63. Action Memorandum From the Assistant Secretary of State for Inter-American Affairs (Kubisch) to Secretary of State Kissinger1

Anti-Narcotics Program in Mexico

The Problem: On November 27 the Cabinet Committee on International Narcotics Control recommended that you express our concern about the U.S./Mexican drug situation to Foreign Secretary Rabasa (Tab C). As I understand that you had an opportunity to review the approved and other options prior to the meeting (Tab D), this paper is to provide you with background and talking points for such a démarche, to be made at an appropriate opportunity of your choosing. We hope that your raising the matter with Foreign Secretary Rabasa will make unmistakable our concern that the GOM devote greater resources to the problem and our willingness to provide necessary support.

Background/Analysis: Despite progress in our efforts to encourage greater GOM activity to stop illegal narcotics from entering the U.S., the flow of Mexican heroin into the U.S. has increased both quantitatively and in terms of geographical extent. Mexican heroin in FY 1972 accounted for only 8 percent of the heroin seized in the U.S.; that percentage now exceeds 50 percent. Long confined to the West and Southwest, Mexican heroin is now being reported in Washington, DC, and other areas of the East Coast.

In September Ambassador McBride gave President Echeverria a comprehensive assessment of our narcotics program and suggested specific ideas for improvement. That démarche resulted in Mexican agreement to accept four additional large helicopters (Bell-212s) for use in poppy and marijuana eradication and to create a small GOM/DEA task force to operate in the heroin production area of Sinaloa, in [Page 211] western Mexico. The GOM also agreed to accept four smaller helicopters through a lease arrangement for the duration of the opium poppy harvest season, provided Mexican pilots could be located to fly the aircraft. Additional information on the démarche and resultant action is provided at Tab E.

We believe the Ambassador’s démarche has set in motion machinery which should have some impact on the heroin problem. Aside from increased poppy destruction capability represented by the helicopters, the Sinaloa task force will be a concentrated intelligence/enforcement assault on a major problem area. If successful, and if sufficient enforcement personnel are made available, this technique could be employed more widely against drug trafficking networks in Mexico and thus play a major role in stopping heroin from entering the U.S. from Mexico.

Mexican Position: Mexico approaches the drug problem with the view that it exists only due to U.S. demand and therefore is a U.S. problem, not a Mexican one. No significant internal drug abuse problem has yet developed in Mexico, except to some degree with marijuana. The GOM’s internal concern is primarily directed toward interdiction and eradication of that drug, a lesser priority with us.

The 375-man Mexican Federal Judicial Police, under control of the Mexican Attorney General, has in addition to internal security and other police matters, primary enforcement responsibility in the narcotics field. The GOM has permitted DEA agents to operate in Mexico in conjunction with the Mexican police but is naturally sensitive to U.S. personnel engaging in a law enforcement activity on Mexican soil. It does not acknowledge publicly the full DEA role. The Federal Judicial Police, as well as all Mexican security forces, are and will be increasingly preoccupied with the internal security situation which during the past year has developed to a level of public concern.

U.S. Position: Our first priority is to interdict all hard drugs, with highest priority assigned to heroin, entering the United States from Mexico. It is important that the availability of heroin in the United States not return to 1970 levels. Although the Attorney General of Mexico is committed to the enforcement effort, the Federal Judicial Police under his command is in our view too small an organization to enforce narcotics laws effectively and perform its other police functions. For instance, only twenty agents work full time on narcotics in the vital Sinaloa area. The USG would be receptive to a GOM request for direct support to increase its police forces in narcotics area. Further, despite large numbers of military personnel engaged in eradication, the production and flow of opium continues. We are disturbed by the apparent inefficient use of this major Mexican resource and hope the [Page 212] GOM can improve and expand the performance and contribution of the military in the narcotics effort.

The long and generally open border between us would make unilateral action by the USG to stop narcotics from crossing the border a politically, administratively, and economically extreme course of action. We likewise appreciate Mexican sensitivities and the need to minimize direct U.S. activity within Mexico. Our policy, therefore, is to encourage a greater allocation of Mexican resources to deal with the problem, to emphasize our willingness to provide needed support, and to provide additional DEA personnel to the extent acceptable to the GOM.

Option I:

Sign the letter to Foreign Secretary Rabasa provided at Tab A.

Option II:

Discuss the subject with Foreign Secretary Rabasa along the lines of talking points provided at Tab B, at a time of your choosing.

Discussion of Options:

Both the timing and manner of your raising this subject with Rabasa are essentially matters of your personal preference. We believe your raising the matter with Rabasa in person would have greater impact. You may wish to consider the timing in light of the option you choose with respect to the illegal alien problem, a memorandum on which is being submitted separately. We recommend Option II.

  1. Summary: Kubisch informed Kissinger of the Cabinet Committee on International Narcotics Control recommendation that he convey U.S. concerns about the increasing flow of narcotics into the United States to Mexican authorities. Kubisch suggested Kissinger raise the issue in a future meeting with Rabasa.

    Source: National Archives, RG 59, ARA/MEX Files, Lot 78D235, PER—Ambassador Joseph John Jova, 1973–1975. Confidential. Drafted by Hamilton; cleared by Shankle, Shlaudeman, Kleine, Warner, and in OMB. On December 30 Kissinger initialed his approval of Option II. Attached but not published are an undated and unsigned draft letter from Kissinger to Rabasa (Tab A), talking points for future discussions on the subject (Tab B), the minutes of a November 27 meeting of the Cabinet Committee on Drug Abuse (Tab C), an undated memorandum for the Cabinet Committee from Handley on new patterns of international narcotics traffic (Tab D), and a report on the status of anti-narcotics programs resulting from a September 11 démarche to Echeverría (Tab E).