President Bush said Monday that Burma and Haiti have "failed demonstrably" to meet their international obligations to fight drug trafficking. In his annual assessment of cooperation by other countries against the drug trade, Mr. Bush removed Guatemala from the list of major offenders, while also expressing increasing concern about illegal drug involvement by North Korea.
Officials here say U.S. concerns about official corruption and other drug-related problems in Guatemala are by no means resolved. But they say the Central American country has made enough progress since the previous drug report last January to be removed from the list of countries said to have "failed demonstrably" in anti-drug efforts, making them liable for U.S. sanctions.
In all, President Bush identified 23 countries in Latin America, Central Asia and East Asia as being major drug-transit or illicit drug producers, the same number as last year.
Haiti and Burma were the remaining two countries said to have failed in their drug efforts and thus subject to U.S. aid penalties, although Mr. Bush waived sanctions in the case of Haiti, saying that aid to the impoverished Caribbean state was vital to U.S. interests.
At a briefing for reporters, Acting Assistant Secretary of State for International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Paul Simons said Haiti remains a major trans-shipment point for drugs, mainly cocaine, moving from South America to the United States. He said Haitian authorities have done "very little" with the United States to interdict the flow of drugs or combat drug-related corruption.
Mr. Simons did credit Burma with cooperating with U.S. law enforcement on some drug matters and reducing the area of the country under poppy cultivation by about 25 percent.
Yet he said little overall has been done by the authorities in Rangoon about Burma's status as one of the world's largest producer of both natural and synthetic narcotics. "In the case of Burma, we have a situation in which you have a major drug-producing country -- not just a drug-transiting country -- that is the second-largest producer of opium in the world," he says. "It's one of the largest methamphetamine producers, and in which we really don't see very much indication that the government is active in beginning to shut down the very core of the trade, which is the production side."
North Korea was not listed among the major drug producing or transiting countries, though, in a statement, the White House said President Bush has "growing concern" about drug trafficking linked to the reclusive communist state.
Mr. Bush said there are "clear indications" that North Koreans traffic in and possibly manufacture methamphetamines, and he cited the seizure last April of 125 kilograms of heroin being smuggled to Australia aboard a North Korean-owned ship as only the latest in a series of such incidents involving heroin.
The drug report did not spare some key U.S. allies critical comment. The Netherlands was urged to do more to combat criminal organizations producing the synthetic drug "Ecstacy," and Canada was pressed for further action against smugglers bringing high-potency marijuana and precursor chemicals for synthetic drugs into the United States.