should have been, is -- as you've been watching television lately, you've been seeing some active lobbying going on which purports that the drug strategy of the United States is a failure, to put it bluntly. It seems to be backed by a good number of influential people, from this context, probably the most surprising one is Perez de Cuellar, the former Secretary General here. Is that likely to have any impact on the American strategy?
GENERAL MCCAFFREY: We're listening very carefully to the viewpoints of a very diverse community and we have great respect for the insights of some of the people that are represented in that ad. We've tried to share as widely as we can that the administration's strategy does take into account a fairly comprehensive approach that is based fundamentally on the reduction of drug demand. So I think in many cases, this is a 1990s reaction to a 1950s perception.
Having said that, in addition, I think there are probably mixed agendas out of some in this debate. I think we are -- certainly Secretary Shalala and I, and Secretary Riley believe that the heart and soul of the U.S. strategy is watch our budgets, the 1999 budget. And if you go back three years ago, it has a 33-percent increase in drug prevention funding. There is a dramatic increase in drug treatment funding. And now we're linking it to the criminal justice system.
Let me, if I can, defer to the Attorney General and Secretary Shalala, to talk to about just the nature of our own approach.
ATTORNEY GENERAL RENO: I think in the last several years we have focused on a balanced approach that includes prevention, education, treatment and enforcement. For example, in enforcement we have shown significant results with drug courts which use a carrot and stick approach of cooperate with us in treatment or face a more serious sanction each step of the way. And I think balanced approaches like this, provision for treatment, thoughtful follow-up with after-care are making a significant difference.
SECRETARY SHALALA: There are no substitutes for the initial prevention strategies -- and that is parents and teachers and the institutions in our society at the community level sending a consistent message to young people and reinforcing that message and helping young people go through that transition through to adolescence drug free. And there's no silver bullet for this and there's not a chance that we're going to give up and throw up our hands and walk away from what we think is a fundamental public health issue.
GENERAL MCCAFFREY: And one which, I might add, we're actually doing in the 15-year context quite well at. We're dissatisfied with it. We think -- in 1979, 14 percent of the population was regularly using drugs. Now it's 6 percent. But it's still historically unacceptably high. And so the President has committed us to a long-term approach to grind it down by more than half. And we are persuaded we can do that.
Q: I have a question for the Attorney General. The foundation that Mr. Sorros, George Sorros backs is in favor of legalizing drugs. I'd like your attitude on that. And I have a question for Secretary Shalala, if the U.N. is to be a focal point for this war on drugs worldwide, shouldn't the U.S. pay its dues of $1.6 billion to the organization?
ATTORNEY GENERAL RENO: I'm opposed to the legalization of drugs because I have seen so many instances in which people who were abusers were motivated into treatment by the threat of sanction. And I think the balanced approach that includes vigorous enforcement and focus on traffickers and appropriate sanctions against users, coupled with treatment can have a dramatic impact.
SECRETARY SHALALA: In particular, we believe that public health issues ought to be based on science. And there is clear evidence that marijuana is dangerous to our health and, therefore, we ought not to be making public policies, particularly in this area, that do not reflect the danger of those drugs -- no matter what those drugs are. There is no such thing as a soft drug, and there is no such thing as a drug that is illegal that is not dangerous. And the new research on marijuana in particular makes that very clear.
Q: The program laid out by Mr. Arlacchi includes an important element, the idea of inducing countries that are drug producers to go into crop substitution that would eliminate their production of narcotics. There have been reports in recent days that the United States government is unwilling to contribute funds to the carrying out of this program in certain countries, particularly Afghanistan and Myranmar. Could you shed some light on this and tell us if that is correct or not?
GENERAL MCCAFFREY: Let me begin by saying that the plan is not on the table yet. Mr. Arlacchi's evolving thinking on the elimination of coke and opium production in the coming decade is not yet in the form of a plan that's on the table -- never mind with an attendant cost estimate package to go with it. So much of this is sort of presumptuous thinking.
Now, the second assertion many of us would make is that it is not clear to me that resources will bulldoze the solution. We've had dramatic successes in Peru with somewhat modest help from the international community. The most important ingredient at stake was Peruvian political will and the reintroduction of civil law and civil police into the growing areas of the Huallaga Valley, along with alternative economic development that the United States has sustained.
Now, we also understand that there are problems in both Burma, Afghanistan, and elsewhere, where the U.S. has a principal foreign policy goal of this support for democratization and human rights and the status of women in society in the case of the Taliban in Afghanistan. How we will sort out those other extremely important democratic principles is not yet clear.
But it is clear to all of us that drug production in Burma is an enormous threat to the People's Republic of China, to Vietnam, to Cambodia, to Thailand, to Japan, and to the United States. So we've tried to make the case -- this is not a consumer nation versus producer nation. This is a regional problem in which Pakistan, as an example, has more than we think -- possibly, 3 million addicts to heroine. So it's a problem for regional community solutions, not just funding for alternative economic development.
Q: This is a question for the Attorney General. I wish you'd get on to the Operation Casablanca again. The Mexican President's speech had a tinge of bitterness about governments acting on their own and not respecting the sovereignty of others, and I was wondering, if you had Operation Casablanca to do over again, how would you do it over?
ATTORNEY GENERAL RENO: One doesn't engage in what ifs. But what one does is look to what the issues are. And clearly, the mutual problem that both nations face is what do we do about drugs and money laundering. And we will continue to focus every effort on that. We will also continue to work with the government of Mexico in every way possible. My colleague, Jorge Madrazo, the Attorney General of Mexico, has been a superb partner in this effort and we will continue those efforts.
In any investigation, there may be problems that arise, but we always work through those for the ultimate goal of real impact on drug trafficking and money laundering which threaten the people of both nations.
Q: Attorney General Reno, we have heard how important it is for information sharing and international cooperation. The United States decided not to inform Mexican officials about the Operation Casablanca, arguing that you feared that by doing so agents could be in danger. My question is the following: Telling President Zedillo and Mexican officials like Jorge Madrazo, the Attorney General, would have increased the danger for your agents?
ATTORNEY GENERAL RENO: In some investigations the circumstances are such that great care has got to be taken and it's very closely held. In this instance, the investigators determined that it must be very closely held, even with respect to officials in this nation, in order to ensure the safety of the individual. Again, it is not a matter of disrespect, it is a matter of trying to do -- conduct an investigation, to focus on money laundering, to focus on those who launder the money and launder the misery, while at the same time, protecting the lives of the agents involved.
Q: General, with all due respect, last week Mr. Arlacchi did give us a dollar figure for the cost of his proposals. He said it would be about a half-billion dollars a year for the next 10 years, and if you factor in existing money it could come down to about quarter of a billion. Is that within the area that the U.S. could participate in if you do determine the programs are worthy of funding? And how likely is it that you would be able to get that money from Congress?
GENERAL MCCAFFREY: Again, I think it's premature to speculate on a funding package to go along with Mr. Arlacchi's visionary thinking, which we are absolutely supportive of. So what we're doing this week, these three days, is building political consensus to look at the problem as one that effects us all, threatens us all and requires a sense of partnership.
Now, I think there will be a discussion down the line of the mechanisms we might use. There is already, as you're aware, U.N. money going into both Afghanistan and Burma, and there is some good coming out of this. Mr. Arlacchi's last visit there resulted in probably a two-ton destruction of opium gum. But we're at the beginning stages of this.
The only thing I would also ask you to consider by way of analogy is that the cost to the world community of living with this scourge is so enormous that it's not clear to me the resources required to address the problem will dominate the debate. In the United States we assert we lose $110 billion a year, direct cost to our society, from drug abuse by six percent of our population. And we've put on the table a $17 billion package to confront this issue.
But in the long run we don't believe money will continue to grow in the coming years of the counterdrug effort. We actually think this will work; drug abuse will go down, we will spend less money on the national strategy. And I think Mr. Arlacchi's leadership may well lead us to similar conclusions in the international arena.
Q: To go back to the issue of Burma, I was wondering if there is a new thinking in the administration as to how to deal with the problem of crop eradication in Burma. It has not been a success. The government is not being particularly cooperative. There is a U.N. program for eradication -- the extent of the problem there. Other than saying that it is a regional problem, is there any new ideas and strategies within the U.S. administration to deal with that?
And, two, the Burmese government has refused to extradite Kuhn Sah to the United States, nor has it brought Kuhn Sah to trial for his involvement in the drug empire there. What is the U.S. planning to do about that?
GENERAL MCCAFFREY: Well, Burma is a very special case. Many of you are aware of the numbers. We believe they've produced some 60 percent nearly of the world's supply of heroin and it's become a massive threat to their regional partners. If anyone is directly a threat it's the Vietnamese, the Chinese, the Thai and their other partners.
And I have also suggested, in the international community we have lost sight of the fact that if you look at comparative levels of suffering, the hill people of the Burmese nations have suffered more injury from opium production than anyone else. It's been enormously destructive of their own way of life, and it's just a terrible tragedy.
Now, what we do about it is not clear. There is without question a regional sense of concern and growing cooperation to confront the issue. We are aware that the Chinese are actively involved in this dialogue. We do have a modest U.S. presence in Burma that is trying to monitor the situation, and we remain supportive of U.N. efforts with rather modest programs also, which are in Burma. But I would agree, there has not been any real progress in lowering the rates of drug production, nor are we satisfied with the democratic issue or the human rights issue. So it's a dilemma for us to address. I hope you ask Mr. Abe Rosenthal at some point.
MR. TOIV: Last question here.
Q: Can you answer the extradition question of Kuhn Sah?
GENERAL McCAFFREY: I don't know that we've even answered that.
ATTORNEY GENERAL RENO: What is important, generally, is that we develop procedures for bringing people to justice so that there is no safe place to hide. And that's the reason it's important that we meet here today to learn how we can improve our extradition efforts, what we can do to build trust that can make sure that drug traffickers know there is no safe place to hide.
Q: This is to the General or anybody else. I think that most people who are in the antidrug or count ourselves in the antidrug community, whether it is journalistic or law enforcement or therapy, believe that the pro-drug, which is for the drug legalization community in America, is getting more and more powerful, not necessarily among the general public, but certainly in the intellectual and academic community as this ad and many other ads will show. They're making headway in it and they give the -- they never put forward a plan, obviously, because they don't have one. But they're making it more and more success in getting people to believe that the drug war has ended -- we don't even want to call it a "drug war" anymore, but let that go -- has ended in failure and that the community, that the people within the intellectual, literary, academic communities -- are moving towards some form of legalization either by referenda or whatever.
What is it you think that the United States government or anybody else can do to arouse the literary and the intellectual and academic communities to support the antidrug movement far more than they do now?
GENERAL McCAFFREY: Well, first of all, I share your concern. I am very disturbed by it. The foreign affairs article was something we've tried to refute and had some difficulty in getting our own ideas in print.
Having said that, let me -- to some extent, it's the mouse that roared. If you look at the polling data of the American people, there is not a shred of support for drug legalization. That will not happen in the United States, no matter how you word the question. That's why we're seeing very subtle nuanced, indirect approaches to drug legalization -- the medical marijuana issue, hemp as a solution to the nation's textile problems, whatever.
So I'm a little bit skeptical. And, in addition, when I go to the editorial boards, the most creative people in America, in television and the new media -- when we visited Hollywood, we find a great wealth of support for a non-drugged, non-stoned America. So I was very upbeat.
Let me, if I can, defer to my colleagues.
ATTORNEY GENERAL RENO: My message to them is that's the wrong way to go. The best way to go is to join with General McCaffrey, Secretary Shalala and others in developing a balanced approach that focuses indeed on enforcement, focuses on the major traffickers, but recognizes that many people are in prison today because they had a combination of use and some street dealing. Those people are coming out to the community sooner rather than later. Let's make sure we get them treatment while they're in prison and after-care when they're out so that they can come back with a chance of success. Let's make sure we develop comprehensive intervention programs.
A drug court started in Miami in 1989; there are now over 200 across the country, and they are having an impact, again through some evaluations and research that show it, not just speculation. Again, we need to focus, as the President has focused, for these next years, on prevention programs that work. If we provide that balance and if we focus on comprehensive community efforts that give our young people a chance to grow with a positive future, I think we can make a difference. And the academic world has been right there with us. We need to bring some others along.
SECRETARY SHALALA: I agree with Janet. I think that it's a kind of pseudo-intellectualism, because there's no scientific base to their conclusions. These drugs are harmful and there's no way they could make the case that they're not harmful or that they won't lead to the worst kind of public health effects. And just because they have enough money to make it fashionable, it doesn't mean that they're right. And we believe that they're fundamentally wrong and that, more importantly, that there's no scientific basis for suggesting that the legalization of drugs would, in fact, improve the public health.
GENERAL MCCAFFREY: A viewpoint that we are joined in by Harvard University, University of Michigan, Johns Hopkins, UCLA, Pennsylvania Medical College -- this is an awfully widespread academic support for what we're trying to achieve.
I think that's probably about the last question. Thank you.
END 12:00 P.M. EDT
William J. Clinton, Press Briefing by U.S. National Drug Policy Director General Barry McCaffrey, Secretary of Health and Human Service Donna Shalala, Attorney General Janet Reno, and Special Envoy to the Americas Mack McLarty Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/node/270957