The United States recognizes the Narcotics Rewards Program as a valuable tool to help bring drug traffickers to justice and disrupt their operations.
On his remarks today on “The State Department’s Rewards Programs: Performance and Potential,” Deputy Assistant M. Brooke Darby for Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs said that throughout the Western Hemisphere, and notably in Colombia, Mexico, and Venezuela, the Narcotics Rewards program has helped to bring important traffickers to justice, including FARC commanders in Colombia like Guillermo Leon Saenz-Vargas.
Other major logistics managers for cocaine distribution networks out of Colombia and Venezuela were also brought to justice by Narcotics Rewards program, like Salomon Camacho-Mora.
He reports that outside of the Western Hemisphere, Yang Wan-Hsuan, a heroin distributor and exporter to the United States, was captured by Thai authorities in 2001 with information from a Narcotics Reward Program lead.
More recently, the program has helped to bring a number of cartel leaders to justice in Mexico, Mr. Darby noted.
For example, after publicizing rewards for certain members of the Arturo Beltran-Levya drug trafficking organization in early December 2009, Marcos Arturo Beltran-Leyva was killed during a law enforcement operation attempting to effect his capture.
The organization’s logistics leader, Jose Gerardo Alvarez-Vasquez, was separately captured in April 2010 as well.
Mr. Darby noted that that was a significant blow to the Beltran-Leyva organization, which had organized, managed, and distributed multi-hundred kilogram shipments of narcotics to the United States and was recognized as a Narcotics Kingpin.
The Beltran-Leyva organization was also culpable in rising rates of violence in Mexico due to its turf battles with other cartels and ruthless tactics, including assassinations of Mexican law enforcement officials, according to Mr. Darby.
The Narcotics Rewards Program provides other benefits beyond rewards to informants as well.
The United States has observed that publicity of a reward offer against major drug traffickers forces them to change their organizational dynamics and operational logistics, opening windows of opportunity for their capture by law enforcement.
He adds that in some cases the perceived or actual threat within narcotics organizations that can result from publication of reward targets has driven targeted criminals to seek protection from U.S. law enforcement.
So how does the Narcotics Rewards Program work?
The Department of State’s Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs manages the Narcotics Rewards Program, closely coordinating with the Department of Justice [Criminal Division, Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) and Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI)], the Department of Homeland Security [U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), Customs and Border Protection (CBP) and U.S. Coast Guard (USGC)], and other interested U.S. agencies, such as the Department of Treasury and the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA).
According to Mr. Darby, these organizations serve as members of the Narcotics Rewards Program Committee, which is the interagency mechanism the US use to review and approve rewards.
“Generally, U.S. law enforcement agencies propose targets, who are major overseas narcotics traffickers, typically subject to existing or planned U.S. legal proceedings in the United States.”-Mr. Darby
He cites that the State Department shares the target request and justification with the interagency Narcotics Rewards Program Committee for concurrence and coordination across law enforcement agencies.
Once a target is approved, the nominating law enforcement agency and INL develop a public information strategy which often includes publication of targets on Narcotics Rewards Program website and advertising campaigns to draw attention to the subject for whom leads are being sought, Mr. Darby underlined.
Anti-Crime programs in the Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs (INL) is headed by Mr. Brooke Darby.
The INL Bureau is well known for administering counternarcotics, rule of law, corrections, and police assistance programs that build the capacity of US foreign partners to fight crime and eliminate safe havens for criminals. The programs protect US national security interests by undermining criminal networks overseas.
“Less well known, but just as important to our national security interests, are INL’s anti-crime tools, such as the Narcotics Rewards Program, which help U.S. authorities and their international counterparts pursue and close cases against some of the most nefarious international criminals overseas – narcotics traffickers.”-Mr. Darby
The Narcotics Rewards Program began in 1986. The Congress at that time authorized the Secretary of State to offer rewards for information leading to the arrest and/or conviction of major narcotics traffickers operating outside of the United States.
Since that time, the Narcotics Rewards Program has proved a valuable tool for U.S. law enforcement agencies – not only encouraging confidential informants to come forward and thereby helping bring traffickers to justice, but also applying pressure to drug traffickers, making their illicit operations significantly more difficult and costly.