March 21, 2000
Mr. Donnie R. Marshall
Chairman Grassley, Members of the Senate. I appreciate this opportunity to appear before the Committee today to discuss the issue of Certification and U.S. Counter narcotics efforts. I would like first to thank the Committee for its continued support of the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) and overall support of drug law enforcement.
As all of you are aware, DEA is first and foremost a law enforcement agency. Although the certification process has proved to be an effective diplomatic tool relative to the international antidrug effort, as a matter of policy, DEA does not make recommendations relative to certification. Each year, DEA provides the Attorney General with an objective assessment of the drug trafficking situation for a country based upon evidence and factual information. DEA’s analysis of counter-narcotics efforts by another country does not include an opinion on whether a country should or should not be certified. We merely present the facts to U.S. policy makers and allow them to make an informed decision on the certification of a respective country. As such, my comments today will be limited to an objective assessment of the law enforcement issues involved with drug trafficking.
As part of the submitted written testimony, I have also included the drug trafficking assessment reports of several countries which were recently evaluated and either decertified or granted a waiver due to vital U.S. interests. These countries include Afghanistan, Burma, Cambodia, Paraguay, Nigeria and Haiti. Due, however, to the magnitude of the threat drug traffickers pose to the national security of both countries, along with the strategic importance to the United States, I will direct much of today’s testimony on Mexico.
As many of you know, criminal organizations based in Mexico pose the greatest challenge to U.S. law enforcement agencies charged with enforcing narcotics laws. Due to the ever-increasing legitimate cross-border traffic and commerce between the U.S. and Mexico, several international organized crime groups have established elaborate smuggling infrastructures on both sides of the U.S./Mexico border. Furthermore, it has long been established that in addition to drug trafficking, these international criminal organizations spawn violence, corruption, and intimidation that threaten the safety and stability of our cities and towns across America.
The complex and sophisticated international drug trafficking groups operating out of Mexico are oftentimes vicious, destructive entities, that operate on a global scale. The largest drug trafficking organizations in Mexico --- operating out of Guadalajara, Juarez, Mexicali, Tijuana, Sonora, and the Gulf region --- under the auspices of Vicente Carrillo-Fuentes, Armando Valencia-Cornelio, Miguel Caro-Quintero, Ramon and Benjamin Arellano-Felix, and Osiel Cardenas-Guillen are in many ways, the modern versions of the mob leaders and groups that U.S. law enforcement has fought against since the beginning of last century. These international organized crime leaders, however, are far more dangerous, far more influential and have a greater impact on our day-to-day lives than did their domestic predecessors.
Those international traffickers and their organizations make operational decisions from places like Sonora, Mexico and other locations outside U.S. borders, which detrimentally affect the quality of life of our citizens and directly support drug-related crime in cities and towns across our country. These groups have reached new levels of sophistication and have become a threat not only to the United States and Europe, but also to their own countries. Their power and influence are unprecedented. Unless innovative, flexible, multi-faceted responses are crafted, these drug trafficking organizations threaten to grow even more powerful in the years to come.
The Damage to the United States:
In order to understand the extent and nature of the damage caused by international drug trafficking organizations, it is crucial to look at how these organizations work, and how they infiltrate and position themselves in U.S. communities in order to further their goals.
On any given day in the United States, business transactions are being arranged between the major drug lords headquartered in Mexico and their surrogates who have established roots within the United States, for the shipment, storage and distribution of tons of illicit drugs. In the past, Mexico-based criminal organizations limited their activities to the cultivation of marijuana and opium poppies for subsequent production of marijuana and heroin. The organizations were also relied upon by Colombian drug lords to transport loads of cocaine into the United States, and to pass on this cocaine to other organizations who distributed the product throughout the U.S. However, over the past several years, Mexico-based organized crime syndicates have gained increasing control over many of the aspects of the cocaine, methamphetamine, heroin and marijuana trades, resulting in increased threats to the well-being of American citizens as well as government institutions and the citizens of their own country.
In the recent past, traffickers from Mexico had maintained dominance in the western part of the United States, and in some Midwest cities. Today, the Drug Enforcement Administration, along with other law enforcement agencies, has developed evidence leading to indictments demonstrating that associates of organized crime groups based in Mexico have established themselves on the East Coast of the United States, thus becoming significant participants in the nationwide drug trade.
Mexican Traffickers Rise to Prominence:
During 1995 and 1996, intense law enforcement pressure was focused on the Cali leadership by the brave men and women of the Colombian National Police. As a result, all of the top trafficking leaders from Cali were either jailed or killed. During that time frame, U.S. law enforcement agencies were effectively attacking Colombian cells operating within the United States. With the Cali leaders imprisoned in Colombia and the successful attacks by law enforcement on their U.S. cells, traffickers from Mexico took on greater prominence. A growing alliance between the Colombian traffickers and the organizations from Mexico worked to benefit both sides. Traffickers from Mexico had long been involved in smuggling marijuana, heroin, and cocaine across the U.S.-Mexico border, using established distribution routes to deliver drugs throughout the United States. The Mexico-based organizations’ emergence as major methamphetamine producers and traffickers also contributed to making them a major force in international drug trafficking. The Mexican traffickers, who were previously paid in cash by the Colombian traffickers for their services, began to routinely receive up to one-half of a shipment of cocaine as their payment. This led to Mexican traffickers having access to multi-ton quantities of cocaine and allowed them to expand their markets and influence in the United States, thereby making them formidable cocaine traffickers in their own right.
With the disruption of the Cali syndicate, Mexican groups such as the Amado Carrillo-Fuentes organization, the Arellano-Felix cartel, the Amezcua-Contreras brothers, and the Caro-Quintero group, consolidated their power and began to dominate drug trafficking along the U.S.-Mexico border and in many U.S. cities. Recent events in Mexico and along the southwest border emphasize the fact that trafficking groups from Mexico have developed into a significant force in international organized crime.
Overview of Narcotics Smuggled along the U.S./Mexican Border:
Recent estimates indicate that approximately 55% of the cocaine available in the United States is transported across the U.S.-Mexico border. Typically, large cocaine shipments are transported from Colombia, via commercial shipping, fishing and “Go-fast” boats and off-loaded in Mexico. The cocaine is transported through Mexico, usually by trucks, where it is warehoused in cities like Guadalajara, Tijuana or Juarez, that are operating bases for the major criminal trafficking organizations. The extremely high volume of vehicular traffic over the U.S./Mexico border allows cocaine loads to be driven across the border and taken to major distribution centers within the U.S., such as Los Angeles, New Jersey, Chicago or Phoenix. Surrogates of the major drug lords wait for instructions, often provided over sophisticated communications devices-- --phones, faxes, pagers or computers---telling them where to warehouse smaller loads, who to contact for transportation services, and to whom to return the eventual profits. Individuals sent to the United States from Mexico, often illegally, have been shown to have contracted with U.S. trucking establishments to move loads across the country. Once the loads arrive in an area that is close to the eventual terminal point, safehouses are established for workers who watch over the cocaine supplies and arrange for it to be distributed by wholesale dealers within the vicinity. These distributors have traditionally been Colombian nationals or individuals from the Dominican Republic, but recently, DEA has come upon evidence that Mexican trafficking organizations are also directly involved in cocaine distribution in New York City.
We have not only identified the drug lords themselves, but in most cases, the key members of their command and control structure. The combined efforts of the DEA, FBI, DOJ, the U.S. Customs Service and members of state and local police departments have resulted in the seizure of hundreds of tons of drugs, hundreds of millions of dollars in drug proceeds and most importantly, several significant indictments. In fact, some of the leaders of these organizations---Ramon and Benjamin Arellano-Felix, Luis and Jesus Amezcua-Contreras, Vicente Carrillo-Fuentes----have become familiar names in every major law enforcement department in the United States. Despite this evidence, along with the notoriety, these traffickers have continued to evade arrest and prosecution.
The primary reason they have been able to avoid arrest and continue their criminal enterprise is their ability to intimidate witnesses and assassinate and corrupt public officials. Clear examples of this point may be cited in recent efforts to apprehend members of the Arellano Felix cartel and the Cardenas Guillen cartel, based in Tijuana and Matamoros, Mexico, respectively. In Tijuana over the past year, Mexican officials, have not been able to apprehend key traffickers working for the Arellano Felix organization. In November 1999, major Gulf cartel drug trafficker Osiel Cardenas Guillen illegally detained and assaulted two U.S. drug enforcement agents in Matamoros, Mexico, across the international border from Brownsville, Texas.
Methamphetamine traffickers, oftentimes associated with major Mexican organized crime groups, obtain the precursor chemicals necessary for methamphetamine production from sources in other countries, such as China and India, as well as from rogue chemical suppliers in the United States. In fact, Mexico-based transnational criminal organizations have become the most significant distributors in the U.S. of methamphetamine and its precursor chemicals. Several bulk ephedrine seizures destined for Mexico have focused attention on the magnitude of ephedrine acquisition by Mexican organized crime groups. Methamphetamine super labs, capable of producing hundreds of pounds of methamphetamine on a weekly basis, are established in Mexico or in California, where the methamphetamine is provided to traffickers to distribute across the United States.
Heroin from Mexico now represents 14% of the heroin seized in the United States by federal authorities, and it is estimated that 43 metric tons of opium gum was produced in 1999 in Mexico. A recent study conducted by the DEA indicates that as much as 29% of the heroin being used in the U.S. is being smuggled in by the Mexico-based organized crime syndicates. Mexican black tar heroin is produced in Mexico, and transported over the border in cars and trucks. Like cocaine and methamphetamine, it is trafficked by associates of the organized criminal groups in Mexico, and provided to dealers and users in the Southwest, Northwest, and Midwest areas of the United States. At one time, it was commonplace for couriers to carry two pounds or so of heroin into the United States; recently, quantities of heroin seized from individuals have increased as is evidenced by larger seizures in a number of towns in Texas. This heroin is extremely potent, and its use has resulted in a significant number of deaths.
Marijuana from Mexico still dominates the illicit U.S. import market although U.S. experts estimate Mexico’s marijuana production at 3,700 metric tons (compared with 4,600 in 1998 and 4,800 in 1997). In addition, during 1999, the GOM eradicated some 23,547 hectares of marijuana (down from 24,200 in 1998). Seizures of Mexican marijuana have increased from 102 metric tons in 1991 to 836.3 metric tons in 1999. Marijuana organizations from Mexico are very powerful and violent. In some places, traffickers from Mexico have established marijuana cultivation operations within the United States. In a recent case in Idaho, DEA , working with other Federal, state and local law enforcement officials, arrested a group of illegal aliens from Zacatecas, Mexico. A total of 114,000 marijuana plants, weighing almost 20 tons, was seized. This operation represented the largest marijuana seizure ever in the state of Idaho.
It is important to note that although many of the transactions relating to the drug trade take place on U.S. soil, the major organized crime bosses direct each and every detail of their multi-billion dollar business while situated in Mexico. They are responsible not only for the business decisions being made, but also ultimately for the devastation that many American communities have suffered as a result of the influx of cocaine, methamphetamine, heroin and marijuana. These powerful and organized syndicates can frustrate the ability of the Mexican anti-drug police. Their ability to place obstacles such as corruption and unlimited resources in the path of police can oftentimes impede investigations. In the past year, none of the major Mexican trafficking organizations have been dismantled or significantly disrupted by Mexican authorities.
Law Enforcement Response:
Reporting indicates that the Southwest border (SWB) remains a major point of entry for approximately 70% of all illicit drugs smuggled into our country by Mexican trafficking groups. In response to this continued threat along the border, the DEA has established several initiatives that facilitate and improve intelligence and information sharing, while identifying and removing impediments to cooperation. These initiatives employ a multi-pronged strategy, which utilizes and combines law enforcement operations, intelligence operations, and provides for law enforcement assistance in order to achieve success in combating criminal drug trafficking organizations along the border. The objective of these initiatives is to disrupt and ultimately dismantle criminal organizations that smuggle illicit drugs into the U.S. by linking Federal, state and local investigations domestically and mobilizing multilateral enforcement efforts abroad. Based upon past trends, intelligence, and recent seizures along the border, the DEA has established the following priorities for the SWB Field Divisions: (1) cocaine investigations involving violent organizations; (2) methamphetamine investigations, (3) heroin investigations, (4) marijuana investigations, (5) money laundering investigations and (6) diverted/dangerous drug and chemical investigations.
In response to the emergence of these Mexican Drug Trafficking Organization’s (MDTO), it became apparent that a coordinated strategy for law enforcement counterdrug activities needed to be implemented. In order to combat drug production and trafficking networks operating along the U.S./Mexican border, DEA, in concert with other Federal agencies, established the Southwest Border Initiative – an integrated, coordinated law enforcement effort designed to attack the command and control structure of organized criminal operations associated with the Mexican Federation. This strategy focuses on intelligence and enforcement efforts which target drug distribution systems within the U.S. and directs resources toward the disruption of those principal drug trafficking organizations operating across the border.
As such, DEA, in cooperation with other Federal, state and local law enforcement agencies is focusing increased intelligence, technical resources and investigative expertise on the major MDTO’s responsible for smuggling vast quantities of cocaine, heroin, marijuana and methamphetamine across the border.
Apart from this effort, DEA and the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) also provide assistance in the form of operational planning, intelligence and training to Government of Mexico (GOM) law enforcement authorities, to strengthen their capacity to combat these organizations. The Southwest Border strategy targets specific Mexican trafficking organizations operating across the border and attacks their command and control infrastructures wherever they operate.
Further, the Special Operations Division (SOD) is a joint national coordinating and support entity comprised of agents, analysts, and prosecutors from DOJ, Customs, FBI, DEA and IRS. Its mission is to coordinate and support regional and national criminal investigations and prosecutions against trafficking organizations that most threaten the U.S. SOD performs seamlessly across both investigative agency and district jurisdictional boundaries, providing field offices with necessary support, assistance, intelligence analysis and “leads” for investigative action. Within SOD, no distinction is made among the participating investigative agencies. Where appropriate, state and local authorities are fully integrated into coordinated operations. As presently configured, SOD consists of five sections; each of which has both DEA, FBI and USCS personnel assigned. One section targets Colombian Trafficking Organizations, a second concentrates on cocaine and heroin trafficking in Europe and Asia, a third targets money laundering organizations and the remaining two sections are the heart of the Southwest Border Project and focus their efforts on the principal MDTO’s. These two sections target, among other things, the command and control networks of the identified MDTO’s, and their supporting organizations operating along the Southwest border. As such, the interagency regional objectives are as follows; (1) Intelligence collection and analysis, (2) Investigations, (3) Interdiction and Enforcement and (4) Prosecution and Incarceration. The following operation delineates the need and significance for such a multi-agency project:
In September 1999, the DEA announced the conclusion of a two-year international investigation that culminated in the arrest of over 106 individuals linked to the Amado Carrillo Fuentes (ACF) drug trafficking organization, headquartered in Cancun, Mexico. This investigation, known as “Operation Impunity,” was a multi-jurisdictional, multi-agency investigation which directly linked drug trafficking activity in the United States to the highest level of the Mexican cocaine trade.
This investigation began in January 1998 and was conducted jointly by the DEA, FBI, USCS, U.S. Attorneys’ Offices, DOJ/Criminal Division and a host of state and local law enforcement agencies. The investigation encompassed 53 DEA, FBI and USCS case investigations which spans 14 Federal judicial districts. Since 1998, this investigation has resulted in 36 seizures, netting 12,434 kilograms of cocaine, a half a kilo of heroin, 4,806 pounds of marijuana, more than $19 million in U.S. currency, and the arrest of 106 individuals.
The above statistics only tell part of the story. Operation Impunity demonstrated an unparalleled coordinated and cooperative effort among the law enforcement community. Overall, this investigation allowed the law enforcement community to ascertain this organization’s method of operation from the narcotic distribution in Colombia to the transportation through Mexico to the ultimate distribution networks throughout the U.S. Such success clearly demonstrates the need for the continuation of long term, multi-agency investigations.
Cooperative Efforts with the Government of Mexico/Status of Vetted Units:
Subsequent to the arrest of General Gutierrez Rebollo in 1997 and the establishment of mechanisms within the Mexican law enforcement infrastructure, such as the Bilateral Task Forces (BTFs) and the Vetted Unit program, DEA became cautiously optimistic relative to the prospects of the GOM’s commitment to bilateral investigations. The DEA has supported these programs financially and with other resources in hope that our efforts would result in a successful attack against the drug lords who are creating so much havoc throughout communities in the United States. However, continuing reports of corruption and the rapidly growing power and influence of the major organized criminal groups in Mexico cause us great concern about the long-term prospects for success. Perhaps, the arrest of Operation Impunity target Jaime Aguilar Gastelum and Operation Millennium target Guillermo Moreno-Rios, by Mexican authorities, is indicative of the GOM’s future commitment to such joint ventures.
However, in the last year the Vetted Units Program in Mexico has not achieved the potential as originally envisioned by both governments. In order to address this issue, the DEA and the Government of Mexico’s equivalent to the DEA, the Fiscalia Especializada Para la Atencion de Delitos Contra la Salud (FEADS), have agreed to carefully review the Program and establish ways to improve its efficiency and effectiveness against mutually agreed investigative targets. The DEA also provides support and assistance to the FEADS to conduct investigative endeavors throughout Mexico. These investigations are being conducted with the primary investigative component of the FEADS vetted units -–the Bilateral Task Forces (BTF’s).
Unfortunately, the investigative achievements by the BTF and the Sensitive Investigations Unit (SIU) as related to cases against the major drug trafficking organizations are minimal. The inability of these units to fully employ the new investigative techniques and authorities provided in the Organized Crime Law to investigate these major organizations has been equally disappointing. Further complicating investigative efforts, the Mexico City-based SIU was compromised in February 1999 by a Mexican news exposé describing the operations of that unit, to include its location, activities and investigative targets. Because of this setback, the SIU has been largely shut down. In addition, throughout 1999 police personnel from the Mexico City SIU were separated into smaller groups and often deployed to various regions throughout Mexico in order to work other investigations, such as the search for Mexico fugitive and former Governor of the State of Quintana Roo Mario Villanueva-Madrid.
On a positive note, vetted unit personnel of the Organized Crime Unit (OCU), of which the SIU is a part, have been investigating a drug smuggling network of the Carrillo-Fuentes organization in Cancun, headed by Alcides Ramon-Magana. During the course of this investigation, DEA has shared three principal witnesses with the OCU who have provided information regarding this organization . The information gleaned from these witnesses has contributed to the seizure of real estate in Quintana Roo and the arrest of several defendants in this case, including mid-level drug trafficker and money-launderer Carlos Colin-Padilla. In addition, the GOM issued arrest warrants for a total of 44 individuals associated with Ramon-Magana including an arrest warrant issued on April 5, 1999, against former Governor Villanueva Madrid on 28 counts of drug related offenses.
The governments of Mexico and the United States will continue to work cooperatively on investigations. Just this month, based upon information provided by the DEA to the GOM, two such operations were conducted, resulting in the seizure of a cocaine laboratory and a methamphetamine laboratory in Mexico. Ultimately, DEA believes that the vetting process is our best chance at ensuring integrity with our counterparts. As mentioned in previous testimony today with respect to the ongoing bilateral Vetted Units Program survey, DEA will remain actively engaged with our GOM counterparts relative to this process. DEA will also encourage the GOM to fully staff and support the BTFs and the SIUs with FEADS personnel that have already been vetted and to supply the resources that these operations require.
Although the Mexican government is attempting to address the issue of corruption, it continues to be a serious problem in Mexican law enforcement institutions. The Federal Preventive Police (FPP) was created in early 1999 in response to the existing corruption in the police ranks, but recently reported that several FPP agents were under investigation for corrupt activities. In December 1999 the Government of Mexico/PGR reported that between April 1997 through 1999 more than 1,400 of the 3,500 federal police officers had been fired for corruption and that 357 of the officers had been prosecuted. Additionally, the National Public Safety System established a national police registry to prevent corrupt police officials from being rehired by another law enforcement entity. However, the PGR has not fully implemented these programs to deal with corruption. For example, in 1999, the former Director of Investigations for the PGR’s SIU and OCU, Cuauhtemoc Herrera Suastegui, was reassigned to a high-level position within the PGR despite failing polygraph examination in 1998. Although several FEADS vetted “floater” units have had several successes during 1999, the Vetted Unit Program failed to adhere to internal security principles involving the polygraph process, which may lead to potential compromises and corruption. The Mexican military also has experienced narco-related corruption within its ranks.
As of July 1999, an amendment to the Judicial Organic law mandated that PGR officers, prosecutors, police agents, experts, and pilots assigned to narcotics eradication duties are required to undergo an evaluation process, to include background checks and polygraphs.
Judicial efforts to stop corruption are also underway. On January 11, 2000, a Mexican Federal judge issued an arrest warrant for the magistrate who wrongly freed Adan Amezcua-Contreras, a major methamphetamine trafficker.
Perhaps the most alarming incident involving Mexican officials occurred on November 9, 1999, when a DEA Special Agent, along with a FBI Special Agent debriefed a Confidential Source in Matamoros, Mexico. During the course of this debriefing the Special Agents and Confidential Source were surrounded and physically threatened by Mexican trafficker Osiel Cardenas-Guillen and approximately 15 associates. Each of these associates, one brandishing a gold-plated automatic assault weapon, were either municipal or state police officers. Furthermore, despite monitoring the entire incident over the DEA Special Agent’s cellular telephone, which had been used to call for assistance, the Tamaulipas State Judicial Police Commander took no action. Due in large part to their resourcefulness and ability to diffuse this dangerous situation, were the agents and the confidential source able to survive unscathed. Among other issues, this incident highlights the vulnerability of DEA and FBI Special Agents working in Mexico.
Status of Extraditions:
The principal leaders of major drug trafficking organizations fear the threat of extradition to the United States more than any other law enforcement or judicial tool. Extradition of significant traffickers ensures that those responsible for the command and control of illicit activities, including drug smuggling and money laundering, will be held totally accountable for their actions and serve a prison sentence commensurate with their crimes.
No major drug traffickers were extradited to the United States in 1999. The Mexican Government did extradite 10 fugitives on narcotics related or money laundering offenses in 1999 -- eight U.S. citizens and two Mexican citizens. One Mexican citizen, a drug trafficker, was sought on drug charges after escaping from a U. S. prison while serving a sentence on drug related crimes. The other Mexican citizen, who killed a United States Border Patrol agent, was sought on murder and marijuana smuggling charges.
In September 1998, the Government of Mexico arrested U.S. Citizen and DEA fugitive Randall Jeffrey Spradling in Guadalajara which, given Spradling’s strong ties to both Mexican and Colombian drug traffickers, was an important event. He is fighting extradition to the United States.
In the past twelve months, some Mexican Courts have denied extradition of significant drug traffickers, such as Jaime Ladino-Avila, to the U.S. due to a variety of reasons, such as a very dated legal precedent holding life imprisonment unconstitutional in Mexico. At the end of 1999, there were approximately 40 persons in Mexican custody and subject to extradition proceedings based on U.S. provisional arrest warrants and extradition requests.
Conclusion: The Road Ahead:
he United States’ long experience with confronting and dismantling organized criminal activity has necessitated the development of an aggressive, cohesive and coordinated strategy to identify, target, arrest and incapacitate the leadership of these organizations. DEA=s role in addressing the drug problem is to continue to attack the leadership of these international criminal organizations. With a strategy consisting of mounting attacks on the organizational command and control of major Mexican trafficking syndicates that operate along the U.S./Mexico border, the DEA is able to attack the ability of these organizations to conduct business and impede their efforts to import drugs into the U.S.
The effectiveness of national and bilateral efforts against drug organizations will depend largely on demonstrable progress in disrupting and dismantling these transnational narco-trafficking organizations. This includes apprehending, prosecuting and convicting major drug traffickers, as well as exercising extradition laws against those defendants facing federal drug trafficking charges in the United States, and exposing and prosecuting individuals and businesses involved in providing critical support networks such as front companies, security, transportation and the like.
Therefore, it is imperative for law enforcement to continue to facilitate the flow of information and intelligence while identifying and removing impediments to cooperation. In this vein, it is vital for the DEA, along with other USG agencies, to continue to support the GOM in the field of counternarcotics operations. In turn, DEA encourages and expects the GOM to provide adequate investigative manpower, ongoing integrity testing, financial resources, equipment and reciprocal drug intelligence in support of bilateral drug law enforcement, which should significantly improve both governments’ ability to counter and eliminate transnational drug trafficking organizations.
However, the true sign of success regarding anti-drug efforts in Mexico is best recognized with tangible results from concerted law enforcement efforts, i.e. the arrest and successful prosecution of significant leaders of these major drug cartels in Mexico and; where applicable, their extradition to the United States to face federal drug trafficking charges. We are not yet there.
As an addendum to the drug trafficking assessment on Mexico, included are abbreviated drug situation reports on six countries. These countries were selected due to the Administrations recent announcement either de-certifying (Afghanistan and Burma) or certifying due to vital U.S. interests ( Haiti, Paraguay, Cambodia and Nigeria). These reports include criteria and guidelines that may be evaluated during the certification process.
Paraguay’s primary role in the cocaine trade is as a transit country. Traffickers send shipments of Bolivian cocaine HCl and base through Paraguay into Brazil and Argentina for further shipment to the United States and Europe. Recent information also indicates that there is some trafficking of cocaine essential chemicals from Paraguay into Bolivia.
Paraguayan cocaine traffickers serve primarily as facilitators for major Bolivian and Brazilian cocaine organizations. Paraguayan transportation groups have, on occasion, provided aircraft and pilots to transportation groups operating between Peru, Brazil, and Colombia. A common exchange method for Paraguayan traffickers is to trade luxury cars stolen in Asuncion and Argentina for Bolivian cocaine. This makes the capital for large cocaine purchases relatively easy to obtain and allows Bolivian traffickers to launder their profits directly into tangible assets.
Counter-drug efforts in Paraguay are consolidated under the direction of the Secretariat Nacional Antidrogas (SENAD), a Federal agency with national authority to propose legislation, conduct anti-drug education programs, control the diversion of chemicals and drugs, and to conduct drug investigations and operations, including eradication efforts. In February 2000 Retired Army Colonel Hugo Ibarra was appointed as the director of SENAD. In spite of continuing political turmoil within the government, Ibarra has displayed some willingness to conduct investigations into drug trafficking and has cooperated with the DEA in mainly low level investigations.
The Anti-Narcotics Directorate of the Paraguayan National Police (DINAR) is a full-time investigative unit consisting of approximately 100 police special agent personnel. DINAR is controlled organizationally and financially by SENAD. The DEA Asuncion Country Office (ACO) utilizes both organizations to conduct investigations and operations. The formation of a DEA-sponsored investigation/intelligence unit within the DINAR has enhanced the ability of the ACO to conduct more sensitive investigations and to properly train and equips this smaller and more secure unit.
A criminal code promulgated in 1997 went into effect in November of 1998. The new code provided sentencing guidelines for money laundering offenses. Asset seizures are also provided for under Paraguayan law, but the law is very new and has only been minimally used. In 1998, the Government of Paraguay signed an extradition treaty with the United States, which includes a provision for the extradition of nationals. The government also drafted legislation that explicitly authorizes undercover operations and controlled deliveries. Due to the political instability in Paraguay the proposed legislation remains pending.
In 1999, Burma was named as the world’s number two producer of opium behind Afghanistan. The 1999 CNC Opium Yield Survey, conducted jointly with US and Burmese officials estimated the 1999 potential opium yield to be 1,090 metric tons. This reflects a 38% decrease from 1998 survey estimates of 1,750 metric tons. In February 2000, the CNC, Embassy and Host Nation officials conducted the 2000 Opium Yield Survey with the DEA as an accompanied observer.
Burma continues to be a major producer of both heroin and methamphetamine. Burma accounts for approximately 80 percent of the total production of Southeast Asian opium. In 1999, the Government of Burma (GOB) seized 273 kilograms of heroin, down from 490 kilograms in 1998. The decrease in seizures is partly due to opium crop reduction, directly attributed to severe drought conditions. Also attributed is the response by the GOB against narcotic traffickers, in response to intelligence information provided by DEA. The increased enforcement activity on behalf of the GOB has resulted in the traffickers’ utilization of smaller and highly mobile opium refineries.
In 1999, the GOB seized in approximately 28.8 million tablets (approximately 2,880 kilograms) of methamphetamine. During 1998, the GOB seized 16 million tablets (approximately 1,600 kilograms). Additionally, in 1999, the GOB sseized 6.43 metric tons of ephedrine. The GOB continues to pursue additional ephedrine smuggling investigations.
Methamphetamine produced in Burma is shipped almost exclusively to Thailand. The largest and most recent reported seizure in Thailand was 4.3 million tablets (approx. 430 kilograms) on March 14, 2000. There have been six reported seizures of Burmese produced methamphetamine, ranging from 200 to 7,800 tablets among the Hmong and Mien communities residing in California.
The United States Government policy towards Burma continues to link political change toward democracy and human rights issues with the narcotics problem. Currently minimal assistance is provided to Burma by the U.S. largely through assistance to law enforcement operations and to intelligence sharing by DEA with host government counterparts. Training, utilizing INL funds, has been prohibited since 1989.
The DEA Rangoon Country Office (RCO) has developed a working relationship with their Host Nation Counterparts (Directorate of Defense Services Intelligence /DDSI and State Peace and Development Council/SPDC).
Intelligence indicates that corruption is rampant in Burma. This situation has led to petty graft and corruption. However, the government has taken positive steps to solve this problem by aggressively prosecuting and punishing violators determined to be involved in corrupt practices.
The Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) enjoys a good relationship with the Cambodian National Police and the National Police Anti-Drug Unit. The Anti-Drug Unit is unable to carry out any type of sophisticated investigation due to the lack of financial resources, extreme shortage of trained personnel and lack of adequate investigative equipment.
Cambodia is not a major producer of narcotics although large amounts of marijuana are cultivated with multi-ton quantities being exported to Europe. Marijuana production and trafficking is not considered to be a major threat to the United States. In 1997, enforcement efforts resulted in the disruption and dismantling of a group of Americans identified to be sending multi ton quantities of marijuana from Cambodia to the West Coast of the U.S. The investigation resulted in the arrest of several of its members and the seizure of approximately six (6) tons of marijuana in Cambodia in June of that year. U.S. and Cambodian defendants were subsequently indicted in the U.S. Despite the fact that Cambodia has no extradition treaty with the U.S., the Cambodian government deported the above defendants to the U.S. to stand trial. Through a cooperative effort, the Government of Cambodia (GOC) allowed DEA agents to interview the defendant's prior to their deportation to the U.S. In addition to the above, the GOC allowed two of their officers to travel to the U.S. and testify in a U.S. Federal Court.
There is little hard intelligence or information available on heroin trafficking involving Cambodia. There have been no significant heroin seizures in the U.S. either transiting through or initiated from Cambodia.
Corruption has been identified as an endemic problem in Cambodia, and has adversely affected drug law enforcement. Poorly paid and ill-trained police and judicial officials have been all-too-easy to look the other way in narcotics and other criminal cases.
Cambodia established a ANational Authority for Combating Drugs@ and a ASpecial Drug Enforcement Unit@ in the Ministry of the Interior. The appointed heads of these units currently do not have any law enforcement units directly under their control, but do have the ability to call on resources from other enforcement agencies. The National Police remain DEA's primary contact.
This year, the DEA’s Office of International Training is scheduled to put on the Basic Investigators Training Seminar. The seminar will include approximately sixty (60) National Police Officers.
The Nigerian National Drug Law Enforcement Agency (NDLA) has provided some cooperation to DEA in those areas where it can. The most basic of drug law enforcement equipment is unavailable to the NDLEA. The NDLEA continues to be underfunded, undertrained and underpaid by the Government of Nigeria (GON), calling into question the GON’s own will to attack and prosecute major drug traffickers operating in Nigeria.
NDLEA officials continued to arrest low level couriers and growers. Major traffickers and organizations were largely unaffected. This is due to the lack of training and modern equipment needed to identify, locate, monitor and investigate the activities of the major drug traffickers operating in Nigeria.
Officials of the GON are quick to point to their yearly seizure statistics, which are slightly misleading. For example, in 1998 the NDLEA reports that they seized “over 10 tons of narcotics”, which, taken at face value, appears to be an impressive statistic. When urged to provide a breakdown of the drug types seized, it is discovered that nine of those metric tons were cannabis, 503 kilograms were unspecified psychotropic drugs, 17 kilograms were cocaine and only 3 kilograms, seized for the entire year, were heroin.
The bulk of the cannabis seizures are a result of an active plant eradication program. The cannabis products are destined for local consumption and exportation to neighboring African countries, and some to various destinations in Europe. While it is a source of pride for the GON, the cannabis seizures have little impact on the United States.
The NDLEA attempts to prosecute narcotics and money laundering violators, but are stymied by a dysfunctional judicial system and occasionally by government corruption.
Although there have been asset seizures in the past, a weakness in the law does not allow for asset forfeiture without a prior conviction of the owner of the asset. Since convictions are rare, no drug related forfeitures have been reported.
The political situation in Afghanistan has adversely affected DEA's strategy and enforcement efforts. Due to security reasons, the Department of State has prohibited travel to Afghanistan for all of this year. Until Special Agents can travel to Afghanistan, accurate reporting will be sporadic and unconfirmed. Currently, there are no ongoing counter narcotics programs or any cooperation in nvestigations underway between the U.S. and Afghanistan. Illegal drug production in Afghanistan, however, remains a major problem which must be addressed.
Drug traffickers in Afghanistan are both the world largest producers of illicit opium and major producers of cannabis products. In the absence of a stable and universally recognized central government and the tolerance of poppy cultivation and conversion laboratories by the Taliban, cultivation of opium poppies is likely to increase in Afghanistan.
According to the U.S. Government, 51,500 hectares of opium poppy were cultivated in 1999, versus 41,720 hectares in 1998, a 23% increase. From this an estimated 1,670 metric tons of opium were produced, versus 1,350 last year, a 24% increase. The increase results from favorable economic and environmental conditions, in particular high opium prices during the planting season combined with ideal weather conditions during harvest.
During 1999, representatives of the U.S. Embassy in Islamabad, to include DEA, have met several times with the Taliban High Commissioner for Narcotics Control. In a recent meeting, the Taliban High Commissioner for Narcotics stated that the Taliban government had taken measures to eliminate narcotics. He claimed that the government had recently seized 2,000 kilograms of opium and heroin and had destroyed 34 laboratories. Other significant hauls have taken place at various airports and border areas under Taliban control. A recent Taliban edict strongly admonished farmers to reduce poppy cultivation by one-third in the year 2000. A common complaint by the Taliban government is that the international community does not give the Taliban due credit for these successes. The Taliban High Commissioner for Narcotics also denied reports that the Taliban tax opium production.
Afghanistan remains essentially a country divided into regions controlled by tribal leaders, all of whose support is necessary to effectively rule the country. Afghanistan is not a center for money laundering and financial institutions barely exist. Due to the total destruction of the Afghan economy, narcotic traffickers often use proceeds to purchase goods abroad and smuggle these items into Afghanistan
Afghanistan continues to be a major recipient of multi-ton quantities of acetic anhydride, which is an essential chemical in the production of heroin. Shipments of acetic anhydride arrive regularly for such purported usage as leather tanning and machine cleaning. As there are no known legitimate businesses in Afghanistan utilizing acetic anhydride, these consignments are highly suspect. Chemicals used in heroin processing laboratories in Afghanistan usually are imported from India, Germany and the former Soviet Union. Some progress has been made in the tracking of shipments from western countries. Several manufacturers have recently been cooperating and advising DEA of suspect deliveries destined for Southwest Asia.
Haiti continues to be a transshipment and storage site for multi-hundred kilogram quantities of cocaine from South and Central America. The country’s long coastline, mountainous interior, numerous uncontrolled airstrips, and its 193-mile border with the Dominican Republic, as well as its location in the Caribbean, make it an excellent transit site for drug shipments from Colombia destined for the United States.
Colombian traffickers are the major players in the drug transportation business in Haiti. As a result, Colombians organizations have become entrenched in Haiti, and have cultivated long-standing relationships with Haitian and Dominican traffickers in order to facilitate their activities.
Colombian traffickers, operating through Haitian contacts, transport multi hundred-kilogram quantities of cocaine through the southern coast of Haiti. Colombian traffickers are divided into two groups; those who have lived in Haiti for some time and control drug operations and those who routinely travel to Haiti aboard commercial aircraft and vessels.
The three primary methods for smuggling drugs into Haiti are noncommercial air methods, noncommercial maritime activities (primarily go-fast operations transiting from Colombia to Haiti’s Southern Claw) and containerized cargo on freighters or commercial/passenger aircraft. As drugs enter Haiti, they are stored locally until they can be shipped to the United States or Europe. Drugs are smuggled out of Haiti via coastal freighters or containerized shipping. The primary shipping routes are:
Directly to the Miami River/South Florida area from one of several Haitian ports such as Port-au-Prince, Miragoane, St. Marc, Gonaives, Cap Haitien or Port de Paix. The drugs are typically secreted in hidden compartments within coastal freighters.
Transferred overland from Haiti to the Dominican Republic and then smuggled across the Mona Passage into Puerto Rico via small vessels. Once in Puerto Rico, the illicit drugs are then hidden in containerized cargo and shipped to the United States or Europe.
Transferred overland from Haiti to the Dominican Republic and them smuggled into the United States or Europe via containerized cargo. Jimani, Pederales, Malpaso, Dajabon and Pepilo Salcedo are the border points that are most frequently crossed.
Between May 1998 and January 2000, approximately 3,850 kilograms of cocaine has been seized off of 16 vessels coming into the Miami River from Haiti. In addition, on March 16, 1999, approximately 1.3 million dollars, which had been destined for Haiti, was seized on the Miami River off of the M/V Lady Crystal. On January 31, 2000, an additional $1 million, which was destined for Haiti, was seized.