U.S. efforts to oust Panamanian strongman Manuel Antonio Noriega demonstrate American resolve to root out drug trafficking, President Reagan said Saturday.
"His nation is in a crisis of his making," Reagan said in his weekly radio speech.Reagan recounted recent successes in the war on drugs and saluted steps within the United States to eliminate the market for drugs. Public attitudes have changed, the president said, and Americans actively oppose drug trafficking.
"Drugs kill and maim and finance the criminal underground," Reagan said, repeating his wife's statement that "those who use drugs are making themselves accomplices to murder."
Reagan's comments came on the heels of last week's critical series in The New York Times, which said the administration was losing the war on drugs.
In his address, Reagan said the United States has been at the forefront of the drive to oust Noriega, noting steps taken last week to put the financial squeeze on the Panamanian strongman through economic sanctions.
"You've probably been hearing about Panamanian strongman General Noriega, who has been indicted for drug trafficking and his struggle to remain in power despite pressure from his own people and our government to step down," Reagan said.
"The unprecedented indictment of Panamanian leader Noriega for drug trafficking by a U.S. grand jury is a further indication of our nation's resolve to end the foreign supply of drugs," the president said.
The United States now has 23 drug eradication agreements with other countries, Reagan said. Cocaine seizures are up 1,800 percent, he said, and more than $500 million in drug-related assets were seized in 1987.
"But emphasizing the criminal side of the drug problem is only part of defeating the drug menace," Reagan said. "Americans are understanding that the permanent way to end the drug menace is to deny the drug pusher his market, to stop demand and that means education and prevention."
In the Democratic response, House Ways and Means chairman Dan Rostenkowski stressed the need for a trade bill, saying it would help reverse the "devestating" downward trend that has cost many Americans their jobs.
"Now it's up to the president," Rostenkowski said, referring to Reagan's threats to veto the bill.