Assistant Secretary William R. Brownfield today stressed that the United States and the Andean region are collaborating to stem the flow of illegal drugs and improve regional security Western.
In his remarks before the Senate Caucus on International Narcotics Control, Mr. Brownfield said no region of the world has a more direct relationship with the security of the United States than does the other countries of the Western Hemisphere.
“A simple truth remains that virtually all of the world’s cocaine supply comes from the Andes, specifically from the countries of Colombia, Peru and Bolivia. I am especially grateful for this opportunity to discuss.” -Mr. Brownfield
He said that throughout the hemisphere, basic public safety remains a challenge. He stressed that there’s a nedd to continue to promote the rule of law in order to provide a foundation for all other efforts to succeed.
“We continue to work with judicial systems to provide more responsive and transparent justice systems, supporting prosecutors in case management.” -Mr. Brownfiled
He cited that in Colombia, the United States is supporting country’s efforts to counter the rising threat of the Criminal Bands (bandas criminals or “BACRIM” in Spanish) and to introduce police to rural areas. He said the U.S. government and its partners help host nations with technical expertise on issues such as money laundering and demand reduction so that they can better understand the corrosive nature of the underlying threats and develop programs and legislation to address their country-specific needs.
“Eradication is a fundamental element of our collaborative efforts in all three of the coca producing countries – Bolivia, Peru, and Colombia – and relies heavily on the logistical support we provide. This is particularly true in Peru and Bolivia, which operate only manual eradication programs that require substantial resources to transport and equip manual eradication teams in the field.” -Mr. Brownfield
He reported that in Bolivia, eradication efforts are a highlight of a sometimes difficult bilateral relationship and actually exceeded the 2010 target of 8,000 hectares. The efforts appear to have stopped the expansion of coca cultivation as indicated by a survey by the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) that showed a one-year increase of only 200 additional hectares in production in 2010.
“In Peru, eradication efforts also exceeded target figures in 2010, removing some 13,000 hectares from production, translating into roughly 20 percent of the Peruvian coca total. And in Colombia, the numbers are even more impressive, with the eradication of 146,000 hectares through a combination of manual and aerial eradication efforts in 2010.” -Mr. Brownfield
He cited that the eradication of crops is just one programmatic element of the U.S. broader security cooperation with its partners, but it is an important public statement of those governments’ commitment to resist criminal drug organizations.
He underscored that the evolving nature of the threat posed by drug trafficking organizations and transnational criminal organizations underscore the importance of staying engaged and maintaining strong bilateral partnerships with all our willing partners throughout the region.
“When cooperative efforts break down or are interrupted, capability gaps appear that traffickers are all too eager to exploit. We have seen this, for example, in Venezuela, where counternarcotics cooperation today only occurs as the exception to the rule instead of as the rule itself. As a result, cocaine trafficking has more than tripled there in less than a decade.” -Mr. Brownfield
Mr. Brownfield commended the countries in the region for their outstanding work on the issues. He stressed that throughout the growing region, eradication programs continue to be a powerful and very public expression of government opposition to criminality.