The presidents of Mexico and the United States agreed Friday to hold a special conference of law enforcement officials and attorneys general from the Western Hemisphere in an effort to curb drug trafficking.
The agreement to call a high-level meeting on drugs was reached during a four-hour summit between President Reagan and Mexican President Miguel de la Madrid in this bustling border city. It was not announced when or where the meeting would be held.
Among the governments expected to participate are those of countries where most of the hemisphere's illicit drugs are produced, including Colombia, Peru, Ecuador and Bolivia, as well as Mexico, which is a distribution point for narcotics, and the United States, the world's leading consumer of illicit drugs.
A Mexican Initiative
The move to arrange a drug conclave originated last month with Mexican officials who met with U.S. Atty. Gen. Edwin Meese III in San Antonio, Tex.
"We enthusiastically accepted the offer," a senior Reagan Administration official said. The agreement to hold a drug meeting was the only public accord to come out of the four-hour session between Reagan and De la Madrid, whose conversation also touched on the economic relations of the two countries and on Central American policy, immigration and border problems.
The two presidents met here in the office of the governor of the Mexican state of Baja California. It was the third summit between Reagan and De la Madrid.
The United States has been pressing Mexico to take measures that would reduce the flow of narcotics across the border. A major supplier of marijuana and heroin to the U.S. market, Mexico is also the most important transshipment point for cocaine that enters the United States from elsewhere in Latin America.
Drug traffic became a major point of conflict between the two nations last spring after the murder in Mexico of U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration agent Enrique S. Camarena.
Throughout the day Friday, Reagan alluded to the Camarena case as a symbol of U.S. resolve to curb narcotics traffic.
In a speech at the U.S. Naval Air Station in El Centro, where Air Force One landed, Reagan saluted Camarena as "a genuine American hero." Addressing the slain agent's widow, Geneva, Reagan said that Camarena "gave his life for all of us in the fight against drug traffic."
Geneva Camarena later told reporters that Reagan had promised to discuss with De la Madrid the progress of a Mexican investigation into his death.
Camarena's alleged killers, said to be major drug traffickers, fled the country last spring with the reported aid of Mexican federal police. They later were arrested and returned to Mexico. They have not yet been brought to trial.
Camarena was born in Mexicali, and his parents live in Calexico, the California town north of Mexicali.
'Tears on Both Sides'
Reagan, who flew by helicopter from El Centro to Mexicali, later also alluded to the deaths of Mexican police officers involved in fighting narcotics smugglers. "There are tears on both sides of the border," Reagan said in a luncheon toast to De la Madrid.
Reagan Administration officials said that while they were pleased with Mexico's effort to stop cross-border traffic in marijuana, cocaine and heroin, the traffic is on the upturn.
For his part, De la Madrid pledged to continue efforts against drug smuggling but urged the United States to do more to curb consumption.
Later, a high-ranking Mexican official spoke more emphatically. "All the links in the chain must be attacked," he said. "There must be action at the other (consumer) end."
The Reagan-De la Madrid meeting began with a colorful outdoor ceremony in the plaza outside the state capitol here that featured two 21-gun salutes, the review of an honor guard and performances by folkloric dancers. Children dressed in white ringed the plaza and waved Mexican and American flags.
Reagan was accompanied by Secretary of State George P. Shultz, Treasury Secretary James A. Baker III, White House Chief of Staff Donald T. Regan and U.S. Ambassador to Mexico John Gavin. Traveling with De la Madrid were Foreign Minister Bernardo Sepulveda, Finance Minister Jesus Silva Herzog and Commerce Minister Hector Hernandez.
The President flew back to Washington after the meeting.
Reagan put economic issues at the top of his welcoming remarks as well as in his formal toast at a lunch with De la Madrid and his staff, ahead of drug traffic, border pollution and "regional and global peace."
"Mexico's debt burden remains a serious problem," he told De la Madrid. "I am impressed with the commitment you have made, Mr. President, to meet this challenge and to take the necessary steps to achieve a robust, growing Mexican economy.
"The United States stands ready and willing to work with you to meet that goal."
Mexican sources said that during Friday's meetings, Treasury Secretary Baker gave assurances that the United States will help Mexico obtain $4 billion in fresh loans from banks and international lending agencies in 1986.
Mexico, already $96 billion in debt, has had trouble meeting its payments. Mexican officials say new loans are needed to purchase equipment from abroad that will help stimulate Mexico's economy
Reagan played down long-standing differences with Mexico over Washington's policy toward Marxist-led Nicaragua. Without mentioning Nicaragua by name, he simply encouraged Mexico to "stand shoulder to shoulder in support of democracy in this hemisphere."
He quoted some of De la Madrid's recent comments on Central America, as if to demonstrate that both countries have identical interests in Central America. Reagan told De la Madrid, "You said, 'Regimes of force or authoritarian regimes are not the solution to overcome economic and social problems in Latin America.' Your words ring true."
Mexican officials said that, during the private, hourlong meeting between Reagan and De la Madrid, the discussion of Central American issues lasted only 10 minutes.
'We Have Tried'
In public comments, De la Madrid defended his government's efforts to restructure its economy in line with demands of international lenders and the Reagan Administration.
"We have tried to meet the fundamental requirements of our country's development and at the same time fulfill the obligations contracted with the international financial community," he declared in his toast to Reagan.
But De la Madrid blamed outside forces, especially falling world prices for oil, Mexico's principal export, for the country's continuing economic problems. "No amount of internal effort can make up for the effects of the extraordinary deterioration of international economic conditions," he said.
He repeated demands for greater access to world markets and easier debt terms, as proposed last month by the 11-nation Cartagena group of Latin American debtor countries.
"These proposals should be given urgent attention by industrialized countries in a spirit of shared responsibility," De la Madrid said. He said the plan put forth by Baker, to tie continuing loans to economic reforms by debtor nations, represented a step forward.
The Baker proposal calls for new loans of $29 billion from banks and multilateral lending agencies over the next three years, in return for economic adjustment measures on the part of Latin American borrowers.
In sharp contrast to his visit to Washington in 1984, De la Madrid said little about Central America.
The closest he came to straying from strictly bilateral issues came in his welcoming remarks, in which he described the two leaders' impending talks as "enhancing our respective criteria on the regional and international questions that concern both our governments."
De la Madrid also dropped the rhetoric of Latin American solidarity from his public remarks, again in contrast to the 1984 summit, when he appeared to be carrying the banner of Latin unity to Washington.
His performance was in keeping with goals earlier expressed by Mexican officials to keep the talks focused on bilateral subjects.
During the discussions, the U.S. side expressed irritation at Mexico's voting record in the United Nations. The United States has complained that Mexico sponsors and supports what U.S. officials describe as "name-calling resolutions" that protest U.S. policies in southern Africa and elsewhere.
Mexican officials said they replied that their voting record reflects long-held national positions and that they do not anticipate any change.
Both Reagan and De la Madrid stuck to long-held positions. The United States expressed "concern" over the Marxist nature of the Nicaraguan government, and the Mexicans opposed U.S. backing of right-wing anti-government rebels.
The two presidents discussed immigration problems, with the Mexicans pressing for greater protection for Mexicans who work in the United States. The United States countered with a call for protection from crime of U.S. travelers in Mexico.
U.S. officials said they were pleased that some progress was being made in treating sewage in Tijuana. Waste from Tijuana has been polluting the ocean off California.
Reagan's only public gaffe of the day came in his toast, when he seemed confused about the nationality of the heroes of Mexican independence. "Miguel Hidalgo, Jose Maria Morelos and many other brave Americans gave their lives for this cause," Reagan said.
The Mexicali session concluded a seven-day Western trip for Reagan and his wife, Nancy, who visited friends in Los Angeles and spent the New Year's holiday in Palm Springs. The President returned to Washington late Friday.
Times staff writers Michael Wines and Frank del Olmo contributed to this story.