U.S. Coast Guard crew interdicts a drug smuggling, self-propelled semi-submersible (SPSS) vessel carrying cocaine in the western Caribbean Sea. (Photo Credit: U.S. Coast Guard/file photo)
Compiled By NAN Staff Writer
News Americas, WASHINGTON, D.C., Thurs. Mar. 3, 2016: Seventeen Caribbean and Latin American nations have been named by the U.S. as “major illicit drug producing and/or drug-transit countries.”
According to the 2016 International Narcotics Control Strategy Report (INCSR) from the U.S. State Department released Wednesday, Mar. 2, 2016, the 17 were identified and notified to Congress by the President of the United States on September 14, 2015, consistent with section 706(1) of the Foreign Relations Authorization Act.
1: The Bahamas: The State Department says The Bahamas remains a transit point for illegal drugs bound for the United States and other international markets. The smuggling, according to the report, occurs through commercial and private plane traffic and by means of remote airfields and airdrops from South and Central America.
2: Belize: Belize was identified as a major transit country for illegal drugs destined for the United States from source countries in South America. According to the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), the drug routes are predominately maritime and via air and smuggler move at night using the hundreds of cays to conceal their movement via vessels that include container ships to more common small “go-fasts” vessels, which can utilize their small profile, and powerful motors to evade law enforcement. Belize has no air defense systems and limited capability to monitor aircraft at night.
3: Bolivia: Bolivia has been named as the third largest producer of cocaine in the world and continues to be a significant transit zone for Peruvian cocaine. The United States government says it estimates coca cultivation increased in Bolivia to 35,000 ha in 2014, a 30 percent increase since 2013. Most Bolivian cocaine is exported to other Latin American countries, especially Brazil, for domestic consumption or for onward transit to West Africa and Europe, rather than to the United States. According to the Government of Bolivia, farmers in the Chapare region (though not the Yungas region) increasingly turned in 2015 to licit crops in place of coca due to new regional export markets that permit the farmers to earn more income than they had with coca.
4: Colombia: Colombia remains a major source country for cocaine, heroin and marijuana, according to the U.S. State Department. Potential pure cocaine production in 2014 surged 30 percent to 245 metric tons (MT), 60 MT above 2013 production. This rise is attributed to the largest single-year increase of coca cultivation in Colombia in more than a decade. The United States estimates the area devoted to coca cultivation increased 39 percent in 2014 to 112,000 hectares (ha) from 80,500 ha in 2013. According to the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), approximately 90 percent of the cocaine samples seized in the United States in 2014 was of Colombian origin.
5: Costa Rica: Costa Rica’s strategic location, porous borders, limited security forces, and thinly-patrolled waters make it a major transit and temporary storage country for illicit drugs, according to the State Department.
6: Dominican Republic: The Dominican Republic has been identified as an important transit country for illicit drugs from South America destined for North America and Europe. The U.S. government estimates that approximately six percent of the cocaine transiting to those markets transships through the Dominican Republic. Maritime routes, involving the use of “go-fast” boats and commercial containers, continue to be the primary method of smuggling drugs into and out of the country.
7: Ecuador: Ecuador has been designated as a major transit country for illegal narcotics and a major transit country for chemical precursors to process illegal narcotics. Cocaine and heroin from Colombia and Peru are trafficked through its porous land borders and via maritime routes for distribution to the United States and Europe, the State Department report claims. Meanwhile, domestic drug consumption is rising within the country.
8: El Salvador: El Salvador has also been identified as a major transit country for illegal drugs headed to the United States from source countries in South America, according to the State Department. The United States government says it estimates that approximately 90 percent of the cocaine trafficked to the United States in the first half of 2015 first transited through the Mexico/Central America corridor. Traffickers in El Salvador use “go-fast” boats and commercial vessels to smuggle illegal drugs along the country’s coastline and to provide fuel to drug-laden vessels en route to northern destinations. The Pan-American Highway is the primary land route, with drug traffickers using buses and tractor-trailers to smuggle shipments.
9: Guatemala: Guatemala was also named as a major transit country for illegal drugs. Transnational criminal organizations continue to take advantage of Guatemala’s porous borders with Honduras, El Salvador, and Mexico and underfunded and underequipped law-enforcement institutions to smuggle narcotics, migrants, and other illicit goods through the country’s land and sea territories, the State Department report stated.
10: Haiti: The Caribbean nation of Haiti remains a transit point for cocaine originating in South America and marijuana originating in Jamaica, traversing the country’s porous borders en route to the United States and other markets, the State Department report said. This traffic takes advantage of Haiti’s severely under-patrolled maritime borders, particularly on the northern and southern coasts.
11: Honduras: Honduras is named as a major transit country for cocaine, as well as for some chemical precursors, in the new State Department report. The United States says it estimates that approximately 90 percent of the cocaine trafficked to the United States in the first half of 2015 first transited through the Mexico/Central America corridor. According to U.S. estimates, the volume of cocaine that transited Honduras to the United States over this period decreased by 40 percent from 2014. The vast majority of cocaine that transits Honduras arrives via maritime conveyance. Honduras also remained a primary landing zone for drug-carrying maritime traffic and non-commercial flights and drug transshipment to points north from the Caribbean coast is facilitated by maritime and riverine traffic, subsequent flights north, and overland movement.
12: Jamaica: Jamaica again took the title for the largest Caribbean supplier of marijuana to the United States and local Caribbean islands but according to the State Department, Jamaica is also a transit point for cocaine trafficked from South America to North America and other international markets and some drug trafficking organizations exchange Jamaican marijuana for cocaine. Drugs reportedly flows from and through Jamaica by maritime conveyance, air freight, human couriers, and private aircraft. Marijuana and cocaine are trafficked from and through Jamaica into other Caribbean nations, the United States, Canada, and the United Kingdom. Illicit drugs serve as a means of exchange for illegally-trafficked firearms entering the country, exacerbating Jamaica’s security situation, the new US report said.
13: Mexico: Mexico remains on the US list as a major transit country for cocaine and heroin and a source country for heroin, marijuana, and methamphetamine destined for the United States.
14: Nicaragua: Nicaragua remains a primary transit route for drug trafficking, the State Department says. The United States estimates that approximately 90 percent of the cocaine trafficked to the United States during the first six months of 2015 first transited through the Mexico/Central America corridor.
15: Panama: Panama also remains a major transshipment crossroads for illicit drug trafficking due to its location and logistics infrastructure. The United States estimates that approximately 90 percent of the cocaine trafficked to the United States during the first six months of 2015 first transited through the Mexico/Central America corridor. Transnational drug trafficking organizations, including Mexican and Colombian groups, move illegal contraband through Panama’s remote Darién region and along its coastline and littoral zones. Drug traffickers exploit Panama’s transportation infrastructure, including the second largest free trade zone in the world, four major container seaports, airports, and the Pan-American Highway.
16: Peru: Peru has taken the title of the world’s top producer of cocaine and was the second-largest cultivator of coca, with an estimated 46,500 hectares (ha) under cultivation as of 2014, the most recent year for which data is available. Peru is also a major importer of precursor chemicals used for cocaine production.The majority of cocaine produced in Peru, according to the US, goes to South American countries for domestic consumption, or for onward shipment to Europe, the United States, East Asia, Mexico, and Africa via private and commercial aircraft and land and maritime conveyances.
17: Venezuela: Venezuela remained on the US list as a major drug-transit country in 2015. The State Department says Venezuela is one of the preferred trafficking routes for illegal drugs, predominately cocaine, from South America to the Caribbean region, Central America, the United States, Western Africa, and Europe, due to its porous western border with Colombia. In 2015, traffickers reportedly moved increased amounts of marijuana cultivated in Colombia through Venezuela, primarily to the Caribbean Islands. Limited coca cultivation also reportedly occurs along Venezuela’s border with Colombia. Some precursor chemicals used to produce cocaine are trafficked through Venezuela, but the quantity is unknown.
Of these countries, Bolivia and Venezuela were designated by President Obama as having “failed demonstrably” during the previous 12 months to adhere to their obligations under international counter-narcotics agreements. The President determined, however, that continued support for bilateral programs in Venezuela is vital to the national interests of the United States.