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Guatemala Objects to US Drug War Certification Process

The Bush administration's announcement that Guatemala failed demonstrably to make significant efforts in the war on drugs did not come as a big surprise [in the Central American nation. U.S. officials here and in Washington have openly voiced their concern over Guatemala's lackluster performance in anti-narcotics work for months now.

Guatemala's foreign minister, Edgar Gutierrez, expressed his objection today to Washington's annual certification process. He said the government objects to the decertification mechanism because it is unilateral and violates a principal of equality among nations.

Usually, decertification involves a cut-off of nearly all U.S. aid. The Bush administration, however, chose to invoke a waiver of these sanctions for Guatemala, citing national security interests. The decision will help in a nation where nearly 60 percent of the population lives on less than $2 a day.

But despite the waiver, Foreign Minister Gutierrez said the decertification could still have serious consequences for Guatemala's economy. He said decertification has a negative affect on Guatamala's international image and how it is seen by international markets.

The U.S. government's principal concern with Guatemala's record on drugs has been a significant drop in drug interdiction in past years and rampant police corruption.

But in recent weeks, the Guatemalan government and the U.S. embassy here have agreed on a plan to strengthen anti-narcotics work. The foreign minister says the plan is already in action and that he expects Guatemala will be re-certified within months.