You may have seen excerpts from the enclosed document on the front page of The New York Times this week (May 24), in a story titled "Free-Trade Treaty May Widen Traffic in Drugs, U.S. Says." We also understand that this document sparked this week's cover story on the subject in the leading Mexican newsmagazine, Proceso.
It's quite a straightforward document, a January 21, 1992 cable by the Defense Attach in the U.S. Embassy, Mexico City. Once you get past the computer coding and the blacked-out portions, the cable simply reports a plan by leading Mexican drug-smuggling organizations "to maximize their legitimate business enterprises within the auspices of the new US/MX free trade agreement guidelines" in order to use them as "fronts for drug trafficking activities into the U.S."
The document was obtained through the Freedom of Information Act earlier this year by Archive analyst Kate Doyle, as part of our long-term project to document the foreign policy implications and effects of the "War on Drugs," first declared by President Nixon in 1969, and re-declared on a practically annual basis by every President since. Other documents in the collection, including similar cables from the Defense Attach in Mexico City, detail particulars of the apparently well-known Rafael Munoz drug organization referred to here.
We have already heard criticism from supporters of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) about the Archive's release of this document. Despite the criticism, we were gratified to see the quote from one NAFTA supporter, Gary Hufbauer, in The Times, which more graphically that anything we could say explains why documents like this one belong in the public debate. Mr. Hufbauer said, "This was in the 'too hot to handle' category [during the NAFTA negotiations].... It's a painfully obvious problem. The huge increases in traffic will provide a huge cover for drug traffickers."
The Archive as an institution neither opposes or supports NAFTA; our long- standing policy is to take no position on pending legislation except in the area of greater access to government information. There is something of an imbalance in our current documentation on NAFTA, since our drug-policy-related work is so much further along than is our planned documentation project on U.S. trade policy and relationships. When the latter takes off, however, I am sure we will produce grist for multiple mills on all sides of the trade debate.
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