136. Telegram From the Department of State to the Embassy in Mexico1

216581. Subject: Narcotics—Mexico Southern Border. Ref: (A) DEA Mexico 834, (B) Mexico 15109.2

1. We support the proposal from the Embassy to provide assistance to Mexican Attorney General Flores in examining the problem of illicit drugs entering Mexico and U.S. from South American countries through the Guatemala-Mexico border and commend his initiative in wishing to expend GOM narcotics control efforts. It is important to provide a timely and substantive response to the personal request of A.G. Flores, especially in view of his planned fall meetings with U.S. principals and his request to meet with the Ambassador in mid-September.3

2. Recent congressional visits to cocaine producing and transit countries in South America have resulted in increased public comment about the growing traffic in cocaine to the U.S.

3. We understand that the present steps in providing a response to the A.G. consist of initial intelligence assessments at the Embassy with A.G.’s office to determine the scope of the problem. Once the available intelligence has been examined, we understand a feasibility plan to assist the A.G. will be prepared. Because of the urgency expressed in reftel (B), the Embassy may need USG assistance in carrying out the study and should consider combining the two phases of the study. Because the problem involves the flow of illicit drugs into Mexico by air, sea and land from South and Central American countries and concerns border interdiction, U.S. Customs technical assistance should also be helpful in developing an effective program. S/NM can [Page 304] coordinate with U.S. Customs on how such help can be provided; along with the Mission U.S. Customs Attache. We understand that the seizure rate for cocaine at the Mexico City airport increased significantly following the November 1973 U.S. Customs training program for airport inspections. Combined DEA and U.S. Customs expertise in conducting such a study and preparing a workable program for the A.G. may be needed. S/NM concurs with the Embassy suggestion that DEA S/A Walter Sears participate in conducting the proposed study in view of his earlier review of the use of the GOM military in the Mexican eradication and interdiction campaign as well as his extensive background in planning programs in South American countries. We understand that he would not be immediately available, but may be free from other assignments later to assist in the proposed study. We think it is urgent to carry out a careful study as rapidly as possible and be able to indicate to the A.G. what specific steps will be taken.

4. It is assumed that an objective analysis of the problem will assist A.G. Flores in increasing the effectiveness of the interdiction campaign in the southern zone using existing resources. We would not want any proposed U.S. team program to interdict illicit drugs along the Mexican-Guatemalan border to interfere with or reduce the effectiveness of the campaign against opium poppies and heroin within Mexico. Nor would we think it desirable that extensive resources of the U.S. Government or the Mexican Government should be diverted or augmented to respond to the movement of illicit cocaine entering and transiting Mexico from Central and South America, but a rationally developed study that provides recognition of the problem with suitable levels of response appears to be needed urgently. We must also keep in mind that this area of narcotics interdiction will become increasingly important as the Mexican eradication program continues to become more successful, resulting in new opium poppy sources developing south of Mexico.

5. Following are initial reactions as requested Department views on A.G.’s specific points mentioned in reftel (B): We will provide first the study he requested as rapidly as possible. He should be encouraged in his initiative that confirms the increased commitment of the GOM to joint control efforts. Concerning the suggestion for an advanced remote sensing system, he should be informed that this effort is beginning, and U.S. team will be prepared to brief him on the subject in the near future. The development of increased enforcement barriers in other Central American countries is dependent upon an examination of the size of the threat, the trafficking routes and methods along with the host countries’ capabilities to carry out effective enforcement programs. The proposal for the use of radar involves many complex factors and continues to raise the question of cost effectiveness, but it should be addressed as part of the aforementioned study.

  1. Source: National Archives, RG 59, Central Foreign Policy File, D770327–0930. Confidential; Immediate. Drafted by Dugstad; cleared in ARA/RPP, ARA/MEX, CIA, Customs, DEA, SER/INC, and S/NM; approved by Falco.
  2. Telegram 834 from DEA Mexico was not found. In telegram 15109 from Mexico City, September 9, the Embassy described Mexican Attorney General Flores’s report on narcotics enforcement in Mexico, which advocated increased enforcement barriers at Mexico’s southern border, the use of technology to monitor smuggling patterns, and a better illicit crop detection system. Flores requested assistance from the Embassy’s technicians on how best to address the problems. (National Archives, RG 59, Central Foreign Policy File, D770327–0349)
  3. No record of a meeting in mid-September has been found. In telegram 20768 from Mexico City, December 14, the Embassy cited a proposed meeting among Flores, Falco, Special Assistant to the President Peter Bourne, and other U.S. and Mexican officials that would focus on illicit crop eradication. (National Archives, RG 59, Central Foreign Policy File, D770465–0779)