1996 Congressional Hearings
Intelligence and Security

Great Seal Robert S. Gelbard, Assistant Secretary for International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs
Statement before the Subcommittee on the Western Hemisphere of the House International Relations Committee
Washington, DC, June 6, 1996


Good afternoon, Mr. Chairman and distinguished members of the subcommittee. It is a pleasure to be here today to discuss our drug control efforts in this Hemisphere. I would particularly like to review the progress we have made on our source country strategy and why it is critical to do more now. As I am sure you all have guessed, this is a topic about which I feel very strongly. It is a sentiment born of the strong conviction that measurable success in the counterdrug effort not only is achievable, but is very much within our reach.
Let me add a cautionary note that I always stress­­this effort must be sustained. Success in a single year is not necessarily permanent. You might ask yourselves why we have asked for so little money to combat the drug trade overseas when the magnitude of the threat is so great. The answer, I believe, is that our request for fiscal year 1997­­provided it is sustained and incrementally increased over time­­provides insurance for drug control programs with measurable results. I know, from my experience in this job and as ambassador to Bolivia, that uneven funding from year to year produces uneven results.
Before I discuss the source country strategy in depth, however, I would like to put U.S. budget figures into perspective. Our entire international counter­drug budget in fiscal year 1995, including military and Coast Guard support, came to about $850 million­­6% of the total $13.3 billion anti­drug budget. At this low price tag, it remains an important demonstration of how U.S. international engagement pays real, cost­effective dividends to our citizens. The U.S. International Drug Control Budget is the equivalent of 8.5 metric tons of cocaine, given its street value of about $100 million per metric ton. Single cargo flights into Mexico have carried more cocaine than that. The approximately 130 metric tons of cocaine that Latin American and Caribbean nations seized with our help last year have a street value as great as our government's total anti­drug budget. In other words, the 6% of the budget that we invested in international programs last year provided a return of over 1,500%.
When put into that context, the President's 1997 budget request for international drug programs seems not only reasonable, but highly cost effective. When you consider the costs to the U.S. of drug­related illnesses, crime and violence, and lost productivity­­an estimated $69 billion a year­­the potential pay­off on this investment in drug control and demand reduction programs becomes even more impressive.
Funds appropriated to the Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs (INL)­­the portion of the budget which is invested directly in crop control, alternative development, and support to law enforcement and judicial institutions­­represent a very small percentage of the total. In fact, INL's 1997 budget request for international drug and crime control programs totals only $213 million­­just over 1% of the total federal drug control budget request. We are most appreciative, Mr. Chairman, for this Committee's strong support of our budget in the past and as we look to the future.
Why a Source Country Strategy?
President Clinton's 1993 decision to adopt the source country strategy was, in my view, inevitable. This Government had spent some 10 years confronting a growing, increasingly sophisticated and violent group of largely Colombian drug trafficking organizations. Our efforts were, at first, piecemeal. As we began to understand the threat better, coordination improved.
We helped producing countries build interdiction forces to target production and transportation centers. At the same time, we expanded our own resources in the Caribbean in the hopes of stopping the rising tide of cocaine before it reached U.S. shores. By the early 1990s, we had engaged Mexico in the interdiction effort to bolster our own domestic efforts to strengthen our border defenses­­notably with the creation of the "Northern Border Response Force." This strategy produced some significant seizures but, more importantly, disrupted trafficking operations and forced constant changes to evade Mexican interdiction activities.
Ultimately, despite successes, it became clear that we would never be able to stem the flow of drugs from South America or Mexico by focusing on interdiction alone­­the traffickers would always be able to put another shipment in the air or in the water.
The adoption of the Source Country Strategy was in no sense an abandonment of interdiction or the transit zone. Interdiction in the transit zone remains a critical element of the overall strategy, as can be seen in the vigorous bilateral efforts underway with Mexico. PDD­14 recognized, however, that our resources were finite and were too widely dispersed to have a major impact on trafficking. The President, therefore, directed us to focus on the drug crops, the kingpins and their organizations, and the production and trafficking networks in the heartland of the trade­­the three Andean source countries of Colombia, Peru, and Bolivia. For this reason, during my tenure, we have concentrated 60­65% of our annual budget on these countries.
INL: Laying Foundations for Long­Term Success
The ultimate objective of our Source Country Strategy is to stem the flow of drugs to the U.S. Our most effective means of achieving and maintaining positive results are training and assistance programs that help the source countries develop strong legal frameworks and help build credible democratic institutions. Strong institutions will be better prepared to eradicate and control cultivation, to dismantle top crime and drug syndicates through investigation and prosecution, and to interdict drug shipments.
Our other key weapon is eradication, of both coca and opium poppy, which provides the means to eliminate the source of this illegal trade completely. In the key source countries, eradication must be combined with sustainable alternative development in order to ensure that producers have viable means of supporting themselves once they abandon the trade. Without this carrot, governments, especially fragile ones, cannot wield effectively the stick of eradication. Even against the backdrop of very limited resources for alternative development in 1995, some substantial strides were made. Colombia continued its U.S.­supported aerial eradication program, eliminating an estimated 9,000 hectares of mature coca and up to 4,000 hectares of opium poppy. Bolivia manually eradicated almost 5,500 hectares of mature coca and destroyed seedbeds and new planting. New planting offset the gains in both countries, but support for eradication has increased, and new plantings are far more fragile than the mature coca that was destroyed. In Bolivia, a successful alternative development program­­legal crops in the Chapare now cover double the hectarage of coca­­is providing a strong counterbalance to coca. Peru, the world's leading supplier of coca, has yet to adopt a large­scale eradication program, but the government has begun to eradicate all new coca. Mexico made respectable strides against opium poppy cultivation, effectively eradicating over 60% of the 13,500 hectares cultivated in 1995.
Strong Institutions Breed Success
In Colombia, with U.S. support and training, the Anti­Narcotics Police­­or DANTI­­has become one of the region's most skilled units of its kind. The DANTI has spearheaded Colombia's efforts to dismantle the production and trafficking infrastructure of the world's most productive traffickers. The National Police's capability will be upgraded further by the June 2 delivery of six additional UH­1H helicopters for use primarily in support of eradication. The Medellin drug syndicate has been virtually dismantled and almost all of the top Cali traffickers are dead or in jail. The Prosecutor General's office is building cases against the drug lords, and pursuing a wide­ranging investigation of narco­corruption that reaches to the highest levels of Colombian society and government.
Within the next few days, the Colombian Chamber of Deputies will issue a judgment, on the basis of evidence provided by the Prosecutor General, on whether or not President Samper should be tried by the Colombian Senate on charges that narcotraffickers contributed several million dollars to his 1994 presidential campaign. We have expressed our concern about the credibility, impartiality and thoroughness of the Accusations Commission which has recommended to the Chamber the President's exoneration. Only a full and transparent review of the charges by the duly elected representatives of the Colombian people could put an end to the current political crisis in the country.
In the meantime, we are reviewing Colombia's cooperation on the counter­drug front and our policy options for securing better cooperation. We will discuss with the Colombian Government this month our expectations for progress this year, in the context of a mid­year review of objectives for certification. President Clinton made it very clear on March 1 that he wanted to see improved Colombian cooperation and would reserve the option for applying additional sanctions if Colombia's counter­drug performance did not improve.
In Peru, the enhanced police and military interdiction operations, made possible in large part because of U.S.­provided helicopter assets and intelligence support, have successfully disrupted air smuggling and raised the cost of trafficking operations. Peru followed through on a threat to shoot down trafficker aircraft that violated its airspace. In so doing, the Government of Peru disrupted the so­called "air bridge" between Peru and Colombia. Consequently, the business in Peru's coca markets has suffered. Coca prices dropped last year because pilots were reluctant to fly and stocks accumulated. The GOP National Drug Plan calls for a 50% reduction in coca by the year 2000. We are supporting this ambitious goal by making Peru's case for additional resources before the international donor community, and pressing the GOP to accelerate its coca reduction plans. Peru has recently created a seperate new court system to deal with drug offenses.
In Bolivia, U.S.­supported rural police, intelligence, riverine and air units have substantially disrupted the trade­­putting behind bars many of the Colombian traffickers that directed the trade there­­and now are targeting Bolivian organizations which supply cocaine products to Colombia, Mexico, Brazil and directly to markets in Europe. At the same time, they carried out an unprecedented campaign to prevent new coca planting in support of the government's reinvigorated eradication efforts. Special investigative units focus on the trade in precursor chemicals used to process cocaine, and a group of special prosecutors now is dedicated solely to dealing with drug­related crimes in Bolivia.
Political Will­­The Key Intangible
A less tangible, but no less important factor to the success of the Source Country Strategy is the will and strength of governments in the region to weather the political backlash that effective antidrug measures inevitably trigger. Political will is the most difficult component of the strategy to generate, and the hardest to measure. Despite some setbacks in the last few years, however, I am willing to argue that we have never had a more important opportunity than we do now to advance our counterdrug agenda in the hemisphere.
I do not know a single drug expert who, five years ago, would have been willing to predict the downfall of the Medellin drug syndicate, let alone the progress that has been made throughout the hemisphere in dismantling the Cali organization. Eradication campaigns in Bolivia and Colombia have shown that it is possible to restrict significant expansion of the coca crop, and both governments now acknowledge that the elimination of the drug crop is critical to their national security. In fact, in April of this year, the Bolivian Drug Secretary delivered an unprecedented speech at the UN Commission on Narcotic Drugs emphasizing the necessity of eradication. Meanwhile, despite ill­founded criticism over its force­down policy, Peru stayed the course and produced an interdiction breakthrough which we must now exploit. We must convince the Government of Peru to follow up by containing and reducing the coca grown within its borders.
Maximizing our Opportunity
U.S.­supported crop control efforts, training and assistance under the Source Country Strategy have created policy and operational environments ripe for even greater success. The goal of significantly reducing the supply of illegal drugs is attainable, but not without a sustained commitment. Specifically, we will be unable to fully capitalize on the successes of 1995 without adequate resources to:
Drug crop control remains pivotal to the ultimate success of the Source Country Strategy. Eradication, particularly aerial eradication, has the potential to be our most effective tool. The drug crop represents a key vulnerability to the trafficking groups. The crops are detectable, and destroyable­­tactically easier to target than airplanes or cargo vessels loaded with cocaine­­and they are critical to the industry's survival. Current research shows that roughly 200 hectares of coca eradicated deprives the system of up to a metric ton of cocaine. These factors demand that eradication-­and related alternative development projects-­remain central to our source country strategy.
INL's resources will be devoted to supporting aerial and manual eradication, and to programs designed to develop income­generating alternatives for coca­growers to abandon their crops. We will continue to support aviation, police and riverine units that form the backbone of interdiction forces in the Andes, and will enhance our regional training efforts in order to expand cooperation among the source countries. DOD, by lending consistent support to broad interdiction efforts, has been critical to building cooperation among the Andean nations­­some of which have long been adversaries. Continued, and expanded, support for the interdiction infrastructure­­in terms of radars, communications and training­­remains central to the success of our efforts.
In addition to our primary focus on the source countries, we face significant new challenges. Our 1997 budget request reflects our plans for addressing them. Successes in the Andes, particularly against the Cali cartel in Colombia, have produced shifts in the trade, and have created new opportunities for Mexican, Peruvian and Bolivian trafficking syndicates, among others.
In this regard, I want to highlight recent Mexican counternarcotics efforts. Under the leadership of ONDCP Director Barry McCaffrey and Mexican Attorney General Lozano, we have launched an effort to develop a comprehensive bilateral strategy to attack the trafficking groups which move the bulk of the cocaine destined for U.S. markets across our shared border. These trafficking groups, which once served Cali and Medellin, now aspire to succeed them. They have not only begun to contract their own multi­ton shipments from Andean suppliers, but are further diversifying their trade with methamphetamines. Mexican­dominated distribution groups now dominate the manufacture and sale of this destructive substance in the U.S. and are expanding their role in the sale of cocaine and other illicit substances.
Combating these transborder organizations, which have strong footholds in both the U.S. and Mexico, will require even greater bilateral cooperation between the U.S. and Mexican governments. It will require intense legal cooperation, as we achieved with the January arrest and expulsion by Mexico of Juan Garcia Abrego, notorious leader of the Gulf Cartel based in Matamoros, Mexico, but whose empire spread across Mexico and the United States. It will also require increased material and logistics support to interdiction forces, as well as stepped­up training and assistance for law enforcement and judicial institutions in Mexico.
We are implementing a new heroin control strategy, and must respond to the President's requirement, expressed in PDD­42, for a comprehensive international crime control strategy which places special attention on the money laundering and financial crimes which enable all of these drug and crime syndicates to continue to operate.
All of these efforts require the commitment of U.S. resources. But as I said at the start, our real investment is small given the long­term payoffs of the Source Country Strategy. Our investment of time and money and the provision of U.S. training reap the added benefit of strengthening these often very new democracies. The institutions we support are less vulnerable to corruption, especially as their leaders see for themselves the benefits of ridding their countries of this corrosive threat. Such changes not only will produce success in eliminating the drug threat in this hemisphere, but will ensure these countries remain viable allies and trading partners.
I know this committee is attuned to the challenges we face. I am confident that, with your help, we can continue to show dramatic results.
Thank you.

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