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Office of the Press Secretary

For Immediate Release February 8, 1999
                           The Briefing Room
                            The White House

12:02 P.M. EST

MR. TOIV: Good morning, everybody. We have here to brief today on the drug strategy that was just announced by the Vice President, General Barry McCaffrey, who is the Director of the Office of National Drug Control Policy and Secretary of Health and Human Services, Donna Shalala.

GENERAL McCAFFREY: The Attorney General, Janet Reno, unfortunately had to go on to another responsibility.

Let me just, if I can, summarize the results of about an hour where we pulled together the Vice President, the Attorney General, Secretary Shalala and the key people that have helped build the national drug strategy to formally release it and to do so with bipartisan representation from Congress. Specifically Senator Joe Biden and Mr. John Mica in the House.

The strategy is now complete. It is mandated by law. The central volume provides the conceptual outline to what has become almost an $18 billion a year program with a 10-year set of objectives that's based on coordination not only between the 50 federal agencies involved but also state and local government and NGOs. So we are pretty proud of what we have achieved.

There are three other volumes you should be aware of, arguably the most important of which is now mandated by law, is a five-year drug budget projection. So each year the person with my responsibility has to build, in coordination with the 14 Cabinet officers involved in this effort, a five-year projection so that we can start to get a debate organized around investment and prevention and treatment to save downstream drug abuse costs.

We've also got what last year was a pretty contentious volume. We called it performance measures of effectiveness. And this volume now articulates 99 specific variables that we are trying to build a database for each one by which we will hold ourselves accountable for achieving results and reducing drug abuse and its consequences in America. And this is going to be the report card that each year we go down to Congress and say what we did with the funds. The 1999 report attempts to start this building the base line.

Finally, one that will not be released to the press, is a classified annex to the strategy where for the first time we have pulled together classified conceptual guidance to law enforcement, defense, state and intelligence collections. Let me, if I may, ask Secretary Donna Shalala to say some words. Without meaning to embarrass her, the heart and soul of what we're doing is Donna Shalala, Janet Reno and Dick Reilly, that's it; it's prevention, it's treatment. Donna in particular, and Attorney General Janet Reno have been at this for years and their thinking is really embodied in everything we've tried to achieve. Thanks very much.

SECRETARY SHALALA: Thank you, General McCaffrey. I'm one of the Cabinet members that is being cheerfully coordinated by General McCaffrey. Let me say, what difference does all of this make? Two months ago General McCaffrey and I reported that teenage drug use is either stabilizing or, in some cases, coming down. That's exactly what we want to see. And it can't be done by any single agency. It requires an integrated approach. And obviously my Department is intimately involved in the research, in the prevention, and in the services that are being provided.

And the President has asked for an increase in drug treatment money. That's going to be particularly critical as we try to bring down the last welfare numbers, which tend to be a hard-core group that often have substance abuse problems. That's an expensive population that requires substance abuse money being integrated with welfare services to get people first, off drugs, and then into training and into jobs.

So, we very much are part of this national drug control strategy. I congratulate General McCaffrey. He's been a pleasure to work with.

GENERAL McCAFFREY: And we're open to your questions or comments.

Q I have two questions. What are you doing new this year, what's outlined new this year and how soon will you know whether this long-term strategy outlined last year is working?

SECRETARY SHALALA: Do you want to tell them about the advertising campaign?

GENERAL McCAFFREY: Well, one of the things I had mentioned -- what's new is if you take a three-year snapshot we've increased prevention dollars by more than 40 percent. If you look at the 2000 budget I think it's up 56 percent. If you look at drug treatment dollars it's up 17 percent, and the FY 2000 budget continues that. So what we have done is, we've started to -- Secretary Shalala and others put their money where their mouth was and invested up front in prevention and treatment.

Now the second thing that is new here is we are starting to link some big components of the strategy, the drug treatment system and the criminal justice system we're now trying to hook together. You know, most of us don't use drugs. But, unfortunately, 4.1 million Americans are chronically addicted. So Secretary Shalala has got more than $3 billion now total in all the departments involved in drug treatment. We have to put that together with a $36 billion a year prison system, local, state and federal.

And then finally, I would argue that the international community component is now starting to come together. We are getting results not just in the OAS, the hemispheric cooperation, but out of our dialogue with the United Nations and other multinational actors.

Q What kind of results?

GENERAL McCAFFREY: Well, for starters, and it's almost hard to believe for those that have been involved in this before, we have actually reduced the tonnage of cocaine being produced in the Andean Ridge in the last three years substantially. The results in Peru are almost hard to believe. They are down more than 50 percent.

Q How did you do that?

GENERAL McCAFFREY: Well, when I say "we," let me suggest that the heart and soul of it were Peruvian leadership and Bolivian leadership but it's a combination of the air bridge campaign, which put pressure on the growing regions Huallago, a combination of microeconomic alternative development, not huge projects but a bridge, an aqueduct, new seeds, community teaching programs and some very vigorous law enforcement by Peruvian law enforcement. Plus they beat the Sendara Luminoso. So, police are back into the growing regions. The same thing is happening now with the Banzer Government in Bolivia in which they've changed the reward/punishment algorithm so that you're rewarded for getting out of cocoa production as a community not as an individual. And then they've got the police back into the Charpare growing regions. So, in both nations substantial reductions in cocaine production.

We've also got what we would believe is an enormously enhanced effectiveness in the interdiction effort both in the Caribbean and in cooperation with Mexico. So, some of these things are starting to pay off.

Q Can you talk a little about relapse rates, how many people go back on drugs after they have been through treatment programs?

SECRETARY SHALALA: Well, the answer is it depends on whether they've gone through the full course of treatment. And that's the key. And that's the new emphasis. People that go through the full course of treatment as opposed to leaving the program in the middle have almost no relapse. The relapse rates are very small. What we've now concentrated on is getting people into the full course of treatment, supporting them while they're in the full course of treatment because that's where it works. And we increasingly have data that shows that the relapse rate is very small.

The other thing that has helped, obviously, is jobs. That is, it's not just a matter of treating someone in a prison, for example, which General McCaffrey and Attorney General Reno and I have been big supporters of, but it's making sure that people have an opportunity to get jobs so that there really is an alternative to going back on the street and either selling drugs or using drugs.

Q And how well is the job program working? Are you finding jobs for the people who go through the whole treatment program?

SECRETARY SHALALA: In fact, part of the President's initiative, the Welfare-to-Work Initiative, you will remember that we made an announcement a couple weeks ago on using some of the resources for men so that they could, in fact, get into job training programs. This is particularly important for people coming out of prisons, the hardest-to-place group, to provide them with opportunities to get jobs so that they can support their kids and be part of the future, as opposed to part of the past.

GENERAL McCAFFREY: I wonder if I could add, though, to that question. We've got some decent studies now that we need to give you access to. The NTIES and DATOS studies that Secretary Shalala released last year. We've got a Department of Justice study on the effectiveness of treatment.

So this is no longer a speculation. We have some pretty hard data and it says that drug treatment will work in dramatically reducing not only drug use rates and recidivism back into the prison system -- but also the consequences of drug abuse, rearrest rates, felony crimes, illness -- increases the number of people who actually get jobs and go back to work. I would like to make that evidence available to you.

I think what is also the case, drug treatment programs don't cure people; they manage addiction, they get you back with your life under control, they give you intellectual tools to understand what's happened to you. And if they are combined with a coercive element, which is what the Attorney General has been doing, three years ago there were 12 drug courts; today there are over 400. I hope when we walk out of office, there will be more than a thousand drug courts. And in that case, you hold the addicted person in a relationship with a judge, drug testing, work, social services and therapeutic community.

Q General, you briefly mentioned Mexico. What's your assessment of this new anti-drug program that they announced several days ago? Is this the real thing or is it just lip service because the President is going to be there next week?

GENERAL McCAFFREY: I think the Mexicans are deadly serious about this. President Zedillo said it's the principle threat to Mexican national security. Drug abuse problems in Mexico have gone up dramatically, particularly in the border regions. I think both the United States and Mexico are keenly interested in confronting the incredibly corrosive impact of violence and corruption on both of our societies.

Now, I think the La Bastida announcement, which we welcomed, with $400 million plus and a new interdiction effort, particularly down in the Yucatan area, they're going to try and seal off the Guatemala/Belize border area, and also the sea access side, they're going to buy boats and radars and aircraft and try and do a more effective job in interdiction. But you've also seen a series of other actions in which they're trying to rebuild an effective counternarcotics drug police force and building more effective cooperation at sea between the Coast Guard and the Mexican Navy.

Q So, how much of a problem is corruption? I think you were hinting at that.

GENERAL McCAFFREY: The figure I use is that the US spends $57 billion a year on illegal drugs, half of those illegal drugs are sucked into the United States through Mexico. And so the corrosive impact of this money, along with US illegal weapons, is a major factor in bringing Mexican democratic institutions under attack. It is a major problem.

Now, at the same time I always, if you allow me, note there is an element of creative hypocrisy on the part of the United States to not remind ourselves that we have a tremendous amount of violence and corruption and pain that comes out of the drug problem in the United States. In the US, the way we characterize it is 14,000 dead and $110 billion worth of damages. So this is a problem that affects the two countries in dissimilar ways but with devastating results.

Yes, sir?

Q General, I understand that your office has already received 1998 statistics of drug crops in Colombia from the US intelligence community.


Q Which I understand they have risen from the previous year.


Q Can you give us the statistics of Colombia?

GENERAL McCAFFREY: We're going to put out a press release here in the coming days, probably tomorrow if not earlier. I hope I've got this right. The total hectarage under cultivation has gone up 26 percent in one year. So it's substantial. And we are seeing not only the total hectarage under cultivation go up but probably the quality, the alkaloid content of these plants is also increasing.

Finally, I think we believe we are seeing a tremendous concentration of drug production in not only new areas but in areas whether they are clearly under the protection of organized armed resistance to the national government, whether it is FARC, principally, or paramilitary or, in some cases, ELN.

So the problem that President Pastrana and his team face is enormous and it is getting worse.

Q Are you saying that there is increased drug activity in the demilitarized zone in Colombia?

GENERAL McCAFFREY: No, I didn't say that.

Q Are you concerned that the FARC guerrilla group is increasing or conducting any drug activity in this demilitarized --

GENERAL McCAFFREY: We'll put this out this week. I sort of hate to dribble it out. We'll give you maps. They've gone to the Colombian government last week and we're analyzing -- there are still some aspects of this evaluation that we need to discuss with them.

But the bottom line is the drug production areas are out in the eastern part in Guajira province, they're down in Putumayo and Cauca provinces and if anything there has been a tremendous increase in the south. Now, we're also looking at some significant opium production in Colombia.

As US consumption of cocaine goes down, which we're sure is going to happen in the coming years, there appears to be a very deliberate attempt to -- it's called double-breasted dealing, in which they're pushing very high purity heroin along with the same criminal distribution network that distributes cocaine.

Q General?


Q You said earlier about the decrease in cultivation in the Andean region. But how much of that is just due to the fact that they were at over capacity before, things like the coca blight that drove some of the trade out of the Upper Huallago down the river or moving some more of the cultivation to Colombia?

GENERAL McCAFFREY: Well, we've done a lot of talking about that. I would suggest, first of all, Peru has made absolutely magical progress. It is incredible what they have accomplished. And I think a lot of it is due to local leadership, it's police, it's alternative economic development. It is basically a population, a compasino population, that is sick of war and sick of the violence and corruption that drugs bring. So that is good news for Peru and, therefore, her neighbors.

Now, we're seeing the beginnings -- I think Bolivian total reduction is over 20 percent as of now, about 22 percent if I remember the number. That is phenomenal turnaround from three or four years ago. Even given the explosion of production in Colombia, there is still a substantial net reduction in cocaine out of the Andean Ridge. Part of that is because the Peruvian coca production is the richest of the lot.

But the numbers -- well, the overall reduction was over 280 metric tons in the area so total net reduction of cocaine is almost unbelievable from the standpoint of somebody like me who has been watching this for seven years. It is dramatically down.

It started at like 800 metric tons and now it is down to 550, in around in there.

Q Is the Colombia explosion that you are referring to a more recent trend than Bolivia and Peru?

GENERAL McCAFFREY: I would argue they are almost independent. The three countries have very different dynamics as to why these things are happening. Peru is the most dramatic. That was the dominant cocaine-producing nation on the face of the earth. It still has a plurality, if I remember that pie chart, of around 42 percent of total tonnage of cocaine still comes out of Peru. So, Peru's success has dominated the whole Andean Ridge. Bolivia is a newcomer. The last two years the Banzer Administration, some very creative work by Vice President Quiroga and his interior minister and it's starting to pay off. So, it was a substantial reduction.

Colombia has increased its production and a lot of it due to the fact that government is not in control of 40 percent of the country. And the Bolivians have been running the production facilities out of Bolivia. There is almost no Colombian's left in the Bolivian criminal organizations now. So, I think what we're seeing is heroin, cocaine production labs -- a lot of it showing up in southern and eastern Colombia.

Q General, on a another subject, what do you make of the controversy over the ATF approved wine bottle labels that ask people to ask their doctors about the health effects of wine? Senator Thurmond and some others are quite upset about this.

GENERAL McCAFFREY: I haven't studied the issue. I really couldn't comment in a useful way on it. As a general note, I frequently say by background, the most dangerous drug in America still today is alcohol. I mean, it kills arguably 100,000 people a year, it's a $150 billion loss in American society. It's the biggest drug abuse problem for adolescents. And it's linked to the use of other illegal drugs. So, from a viewpoint of adolescents we are quite concerned about reducing alcohol abuse. But labeling wine bottles, I will not comment on it.

Q Have you seen any health effects from drinking wine that are good?

GENERAL McCAFFREY: I really couldn't give you a useful comment. I think it would be more helpful if the Surgeon General commented and others who are involved in that issue. But thank you for the question.

Q General, there is two questions. One of them is if Colombia has gone up probably the United States will be a little bit prevented and certify Colombia in the next certification list, and second if all the new crops are going up in the south -- Peru just militarize the zone because of the argue that is between the peace process -- I don't know if you have any comment around.

GENERAL McCAFFREY: Argued that it's part of the?

Q Because if you having problems -- President Fujimori here in the White House said that he was a little bit concerned about guerrillas as far as -- going down to Peru and affecting the whole process of going down --

GENERAL McCAFFREY: So what was the question?

Q I don't know if you have any comment about this, the militarized zone now -- the President Fujimori just put in order.

GENERAL McCAFFREY: Well again, normally I'm reminding American audiences that Latin American countries are quite different in their historical legal, cultural, and criminal sort of background. So, the problem in Colombia is dissimilar to the problem in her neighbors.

Having said that, we have great respect and sympathy for President Pastrana and this new team who are trying to grapple with the absolutely overwhelming repugnance of the Colombian people to the suffering caused by this endless violence. So, he's got to address that. And we're supportive of his efforts. At the same time all of us understand that there may be -- $600 million a year is the figure I use, going into organizations like the FARC, you know 16,000 people with more automatic weapons and higher pay scales than the Colombian Army. And the terrible violence of the ELN and destruction of the pipelines and destruction of the environment.

So, we are solidly behind Colombia's democratic leadership -- they're trying to struggle with this. The solutions will be not necessarily the same for the Andean Ridge countries. One final question. I'm going to have to run.

Q The enormous problem that you mentioned that Colombia has, the enormous problem now that the figures are going to reflect when they come out, how much do you think that's really going to reflect in the decision on certification this year and more, how much do you think that's going to reflect in the criticism coming from Congress where there are many who believe that you're not doing enough to stop crops at the source?

GENERAL McCAFFREY: Well, as Secretary Albright, by law, makes a decision on certification, she has not arrived at that determination. We will, prior to 1 March.

What I would say, though, is that all of us who have followed this issue closely, me included, understand that right now I don't think there is any question in my mind that President Pastrana and his team are trying to support the intent of the 1988 Vienna Convention on Drugs and they are determined to protect Colombian democratic institutions from this massive internal threat.

I would also add that they are doing it with a tremendous sense of partnership not just with the United States but there are other hemispheric partners. They are a key part of this OAS C-CAD community where we are trying to build some multinational cooperation. So we have great respect for the level of violence and corruption that they face. We have a very long-term view of it. We've got to stay with them in the coming years and that will be the backdrop at least in my own views on the certification process.

Q How do you think that is going to affect the criticism coming from Congress now?

GENERAL McCAFFREY: I think Congress has been pretty supportive. That FY '99 supplemental was a tremendous gift to us of more than $900 million to help with this effort. They put their money where their mouth was also and have given us enhanced capabilities in the international community.

Thanks very much.


12:30 P.M. E.S.T