Results in Brief
Mr. Chairman and Members of the Subcommittee
I am pleased to be here today to discuss the results of our review of U.S. interdiction efforts in the Caribbean. Our review focused on (1) the nature of drug trafficking activities in the Caribbean transit zone;1 (2) host nation impediments to an effective regional strategy; (3) the capabilities of U.S. agencies to interdict drug trafficking activities; and (4) federal agency planning, coordination, and implementation of U.S. interdiction efforts. We recently issued a report to this subcommittee on our findings.2 Our report on U.S. drug control efforts in the other major transit zone country, Mexico, should be available in the middle of June.
I would like to provide a short overview and then talk about each of these issues in a little more detail.
With approximately 30 percent of the cocaine entering the United States coming through the Caribbean transit zone, cocaine trafficking is a major threat to the United States. During the past several years, Caribbean traffickers have shifted their operations from primarily air-related activities to maritime activities. Furthermore, traffickers are using improved technologies, such as global positioning systems, to counter efforts by U.S. agencies to identify and monitor their activities.
In November 1993, the President issued a counternarcotics strategy for cocaine in the Western Hemisphere. The strategy called for a shift in emphasis from the transit zone to the source countries. A major part of the U.S. strategy in the Caribbean is to strengthen the host nations’ capabilities to support U.S. international counternarcotics objectives. The State Department has made some progress in implementing the strategy through new agreements with Caribbean countries and islands that promote increased air and maritime cooperation. However, U.S. officials generally believe that a number of host nations lack the capabilities needed to conduct effective antidrug operations and are also inhibited by corruption.
1The transit zone is the 2-million square mile area between the U.S. and South American borders and covers the Caribbean Sea, the Gulf of Mexico, Central America, Mexico, and the Eastern Pacific. Our review concentrated on the Caribbean portion of the transit zone to include the leeward islands, the windward islands, the Bahamas, Jamaica, the Dominican Republic, Haiti, Puerto Rico, and the U.S. Virgin Islands.
2Drug Control: U.S. Interdiction Efforts in the Caribbean Decline (GAO/NSIAD-96-119, Apr. 17, 1996).