Thank you for that warm introduction. I am Rich Glenn, Deputy Assistant Secretary for the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs (INL). Thank you to the organizers for executing this great event and fostering thoughtful and multifaceted discussions this week. I know the participants had the privilege of hearing from a cast of citizen security experts; from public policy makers, program directors, and government officials to academics and civil society representatives. These different perspectives offer insights into how to innovate new ways to protect, enhance, and sustain citizen security in the region. I only wish I personally could have been here all week. But, I am lucky to be here today to reflect on how we move forward together, and how the State Department’s Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs – or INL – seeks to address these challenges.
We can all agree many of the security challenges are transnational. They are common across countries and no one country can solve these problems alone. Citizen insecurity wreaks havoc on our populations. Violence, even the perception of violence, and fear, limit opportunities and are obstacles to human development, the exercise of human rights, and the strengthening of democratic governance. As we address citizen insecurity, we must acknowledge that our solutions need to encompass comprehensive, sustainable, and multidisciplinary approaches. Each of our institutions must use all the tools at our disposal to tackle the threats, and we must work together to do so. We can acknowledge that looking at metrics such as decreasing homicide rates or increasing narcotics seizures, may point to increasing citizen security, but that decreasing homicide rates or more drugs removed from communities do not affect all citizens equally. We also know that while we may look at decreasing homicide rates in the Northern Triangle, they are increasing in Mexico, illustrating the hemisphere is not affected equally. Clearly, we have more work to do.
INL advances citizen security through a toolkit that utilizes three key approaches:
- First, diplomacy. We build political will among foreign partners to stop crime and illicit drugs and build strong criminal justice institutions;
- Second, international regulations. We work multilaterally to set and align international regulations on dangerous drug precursors and to tackle shared international challenges around crime; and
- Third, capacity building. Our law enforcement and criminal justice partners abroad often lack the capacity and resources to secure justice for their own citizens, and to serve as effective partners against transnational organized crime. In many cases, criminal justice system actors and lawmakers lack exposure to the latest techniques or data on criminal threats and efficient and effective mechanisms to combat them. Where there is a will to overcome these challenges, INL is there to help through training, sharing information and best practices, and assistance to strengthen institutions.
As INL strives to strategically apply this toolkit to citizen security challenges, we bear in mind that citizen insecurity strengthens transnational criminal organizations, compounds corruption, and increases illicit drug production and trafficking. This means INL’s diplomatic engagement and programmatic assistance at all levels must holistically tackle a complex web of citizen insecurity challenges and its byproducts.
On that note, I want to offer some examples of how INL applies its strategic tools on key issues, where I think we have encountered some successes, and where I think we can collectively do more.
Transnational Criminal Organizations
On Transnational Criminal Organizations, or TCOs – INL strengthens foreign government capacity to build effective law enforcement institutions that target TCOs through technical assistance, training, and equipment. Whether it is accrediting police training academies and forensic labs in Mexico and Central America, or working with specialized vetted units throughout the hemisphere to increase technical capacity to investigate and arrest criminals involved in drug trafficking, human smuggling, money laundering, or gang-related crimes such as extortion, INL can build on partner nation political will to strengthen institutions to improve citizen security. Specifically, in the Northern Triangle, INL supported the development and implementation of the Regional Criminal Gang Intelligence Platform. The Platform enables real-time information sharing for vetted units to track gang-related activities, migration, human smuggling, and the trafficking of drugs, weapons, and illicit goods. Our partners used this platform for nearly 1,000 searches in just over a six-month period, disrupting gang crime, smuggling, and drug trafficking across the region. Promoting regional coordination is a successful approach to tackling these threats that impact citizen security.
Combating TCOs requires both skilled police who can investigate a crime and secure an arrest, and prosecutors who can effectively argue for a verdict. At times, it can be hard to ensure we are balancing the police and judiciary components of our work. Political will may wax and wane for certain types of assistance, but we must collectively analyze the criminal challenges and design programs that can have a lasting impact. We must use the analytical tools academics and civil society can bring, the leverage that coalitions of government and non-government actors can bring to bear on generating and sustaining political will, and use data and experience to inform programs.
One critical element of a country’s ability to address crime and TCOs, is public trust in the police. We have worked this into our programs, particularly in Central America where we supported the establishment of the Model Police Precinct (MPP) Program and, with our colleagues at USAID, the Place Based Strategy (PBS). Both of these programs work to change the relationship between police and the communities they serve to one of mutual benefit. This is a critical first step to improving citizen security and one that all countries can benefit from. As one of our panelists emphasized this week, we can be more successful in implementing these programs if we take a bottom-up approach that utilizes evidence-based strategies pairing programmatic innovation with institutional and systemic reform. When we applied these concepts in our PBS programming in Northern Triangle programming, we saw significant reductions in homicides.
As stressed by experts this week, improved coordination and cooperation in PBS areas shows that when we work together with different agencies our results are greater – in PBS locations where INL and USAID partner in Honduras homicide rates decreased 54 percent between 2014 and 2017, 19 points more than the national average decreased. The same logic applies for interagency coordination within each of your countries. INL is applying lessons learned from the MPP and PBS programs in Central America to our citizen security programming in Colombia and Peru. We will continue to harvest what works in one country, as appropriate, in other countries. While we are challenged by constrained funding for these types of programs the tenets of both the MPP and PBS programs are ones we should all seek to implement.
A second concrete area of engagement is combating corruption. INL has learned over time that political will is critical to addressing criminal challenges and promoting citizen security; nowhere is this more important than fighting corruption. INL helps foreign governments and civil society build transparent and accountable public institutions – cornerstones of strong, stable, and fair societies.
Whether it’s paying border officials to let drugs slip by, getting cops to tamper with evidence, convincing judges to dismiss cases, or buying their way out of prison, corruption is central to how criminals operate. Weak rule of law facilitates corruption and promotes a lack of confidence in institutions, opening the door for malign influences. These corrupt government officials are essential to a successful TCO business model.
INL engages across the entire spectrum of criminal justice, including law enforcement, judges, prosecutors, defense attorneys, and correctional institutions. We work with law schools, so the next generation of lawyers, prosecutors, and judges have the tools to counter corruption, prosecute complex financial crimes, and take on criminals whose illicit activities cross borders and jurisdictions. As our friend from the IDB mentioned, investing in human talent through this education process and targeted training can make a huge difference in the justice sector.
If we do not tackle corruption head on in this region we risk the hard fought security and prosperity-related gains. We work closely with host nation counterparts in the Attorneys Generals’ Offices to train, mentor, and advise prosecutors and investigators on how to try high-impact corruption cases. On working with Attorneys General across the hemisphere, I want to also echo the positive comments made this week about great results we’ve seen through the Conference of Western Hemisphere Attorneys General , or CWAG, platform. In our experience, this state-to-state attorney general cooperation through CWAG helps to solve cases across borders. INL is a proud supporter of this effort.
Through these efforts we are seeing results where former officials who participated in high-level corruption are being sentenced in some cases for the first time. With INL support, El Salvador’s anti-impunity and financial crimes units successfully charged more than 20 former Funes Administration officials with embezzlement, illicit enrichment, and money laundering for the unlawful diversion of approximately $300 million in public funds into personal and business accounts.
We work with the Colorado Department of Corrections to share best practices with partners worldwide so prisons do not continue to be a breeding ground for crime. These programs improve justice institutions that are fundamental to stability and strong citizen security.
Beyond strong institutions, INL works to impede the ability of corrupt actors to benefit from ill-gotten gains. Our programming builds the practical capability of law enforcement and judicial authorities to trace and confiscate illicit funds. In April 2019, Trinidad and Tobago passed comprehensive civil asset recovery legislation, making it the sixth country in the region to pass such legislation with INL assistance. The new law serves the dual purpose of seizing proceeds derived from illegal activities, which oftentimes means narcotrafficking in the Caribbean, and reinvesting these funds to support constrained law enforcement and justice sector budgets in partner nations. In Honduras, INL provided support to OABI – the government’s office which controls seized assets – leading to the creation of an online auction system to sell these assets from which the proceeds generated continue to fund criminal investigations.
This programmatic approach addresses both the challenge of illicit financial proceeds, but also that of under-resourced public institutions, which is why reinvesting assets in rule of law and police institutions are a key component of these efforts. More broadly, as part of our anti-corruption efforts worldwide, in the past year, the Secretary of State has designated eight officials ineligible to enter the United States under Section 7031(c) of the Department of State, Foreign Operations, and Related Programs Appropriations Act.
Illicit Drugs and Synthetic Opioids
Finally, INL works to achieve sustainable long-term solutions to the health and security challenges presented by illicit drugs, especially synthetic opioids.
The greatest drug challenge facing the United States is the devastation we are experiencing from the synthetic opioid crisis. We are not alone. The recently released UN World Drug Report revealed that there are 53 million opioid users worldwide, and that opioids were responsible for approximately 390,000 deaths in 2017. Worryingly, recent reports have suggested other drugs, like cocaine and methamphetamines, are also being cut with fentanyl. This global proliferation is not a surprise given how easy it is to produce synthetics, how a small amount can lead to a huge profit and how readily transnational criminals can use the DarkWeb, cryptocurrencies, and international mail to move drugs. To make things more difficult, the threats posed by other drugs, including cocaine, heroin, and methamphetamines, continue to persist. Drug production and trafficking results in greater drug use and crime, increasing citizen insecurity, in the production and transit zones in the hemisphere and beyond.
INL is building the capabilities of partners to arrest drug traffickers, dismantle clandestine drug labs, and take evidence to court to end the impunity for these crimes. Our efforts and those of our partners are showing results. Over the course of one week, using equipment and training provided by INL under the Merida Initiative, the Mexican Navy seized and destroyed more than 96 tons of methamphetamine from hidden drug labs and underground storage facilities. Through INL support to the Caribbean, cocaine seizures in Caribbean Basin Security Initiative (CBSI) countries have risen substantially, increasing from 5.5 MT in 2010 to 22.6 MT in 2017. Our approach in parts of the hemisphere has evolved from provision of equipment and training, to also include maintenance of equipment, as we identified that as a weakness in sustainably addressing this challenge.
In Colombia, where we are seeing record high levels of coca cultivation and cocaine production, INL’s top priority is to help President Ivan Duque – an alumni of the IDB – be successful in achieving our ambitious, joint goal of reducing coca cultivation and cocaine production by 50 percent by the end of 2023. While much INL assistance to achieve this goal will directly support Colombia’s eradication efforts, we see investments in citizen security and rural economic development in vulnerable areas of narcotics concern as absolutely essential to achieving this goal. We have learned this lesson the hard way, through many years of shared experience. Plan Colombia had a number of enduring benefits, including dramatic increase in state presence, increased capacity of the security services, and a dramatic decrease in homicides and kidnappings. But we learned that the short-term reductions in coca cultivation and cocaine production did not stick because they were not accompanied by corresponding increases in security, government services, and licit economic opportunity in key coca-growing areas. As we intensify our resolve to tackle this challenge again, we now have the benefit of this important hindsight and are committed to adjusting our approach to ensure we do not repeat these mistakes. We welcome the collective knowledge of this group to make this possible.
INL’s commitment to working in this region is as strong as ever. In INL, you have a partner, someone who will work with you to advance comprehensive reform that addresses the root causes of violence and ensures effective, accountable law enforcement and justice institutions to work for a country’s citizens. These challenges are affecting all of us and we must work together, across borders, to tackle these issues. In INL, we acknowledge that we have not always gotten it right and we are constantly taking stock of our experiences, including our collective wins and losses, to ensure we deploy the most strategic and effective interventions going forward.
In committing to this continuous stock taking approach, we value expertise from key stakeholders and our foreign partners to help us learn and improve as we move forward in addressing the complex and ever-growing field of citizen security. Just as the bad guys can – and do – work seamlessly across borders, we will continue to cooperate with partners throughout the region and to advance international solutions to what are ultimately a transnational challenges.
Thank you for your time and congratulations on a tremendous week of work here in Washington!