The government of Mexico has filed a strong formal protest with the State Department, charging that members of the Reagan administration have made "denigrating statements" about drug trafficking and public corruption in Mexico that have engendered "feelings of suspicion, mistrust and animosity" between the two countries.
The protest, which was delivered Wednesday night to Secretary of State George P. Shultz and released yesterday by the Mexican Embassy, said that "unfriendly" statements made by administration officials this week at a Senate hearing represent an "interventionist character" and are "a clear and unacceptable violation of Mexico's sovereignty."
State Department spokesman Charles E. Redman said yesterday that the administration stands behind the statements. He called the hearing "a candid, public, balanced review of our concern over narcotics-related corruption and other issues."
"We value our relationship with Mexico and are going to work hard to maintain it," Redman said. "The best way to do that is to confront our problems squarely. Both the U.S. and Mexican governments have recognized that narcotics-related corruption is a serious problem.
"It is not our position that all Mexican law-enforcement officials are corrupt," Redman said. "We have full confidence in the honesty and integrity of President Miguel de la Madrid and his Cabinet. We have close cooperation with many honest, upright Mexican officials dedicated to fighting narcotics traffic."
At the hearing Tuesday, U.S. Customs Commissioner William von Raab said that Mexico is the largest single source of heroin and marijuana to the United States and is a conduit for 30 percent of the cocaine entering this country.
He described official corruption in Mexico as "massive" and charged that Rodolfo Felix Valdes, the governor of Sonora state, owns four ranches that produce opium and marijuana, protected by members of the Mexican Federal Judicial Police.
Asked whether relatives of de la Madrid were involved in drug trafficking, von Raab said, "We have no comment on that at a public hearing."
Leonardo Ffrench, a spokesman for the Mexican Embassy, denied that there is massive corruption in Mexico and described Felix Valdes as an "honorable person."
During the same hearing before the Senate Foreign Relations subcommittee on Western Hemisphere affairs, Elliott Abrams, assistant secretary of state for inter-American affairs, warned that Mexican authorities "have got to get organized to stop this before it gets too late, and it can get too late . . . . We have told the Mexicans in no uncertain terms that we are deeply troubled by widespread drug-related corruption."
The protest note, signed by Mexican Ambassador Jorge Espinosa de los Reyes, said the Mexican government "strongly rejects the accusations and calumnies pronounced against Mexico in the hearings. It is surprising, the capacity for slander and the political irresponsibility implied by these statements."
"The government of Mexico does not accept that U.S. officials take upon themselves to make statements on Mexico's internal affairs, as these affairs concern only the Mexican people, and no government has the right to pass judgment on this matter," it said.
The message repeated Mexico's contention that the United States has not done enough to fight the growing demand for drugs by U.S. citizens.
The protest from Mexico asserted that the testimony at the Senate hearing was "radically opposed" to statements by Attorney General Edwin Meese III at a recent law-enforcement conference with Mexican officials in Cancun, Mexico. But Redman said the testimony was "consistent with our conversations" there.