Feinstein, Grassley Release Senate Caucus on International Narcotics Control Report on Central America Violence
Outlines strategies for Congress, administration to help reduce violence, improve security in Central America
September 22, 2011
Washington—U.S. Senators Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) and Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa), co-chairs of the Senate Caucus on International Narcotics Control, today released Responding to Violence in Central America, a new report outlining key steps that the United States can take to support Central America reduce escalating drug-related violence.
The murder rates in Central America last year were significantly higher than Mexico. In 2010, there were 18 homicides per 100,000 people in Mexico. In comparison, there were 50 murders per 100,000 people in Guatemala, 66 in El Salvador and 77 in Honduras.
“Violence in Central America has reached crisis levels as drug trafficking organizations, youth gangs and other illegal criminal groups take advantage of weak governance and underperforming justice systems,” said Senator Feinstein. “Like Mexico, Central America’s location between the world’s largest producers of illicit drugs in South America and the world’s largest drug consuming nation in the United States makes it particularly vulnerable to drug traffickers. It will only escalate if we do not take action.”
“The violence in Central America is beyond what anyone can imagine,” said Senator Grassley. “This report recognizes the proliferation of the Mexican drug cartels seeking to expand into Central America and the impact that has on the citizens in Central America, Mexico and the United States. In addition, the report discusses steps that the United States can take to help the Central American nations stand on their feet to combat the drug cartels that are seeking to expand into areas where the governments are unable to respond. It’s also important to recognize the economic situation facing our own country, so we pay special attention to focus on ways where we can have great influence with as little fiscal effect as possible.”
The report recommends:
Expand Vetted Units
- Expansion of vetted law enforcement units which work with the Drug Enforcement Administration—known as Sensitive Investigative Units—to all seven countries in Central America.
- Vetted units provide a trusted partner to U.S. law enforcement in countries where corruption is often rampant.
- Senator Feinstein supported language that was included in the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Commerce, Justice and Science’s FY 2012 Appropriations bill that recommends the expansion of these units throughout Central America.
Speed up Security Assistance
- Speed up the arrival of security assistance by the State Department to Central America by changing it from being managed remotely by the U.S. Embassy in Mexico to allowing it to be managed directly by each of the U.S. embassies in Central America.
Increase Drug Traffickers’ Extraditions
- Increase the extradition to the United States of Central America nationals who are involved in international drug trafficking.
- Currently, Panama, Honduras and Costa Rica will not extradite their nationals to the United States.
- Extradition from Mexico to the United States has been a critical tool in combating Mexican drug trafficking organizations. Bringing these fugitives to the United States for prosecution ensures that they cannot evade justice through bribes or threats of violence in their home countries.
Support Witness, Judge and Prosecutor Protection Programs
- Use existing State Department and USAID funds to provide support for witness, judge and prosecutor protection programs in Central America.
- Far too often, witnesses in Central America are afraid to testify at hearings because of corruption in the judicial system and fear of retaliation. Judges and prosecutors are equally afraid to pursue cases against high-profile criminals.
Map Sources of Violence
- Map the causes and sources of violence in the region. Without a clear understanding of the causes and sources of violence, it will be difficult to provide relevant solutions to the security situation in Central America.
Reduce the U.S. Demand for Drugs
- Senators Feinstein and Grassley and have asked the Government Accountability Office to conduct a study to evaluate the successes and shortcomings of drug prevention and treatment programs in the United States.
- Drug consumption in the United States fuels violence in Central America. The United States continues to be the world’s largest consumer of illegal drugs. The 2010 National Survey on Drug Use and Health found that 22.6 million Americans aged 12 or older were current illegal drug users.
The reportis endorsed by all seven members of the Senate Caucus on International Narcotics Control and makes several recommendations based on information gathered through visits to Guatemala and Honduras, briefings, interviews and a review of documents from government and non-government experts.
The entire report can be found by clicking here.