printable banner

U.S. Department of State - Great Seal

U.S. Department of State

Diplomacy in Action

Canada, Mexico, and Central America


International Narcotics Control Strategy Report
Bureau for International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs
March 2005
Report
Share

Belize

I. Summary

Belize, part of the major transit zone for narcotics moving towards the U.S., was removed from the Majors list in 1999. At the time, declining seizure rates and lack of hard evidence that drugs were transiting through Belizean waters and air space supported this decision. New evidence that Belize is a regular transshipment point continues to emerge.

The Government of Belize (GOB) recognizes that the transit of cocaine and other drugs is a serious matter, but provides little financial assistance to support police units tasked with narcotics investigations. The GOB continues to work closely with the United States on international crime issues and has been extremely helpful in the extradition of U.S. fugitives over the last year. The Belize Police Department (BPD) was recently praised by the Assistant Secretary of State for Diplomatic Security at the International Chief of Police Conference in Los Angeles for being one of the countries with the highest rates of return for U.S. fugitives. Although the Police Department continues to process classes of new recruits into the Belize Police Department (BPD), the force has not grown; because of internal corruption and reprimands, the number of officers remains steady (slightly less than 1000, nationwide). The BPD, the Belize Defence Force (BDF), and the International Airport Security Division continue to provide counternarcotics efforts. The Police Department successfully seized a plane packed with 700 kilograms of cocaine and a variety of automatic weapons in 2004. The BPD has participated in two gun battles involving transshipment of cocaine this past year as well. The recent U.S. Southern Command deployment of a Counter Narcotics Electronic Intelligence Surveillance (CNEIS) System to Belize has provided data necessary to track and interdict suspicious airplanes within Belize's airspace. Belize participated in a regional collaborative effort to track and interdict a suspicious airplane, ending in successful seizure across the Guatemalan border. Since 1996, Belize has been a party to the 1988 UN Drug Convention.

II. Status of Country

Belize is a potentially significant transshipment point for illicit drugs between Colombia and Mexico. It continues to cultivate a small amount of marijuana, primarily for local consumption. The BDF and the BPD have led successful eradication efforts over the past few years. Contiguous borders with Guatemala and Mexico, large tracts of unpopulated jungles and forested areas, a lengthy unprotected coastline, hundreds of small cayes (islands), and numerous navigable inland waterways, combined with the country's rudimentary infrastructure, add to its appeal for drug trafficking. Officials continue to find a number of abandoned suspect boats and airplanes in Belizean waters and in clandestine areas.

III. Country Actions Against Drugs in 2004

Policy Initiatives. The Anti-Drug Unit (ADU), part of the BPD, has decreased in size over the past year and currently consists of 33 officers designated to do counternarcotics work both on land and at sea. Presently, 12 officers are stationed in the ADU office in Belmopan and 21 are stationed in the Belize City Office.

The new civilian Crime Scene Unit was successfully established. Thirty-three Crime Scene Technicians participated in a two-month internship, in cooperation with the Panamanian Police, focusing on latent fingerprinting and evidence collection. All 33 technicians successfully completed the course at the end of October 2004. Arlington County (Virginia) Police Department will be providing a specialized two-week training course covering evidence collection skills and chain of custody issues in early 2005. The FBI is planning an advanced fingerprint course to follow up the Panamanian internship program.

Accomplishments. The Ministry of Home Affairs was tasked in 2004 with the establishment of a Belize National Coast Guard. The Coast Guard Legislation passed both the House and the Senate in December 2004, and the Ministry expects to begin staffing the Coast Guard in April of 2005. Thirty-four individuals will be assigned to the new Coast Guard Unit. Candidates will be recruited from the Belize Defence Force (BDF) Maritime Wing, and vacancy announcements will be published for outside recruits. The current BDF Commandant has been named the Commandant for the Coast Guard. The U.S. Coast Guard will conduct a site survey in January of 2005 and a full evaluation in February to assist the fledgling Belize Coast Guard Unit, which will be tasked with all law enforcement efforts at sea.

The Belize Police Department has successfully begun a Wide Area Network project, which will include computerization of all records including police reports, fingerprints, and drivers' licenses.

The GOB fully cooperated in one joint GOB/USG counternarcotics operation in July 2004 utilizing Joint Task Force Bravo assets.

Illicit Cultivation/Production. The GOB successfully carried out many independent marijuana eradication missions in 2004. By October 2004, 53,203 marijuana plants had been eradicated. Illicit cultivation continues to occur at reduced levels from the widespread cultivation of a decade ago. Belize has a dense rainforest canopy, and farmers often grow crops in remote areas. Marijuana remains the most popular drug crop grown in Belize, but there is no evidence that it has any significant effect on the U.S. The BDF and BPD conduct manual marijuana eradication missions on a regular basis using their own aerial reconnaissance program.

Precursor Chemical Control. Although Belize has had very limited signs of precursor chemical production, the GOB, in keeping with the goals and objectives of the 1988 UN Drug Convention, has an existing precursor chemical program. The Medical Department at Karl Heusner Hospital keeps track of all statistics on precursor chemicals. Legislation for precursor chemical control was written, but is still in draft form with no specific date for presentation to the House. The legislation covers a variety of aspects including control, enforcement and registration of all precursor chemicals.

Domestic Programs/Demand Reduction. GOB demand reduction efforts are coordinated by the National Drug Abuse Control Council (NDACC), which provides drug abuse education, information, counseling, rehabilitation and outreach. NDACC also operates a public commercial campaign, complete with radio advertisements and billboards, designed to dissuade youths from using drugs.

Law Enforcement Efforts. Authorities seized 734.5 kilograms of cocaine in 2004. Authorities also seized 198 kilograms of cannabis, 9 kilograms of cannabis seed, 183 grams of crack cocaine, and 500,000 synthetic drug tablets. The Anti-Drug Unit has been solely dedicated to handling narcotics cases and counternarcotics operations throughout the year. To this end, 525 arrests were made on drug-related charges stemming from possession of or trafficking in marijuana, cocaine, crack cocaine, and heroin. Additionally, 15 go-fast boats originating from Colombia and six aircraft were seized. Finally, the Belize police arrested two local high-level narcotics traffickers, one of whom has been successfully prosecuted in the U.S. and is awaiting sentencing.

The GOB's most serious internal drug problem in Belize is rooted in drug-associated criminality. Obtaining convictions remains difficult, since the Office of the Public Prosecutor remains under-trained and under-paid. The GOB has refurbished its fingerprinting program with the assistance of the Panamanian government and the FBI. The program is expected to be the key factor in obtaining convictions in the future. The Government also exceeded expectations by funding 33 civilian Crime Scene Technicians rather than the 14 originally planned.

Corruption. There is no evidence of specifically narcotics-related corruption within the GOB. However, there are allegations of general corruption within some government agencies. There were a number of police officers dismissed for wrongdoing in 2004 by the Internal Affairs Division. Police officers were banned from the Free Trade Zone in the Corozal District because of corruption-related issues. There is increasing evidence and information suggesting that the GOB suffers from serious corruption problems at all levels. Belize is a party to the Inter-American Convention on Corruption.

Agreements and Treaties. Belize has been a party to the 1988 UN Drug Convention since 1996. Belize completed a stolen vehicles treaty with the U.S. that entered into force in September of 2004. Although many vehicles have been identified as stolen, no vehicles were returned under this treaty in 2004. In September 1997, the GOB signed the National Crime Information Center Pilot Project Assessment Agreement, which allows for sharing of information and data between the U.S. and Belize. In 1992, Belize set the standard for maritime counternarcotics cooperation in the region by signing the first Maritime Counter Drug Agreement with the U.S. The GOB and the U.S. signed an Over-flight Protocol to the 1992 Maritime Agreement in April 2000, and requested more joint operations under the Sea Rider Agreement in June 2003, one of which is finally being planned for 2005. The U.S. and Belize have an extradition treaty and an MLAT in force. One kidnapped child was returned, and 20 U.S. fugitives were detained and sent back to the U.S. by extradition or deportation. Belize is a party to the UN Convention Against Transnational Organized Crime and its protocol on trafficking in persons.

Drug Flow/Transit. Maritime routes along Belize's lengthy coastline, remote border crossings, and navigable inland waterways are the suspected means for trafficking narcotics through Belize to Mexico, Guatemala, and the U.S. The major narcotics threat in Belize is cocaine transshipment through its territorial waters for onward shipment to the U.S. Armed Mexicans and Colombians protect shipments of cocaine and are considered extremely dangerous. These circumstances, coupled with the lack of visibility at night and the dense vegetation in the mangroves, makes sea duty hazardous. The primary means for smuggling drugs are go-fast boats transiting the reef system; traffickers can operate in relative safety due to numerous hiding spots and shallow water. Often the drugs are off-loaded on the ocean side near the barrier reef to smaller vessels. These vessels freely transit inside Belize waters due to the lack of adequate host nation resources and interdiction capabilities, including equipment, vessels, personnel, and other items, as well as a lack of critical information, such as locations and times of delivery.

Once cocaine is delivered to Belize, it moves northward—often along the northern highway. This highway leads to the Corozal commercial free zone as well as the Santa Elena Belize/Mexico border crossing. Trafficker exploitation of several unguarded remote border crossings and lax customs enforcement contribute to cross-border operations.

Six deserted airplanes suspected of hauling large drug shipments were found over the past year. One twin engine King Air was seized after a lengthy gunfight in a village near Orange Walk. Police seized 700 kilograms of cocaine and confiscated several automatic weapons. These incidents signal that air trafficking has continued to increase in Belizean airspace. Although there is little evidence, officials suspect that river "wet drops" also have increased over the past year.

Intelligence suggests that the Colombian drug cartels have established partnerships with Mexican drug cartels, leading to increased Mexican drug trafficking in Belize. These Mexican cartels have been masterminding clandestine aircraft and sea vessel drug operations within Belize. The local Belizean drug trafficker merely provides resources and assists in the transit of drugs through Belizean territory into Mexico, while the Mexicans are fully in charge and responsible for the operation's success.

IV. U.S. Policy Initiatives and Programs

U.S. Policy Initiatives and Bilateral Cooperation. The U.S. strategy in Belize continues to focus on assisting the GOB in developing a sustainable infrastructure to combat its drug problems effectively. In 2004, USG support included counternarcotics and law enforcement assistance, providing the host nation with equipment and training for the Belize Defense Force as well as the Belize Police Department's Anti-Drug Unit, canine branch, and other branches. Additional training was provided for the Department of Immigration, the Customs and Excise Department, the Magistrate Courts, the Supreme Court, and the Director of Public Prosecution's Office. The USG also funded all training initiatives for the new Civilian Crime Scene Unit. The U.S. Southern Command, including Joint Interagency Task Force South, among others, has responded to GOB requests for training and logistics support for counternarcotics activities.

The Road Ahead. Given frequent changes in trafficking routes, and Belize's lack of maritime and air assets, the potential remains for Belize to become a point for ever-increasing transshipment of cocaine. Local marijuana cultivation necessitates continual monitoring and periodic eradication. After six years in power, the People's United Party continues to advocate combating drug trafficking and associated crime as a top priority, but has avoided providing resources to the appropriate units. U.S. Mission support should continue to focus on assisting police counternarcotics units and all units involved with crime scene investigation, and on improving Belize's Rule of Law infrastructure. Projects should include developing basic communication and technology infrastructure and providing training for all law enforcement branches. Improvements in communications, collection of crime scene evidence and forensic examination, and increased training within the Prosecution Office are currently being pursued, and seem to point the way toward a stronger criminal justice system in Belize.

Canada

I. Summary

The Government of Canada had an active and productive year in counternarcotics in 2004. The national "Canadian Addiction Survey" that was made public in November indicated that substance abuse among Canadians has significantly increased over the past decade, especially among youth. While alcohol and cannabis remained the most commonly abused substances, there were worrisome trends in abuse of other illicit substances. The Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) estimates that the overall drug trade in Canada generates criminal proceeds in excess of $3 billion at the wholesale level and $13.5 billion at the street level. Marijuana production is a thriving industry in Canada with production estimated by the RCMP at somewhere between 960 and 2400 metric tons. This is a particular concern of the USG because of increased seizures in the U.S. of Canadian-sourced marijuana, much of which appears to be in the higher-potency/higher-profit "bud" form. Canadian law enforcement has responded with a nation-wide marijuana task force to target large-scale grow operations run by organized crime.

Bilateral counternarcotics cooperation with the United States continued to be excellent. At the October U.S./Canada Cross-Border Crime Forum, the two governments announced the establishment of four new intelligence exchange sites to support the International Border Enforcement Team (IBET) program. They also released an updated "Border Drug Threat Assessment" which was produced to enhance our understanding of the two-way flow of illicit drugs and precursor chemicals (http://www.psepc.gc.ca/publications/policing/drug_threat_e.asp). The study highlighted the emerging problem of MDMA ("Ecstasy") production in Canada. In 2004, through an intensive bi-national investigation—dubbed "Candy Box" in the U.S. and "Okapi/Codi" in Canada—the two governments dismantled a major MDMA ("Ecstasy") ring producing MDMA in Canada and marketing it in both countries. This will continue to be a major law enforcement focus in 2005.

Canadian efforts over the past two years to curb the diversion of precursor chemicals such as pseudoephedrine (used to manufacture methamphetamine) appear to have had an impact as the U.S. noted a marked decrease in seizures of such chemicals linked to Canada. Both governments will continue to watch this closely though, to ensure that traffickers are not shifting to substitute chemicals or different methods.

Multilaterally, Canada held the chairmanship of the Inter-American Drug Abuse Control Commission (CICAD), the counternarcotics arm of the Organization of American States (www.oas.cicad.org).

II. Status of Country

Canada is a significant narcotics-consuming country. In November 2004, Health Canada, the Canadian Executive Council on Addictions and the Canadian Center on Substance Abuse published highlights from the Canadian Addiction Survey, the first major survey on the use of substance abuse among Canadians in a decade. This survey suggests that reported use of alcohol, cannabis and other drugs has increased in Canada over the past decade, nearly doubling in some cases (see Domestic Programs).

The RCMP estimates that the drug trade in Canada generates criminal proceeds in excess of $3 billion at the wholesale level, and $13.5 billion at the street level. Drug-related crime is an increasingly serious concern to Canadian authorities. British Columbia has had the highest provincial drug-related crime rate for the past 20 years. It was the only province to show an increase (by 6 percent) in reported drug charges in 2003, including a 3 percent hike in prosecutions of cannabis possession. The Correctional Service of Canada suggests that almost 70 percent of offenders entering federal institutions have problems with alcohol and/or other drugs and that more than half of all offenders were under the influence of alcohol or drugs when they committed their offense.

Canada remains a significant producer and transit country for precursor chemicals and over-the-counter pharmaceuticals used to produce illicit synthetic drugs. U.S. and Canadian authorities have focused in particular on bulk shipments of pseudoephedrine (PSE), a common cold remedy used to manufacture methamphetamine. It is legally imported into Canada from China, India, and Germany. Until 2003, the diversion of large quantities of PSE from Canada to methamphetamine "Super Labs" in the United States was a serious problem. PSE seizures in the U.S. linked to Canada have dropped significantly in 2004, indicating Canadian regulation efforts, combined with bilateral enforcement efforts, were deterring the movement. Nevertheless, authorities are watching carefully the flow of ephedrine, another methamphetamine precursor, because there has been an increase in Canadian imports from China and India and an increase in U.S. seizures at the border. (See Chemical Chapter.)

Law enforcement reports indicate that some limited smuggling of methamphetamine occurs in both directions across the U.S.-Canada border. According to the RCMP the bulk of methamphetamine available in the Canadian illicit market derives from domestic supply. The RCMP also reported that clandestine methamphetamine laboratories seized in Canada were 24 in 2000, 13 in 2001, 25 in 2002, and 37 in 2003. In 2004, 46 pounds of methamphetamine were seized entering the U.S. from Canada by U.S. law enforcement officials.

The RCMP estimates that annual Canadian marijuana production ranges between 960 and 2400 metric tons. While viewed as a nationwide problem, marijuana is heavily cultivated in British Columbia, Ontario and Quebec. (See Production and Cultivation.) In 2004, 40,064 pounds of marijuana were seized entering the U.S. from Canada. U.S. experts estimate that Canada is the third largest foreign supplier of marijuana consumed in the United States. Although Canadian-produced marijuana accounts for a very small amount of overall U.S. marijuana seizures at its borders, the two governments are very concerned about an upward trend in seizures, which have increased 259 percent since 2001. Some U.S. experts have estimated the value of Canadian-grown marijuana entering the United States at $5 billion or more. In addition to extensive domestic production in Canada, there is considerable smuggling of foreign-produced marijuana into Canada. Canadian authorities seized 7.8 metric tons of marijuana at ports of entry between 2000-2003 arriving from the United States, Mexico, Colombia, the Caribbean, the Middle East, and, to a lesser degree, Thailand and Morocco. The RCMP estimates that approximately 11 metric tons of hashish a year and 6-8 metric tons of liquid hashish are smuggled into Canada. In 2004, 22 pounds of hashish were seized entering the U.S. from Canada by U.S. law enforcement officials.

Outlaw motorcycle gangs and Asian, Colombian, and Italian-based criminal organizations cooperate with one another to varying degrees in the trafficking and distribution of illegal drugs. According to the RCMP, Colombian drug trafficking organizations and Italian organized crime groups are the most influential smugglers of cocaine into eastern Canada. Over the past few years, the importation of hundred kilogram quantities of cocaine into Canada is increasingly being carried out via sailing or fishing boats. This trend departs from earlier trends when the preferred smuggling method involved the use of marine containers. The RCMP estimates that 15 to 24 tons of cocaine enters Canada annually; from 2000 to 2003, Canadian authorities seized 4.7 metric tons of cocaine at Canadian ports of entry. Approximately 25 percent of the cocaine shipments seized en route to Canada transited or was intended to transit the United States. Law enforcement reporting indicates that very little cocaine is smuggled from Canada into the United States.

Asian-based organized crime dominates the trafficking of heroin from Southeast Asia to Canada. The RCMP estimates that one to two tons of heroin are required annually to meet the demand of Canada's estimated 25,000 to 50,000 heroin users. Canadian authorities seized a total of 305 kilograms of heroin at Canadian ports of entry in 2003.

Also in 2003, Canadian authorities reported seizing 5.64 million ecstasy (MDMA) tablets at ports of entry, representing a 213 percent increase over 2002. Members of Asian, Eastern European and Israeli organized crime groups, as well as organized motorcycle gangs (OMGs), particularly the Hells Angels Motorcycle Club, are involved in cross-border MDMA trafficking. Asian crime groups based in Canada are known to be extensively involved in the production and importation of MDMA for the North American market. According to the RCMP and Health Canada, the demand for MDMA in Canada is increasing, and the drug appears to be preferred among adolescents and young adults.

In addition, law enforcement intelligence indicates that the abuse of methamphetamine has increased, particularly in western Canada. According to the RCMP, the domestic production and trafficking of methamphetamine has dramatically increased while its distribution and use have reportedly skyrocketed in some regions in Canada. As in the United States, methamphetamine use has reached alarming proportions in western regions. The number of methamphetamine labs dismantled by Canadian law enforcement has varied each year since 2000 with 24 labs seized in 2000, 13 in 2001, 25 in 2002 and 39 in 2003. Between 2000 and 2003, Canadian authorities seized a total of 6,510 pills and 14.1 kilograms of methamphetamine at Canadian ports of entry.

III. Country Actions Against Drugs in 2004

Policy Initiatives. Health Canada has responsibility for overall coordination of the nation's drug strategy although other departments, as well as municipal and provincial/territorial governments, are equally involved in addressing the domestic use of illicit drugs.

In May 2003, the Government of Canada (GoC) announced the renewal of its comprehensive drug strategy. Health Canada committed $186 million over five years to reducing both the demand for, and the supply of illegal drugs in Canada. (Note: All monetary figures in this report are in U.S. dollars.) The renewed strategy will attempt to accomplish its goals through education, prevention, and health promotion initiatives, as well as stronger enforcement efforts. The strategy also provided new funding for statistical research on Canadian drug trends to enable more informed decision-making.

On November 1, 2004, the GOC re-introduced cannabis reform legislation that proposes changes to the penalties associated with marijuana-related offenses. The draft bill proposes a graduated sentencing criteria for the cultivation of cannabis, based on the number of plants seized (a fine for cultivating 1-3 plants; a maximum five years imprisonment for cultivating 4-25 plants; a maximum ten years for cultivating 26-50 plants; and a maximum of 14 years for cultivating 51 or more plants). It would also punish possession of small amounts of marijuana for personal use with fines rather than criminal penalties. Should it pass in its current form, an adult caught with 15 grams or less of marijuana could receive a fine of $115; youth caught with 15 grams or less of marijuana could receive a fine of $75. A companion bill, also introduced on November 1, would give Canadian police authorities the powers to arrest and charge individuals found driving under the influence of drugs. It could also make resources available to law enforcement officers for training in the detection of automobile drivers operating their vehicles while under the influence of narcotic substances and marijuana. Neither current law, nor the proposed cannabis legislation, requires Canadian judges to impose mandatory minimum sentences on major drug producers or traffickers. Canadian law currently provides for the legal use of marijuana for medical purposes and Health Canada makes marijuana available to some 700 Canadians with medical authorization.

In September 2003, the first supervised drug injection site in North America opened in Vancouver. This site costs approximately $1.5 million a year to operate, is located in the downtown Eastside of Vancouver, and services an estimated 4,000 injection drug users. The provincial government of British Columbia is financing the project; however, Health Canada commits about $1.15 million for research as to the site's viability and public good.

Accomplishments. Under the renewed Comprehensive Drug Strategy, the GOC developed a plan to address the organized crime element behind the proliferation of marijuana grow operations in Canada. In January, the RCMP established dedicated investigative teams to target and dismantle marijuana grow operations as well as clandestine laboratories that produce synthetic drugs such as methamphetamine. These teams are currently active in British Columbia, Alberta, and Quebec, provinces where organized crime operations are most prevalent. A National Coordinator was selected to oversee their efforts. Further, in late 2004, the RCMP organized a conference with private sector representatives in the real estate, insurance, and hydropower industries to both facilitate the identification of existing marijuana grow operations and to deter the establishment of new ones.

In November, health-care workers, police and social service providers from western Canada met in Vancouver to discuss the prevalence of methamphetamine and develop approaches to counter its use and availability. In early 2005, the GOC is expected to designate Colombian drug traffickers and money launderers in Canada as law enforcement intelligence targets.

Law Enforcement Efforts
  • In January 2004, Canadian law enforcement uncovered a large indoor grow operation inside a former brewery in Barrie, Ontario and seized 20,100 marijuana plants.

  • In March 2004, as a result of Operation "Candy Box"/ Project Okapi / Project Codi, Canadian and U.S. law enforcement jointly dismantled a large criminal network producing MDMA and marijuana in Canada and distributing it throughout the United States. Over 130 individuals in 19 cities were arrested, and more than 877,000 MDMA pills, 120 kilograms of MDMA powder, over $6 million in currency, and more than 1,000 marijuana plants were seized by U.S. and Canadian law enforcement.

  • Also in March 2004, Toronto police seized over 800 marijuana plants being grown on the 18th floor of a high-rise apartment building. Several apartments reportedly contained some $40,000 in specialized growing equipment.

  • In June, DEA announced the arrest of 50 drug traffickers in Colombia, Panama, Jamaica, the Bahamas, the U.S. and Canada believed responsible for the U.S. distribution of three metric tons of cocaine every month.

  • Also in June, Canadian police made a series of arrests in the Toronto and Windsor area resulting in 157 charges with 49 counts under the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act and the Criminal Code of Canada against 24 individuals.

  • In July, the York Regional Police seized two MDMA labs in Markham, Ontario approximately 100 kilograms of ecstasy, 2 pill presses, and Canadian currency.

  • In August, U.S. Coast Guard officials seized a Canadian flag vessel in the Caribbean and interdicted 350 kilograms of cocaine. 

  • In September, RCMP and DEA enforcement officials conducted Operation Brain Drain and executed 53 search warrants in western Canada and the U.S. and the RCMP obtained arrest warrants for 25 individuals in Canada. Resulting illegal substance seizures in Canada included approximately 1.5 million tablets of ephedrine, 600 kilograms of bulk ephedrine and between $1.5 and $2.5 million in currency. Additionally, a third MDMA facility was seized in Markham, Ontario with over 200 kilograms of MDMA and precursor chemicals that could have produced an additional 300 kilograms.

  • From October 15 through November 7, a Canadian police task force seized 15,000 marijuana plants, with a street value of some $15 million, in Southern Alberta. During this operation, 42 search warrants were issued (41 residences and one warehouse). Canadian law enforcement believed that most of the seized drugs were heading to the U.S.

  • In November local police authorities seized 116 pounds of MDMA from three Toronto residences.

Corruption. Canada holds its officials and law enforcement personnel to a very high standard of conduct and has strong anticorruption controls in place. The GOC has strong anticorruption controls in place. Government personnel found to be engaged in malfeasance of any kind are removed from office and are subject to prosecution. Investigations into accusations of wrongdoing and corruption by government officials are thorough and credible. As a matter of government policy, Canada neither encourages nor facilitates illicit production or distribution of narcotic or psychotropic drugs or other controlled substances, or the laundering of proceeds from illegal drug transactions.

Cultivation/Production. Cannabis cultivation, because of its profitability and relatively low risk, is a thriving industry in Canada. In 2004, the RCMP estimated that annual Canadian marijuana production ranges between 960 and 2400 metric tons. While viewed as a nationwide problem, marijuana is heavily cultivated in British Columbia, although significant production levels are now reported in Ontario and Quebec. According to RCMP seizure data, 1,102,198 marijuana plants were seized in 2000, 1,367,321 in 2001, 1,275,738 in 2002, and 1,400,026 in 2003.

In January 2004, Canadian law enforcement uncovered a record-sized indoor grow operation to date inside a former brewery in Barrie, Ontario, and seized 20,100 marijuana plants. Though outdoor cultivation continues, use of indoor grow operations is increasing because it allows production to continue year-round; they are also becoming larger and more sophisticated. The RCMP reports that Vietnamese organizations may have mastered technologically-advanced organic grow methods and that hydroponic hothouse operations in Canada are now producing marijuana with elevated THC levels. Canadian law enforcement officials have also seized a few aeroponic installations, where roots are suspended in mid-air and sprayed regularly with a fine midst of nutrient-enriched water.

Domestic Programs (Demand Reduction). Canada is clearly a significant narcotics-consuming country, but the scope of this problem was not well understood until recently. In November 2004, Health Canada, the Canadian Executive Council on Addictions, and the Canadian Center on Substance Abuse published the highlights from the Canadian Addiction Survey, the first major survey on the use of substance abuse among Canadians in a decade. This survey found that use of alcohol, cannabis and other drugs has increased significantly in Canada. While alcohol and cannabis remained the most commonly- abused substances, the report suggests that 14 percent of all Canadians have used cannabis in the past year, nearly double the rate reported in 1989. Among youth, the cannabis consumption rate was nearly 30 percent for 15 to 17 year olds and over 47 percent for 18 to 19 year olds. Almost 70 percent of Canadians aged 18 to 24 have used cannabis in their lifetime.

The Statistics Canada study also revealed increases in the number of Canadians taking other illegal drugs: cocaine or crack cocaine, Ecstasy (MDMA), LSD and other hallucinogens, amphetamines ("speed") and heroin. It found that 2.4 per cent of the survey's almost 37,000 respondents, all aged 15 or older, reported using at least one of these other drugs in the previous year, up from 1.6 percent in 1994. And 1.3 percent—an estimated 321,000 Canadians—had used cocaine or crack. The results of a provincial-level survey in Ontario indicated that 4.8percent of secondary school students (up from 3.4percent in 1999) and 3percent of young adults (up from 2percent) had used cocaine in the past year; the rate rose to 4percent among young adults in Toronto (up from 1percent in a 2003 survey). An Ontario Student Drug Use Survey, published in 2003, indicated that adolescent MDMA use increased from 0.6 percent in 1993 to 6 percent in 2001.

Health Canada is the focal point for the nation's drug control policy and emphasized demand reduction as an integral component of its drug control strategy. In an effort to decrease demand, Health Canada has financed a number of public education campaigns, many with a specific focus on youth. The results of these campaigns are not yet clear. Recent Canadian qualitative studies have revealed a significant amount of confusion among Canadian youth regarding the effects, harms and even legal status of marijuana. The GOC, along with NGOs, also offers extensive drug abuse prevention programs. Drug treatment courts in Vancouver and Toronto offer alternatives to jail for convicted drug abusers facing incarceration for nonviolent drug possession offenses.

Agreements and Treaties. Canada is party to the 1988 UN Drug Convention, the 1971 UN Convention on Psychotropic Substances, and the 1961 UN Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs as amended by the 1972 Protocol. Canada is also a party to the Inter-American Convention on Mutual Legal Assistance in Criminal Matters and the Inter-American Convention Against the Illicit Manufacturing of and Trafficking in Firearms, Ammunition, Explosives and Other Related Materials. Canada has also signed the Inter-American Convention Against Corruption. Canada is a party to the UN Convention against Transitional Organized Crime and its protocols on migrant smuggling and trafficking in persons. Canada has ratified all 12 United Nations Security Council Resolutions pertaining to terrorist financing. Canada actively cooperates with international partners; for example, the GOC has signed 30 bilateral mutual legal assistance treaties and 87 extradition treaties with other nations. Judicial assistance and extradition matters between the U.S. and Canada are made through an MLAT and an extradition treaty and protocols. The U.S, and Canada have shared forfeited assets through a bilateral asset sharing agreement.

Canada actively participates in numerous international activities aimed at reducing illicit drug use. From November 2003 until November 2004, Canada held the Chairmanship of the Organization of American States' Inter-American Drug Abuse Control Commission (CICAD). During Canada's chairmanship, CICAD expanded its work promoting active cross-border cooperation and combating transnational organized crime. The GOC likewise increased funding to CICAD for support of the Multilateral Evaluation Mechanism (MEM) and projects such as developing partnerships between health and law enforcement agencies to confront drug-related problems in a more comprehensive manner. The GOC also participates actively in the Dublin Group of international program donors and the Commission on Narcotic Drugs (CND) of the UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC).

IV. U.S. Policy Initiatives and Programs

Bilateral Cooperation. Canada and the United States enjoy a close and dynamic law enforcement relationship. The two countries cooperate closely at the federal, state/provincial, and local levels, and this collaboration also extends into the multilateral arena. The annual U.S./Canada Cross-Border Crime Forum engages policy-makers and senior operational directors in a joint effort to guide the relationship strategically, to develop a common agenda, and to enhance operational coordination. The Forum's technical working groups continue to identify priorities and areas for increased cooperation, such as intelligence sharing. For instance, at the October 2004 Forum, the U.S. Department of Justice and the Department of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness Canada (PSEPC) released a joint interagency-produced threat assessment on the cross-border illegal drug trade. In addition, Project North Star is an ongoing mechanism for law enforcement operational coordination at the state and local level. North Star oversees, for example, the highly-successful joint International Border/Maritime Enforcement Teams (IBETs) that have helped to ensure that criminals cannot to exploit the international border to evade justice.

Because of the high level of mutual confidence, the RCMP and U.S. law enforcement agencies provide reciprocal direct access to each other's criminal databases, including the Canadian Police Information Center (CPIC), a firearms identification database, and a unique automotive paint chip database. Canadian law enforcement benefits from access to the El Paso Intelligence Center (EPIC) and the National Drug Intelligence Center (NDIC). However, some aspects of Canada's criminal justice system, such as Canada's strict privacy laws, limit timely information exchange in some areas.

The two governments also have a broad array of agreements in place to facilitate cooperation in legal matters, such as the extradition and mutual legal assistance treaties, an information-sharing agreement, and an asset sharing agreement. Canada is the USG's principal extradition partner.

The Road Ahead. In early 2005, the Government of Canada is expected to designate Colombian drug traffickers and money launderers in Canada as law enforcement intelligence targets. In late 2004, the GOC reintroduced legislation (now Bill C-10) to change the penalties associated with cannabis-related crimes, including provisions that would impose fines rather than criminal penalties on possession of small amounts of marijuana for personal use.

The emerging threat of MDMA production in Canada, and the potential for Canada to become a major U.S. supplier of this dangerous drug, will make this a priority area for U.S.-Canada bilateral cooperation in 2005. The USG will also continue to follow with interest Canada's ongoing efforts to strengthen its chemical control regulations and enforcement efforts to stem the diversion of precursor chemicals into illicit drug production in Canada, the United States or other countries. Given the already significant amount of Canadian-produced marijuana entering the U.S., the USG welcomed the GOC's establishment of the special investigative units targeting criminal organizations involved in cannabis cultivation, processing and distribution. Finally, the U.S. has expressed its concern that some aspects of Canada's proposed cannabis reform legislation could fuel not only drug consumption in Canada, but smuggling into the U.S. Effective bilateral efforts to combat transborder drug smuggling, as well as domestic production and consumption of illicit drugs in both countries, are essential to our parallel efforts to keep our shared border open to legitimate goods, services, and travelers.

To further improve cooperation with Canada, the USG plans to:
  • expand two-way intelligence sharing to include the timeliness and relevance of the information provided;

  • expand professional exchanges and cooperative training activities between our law enforcement agencies;

  • work with the GOC to increase the risks and penalties for criminals engaged in drug production and trafficking as well as other organized criminal activity;

  • maintain joint cross-border investigations and operations, and expanding these to include joint operations on the Great lakes and Saint Lawrence Seaway; and

  • provide technical support, based on U.S. experience, to support Canadian efforts to implement its chemical control legislation and strengthen its regulatory practices, consistent with international standards and practices; and

  • actively promote awareness of the short and long-term health consequences of drug consumption, particularly among our young people.

Costa Rica

I. Summary

Costa Rica serves as a transshipment point for narcotics from South America to the United States and Europe. The bilateral Maritime Counterdrug Cooperation Agreement, which entered into force in late 1999, continues to improve the overall maritime security of Costa Rica and serves as an impetus for the professional development of the Costa Rican Coast Guard. Costa Rican law enforcement officials continue to demonstrate growing professionalism and reliability as USG partners in combating narcotics trafficking and dealing with ever-changing drug smuggling methods. The volume of illicit narcotics seized in Costa Rica increased dramatically in 2004 after almost doubling in 2003. In Costa Rica's Eastern Pacific waters alone, 4,700 kilograms of cocaine were seized in 2004. Heroin seizures, which had doubled every year since 1999, were substantially lower with 68 kilograms seized in 2004 compared to 146 in 2003. The Government of Costa Rica (GOCR) continued to implement a 2002 narcotics control law that criminalized money laundering. The Counternarcotics Institute, created in 2003, enhanced its coordination efforts in the areas of intelligence, demand reduction, asset seizure, and precursor chemical licensing. Costa Rica is a party to the 1988 UN Drug Convention.

II. Status of Country

Costa Rica's location astride the Central American isthmus makes the country an attractive transshipment area for South American-produced cocaine and heroin destined primarily for the United States. The difficulty of maritime interdiction in Costa Rican waters is exacerbated by a total maritime jurisdiction that is more than eleven times the size of Costa Rica's land mass. These territorial waters are used for the transshipment of illegal drugs in small go-fast boats refueled by larger vessels posing as fishing vessels. Traffickers along northbound maritime routes continued to use routes through Costa Rica's Pacific Exclusive Economic Zone and those further out to sea in the Eastern Pacific. For the first time, and as a result of joint maritime operations, the Costa Rican Coast Guard (SNGC) interdicted three go-fast vessels in 2004 and seized a total of 625 kilograms of cocaine. The GOCR runs an effective airport interdiction program aimed at passengers. The Embassy has worked with its counterparts to extend that success to cargo inspection at the Juan Santamaria International Airport. A similar effort is underway in the seaports of Limon and Caldera; however, clear legal authority for onboard inspection of containers and ships has yet to be established. This legal impediment and a lack of sufficient export control procedures for effective identification and inspection of high-risk cargo continue to present challenges. Costa Rica has a stringent governmental licensing process for the importation and distribution of controlled precursor and essential chemicals and prescription drugs. Local consumption of illicit narcotics, including crack cocaine and "club drugs," along with the violent crimes associated with such drug use, are growing concerns to Costa Ricans.

Authorities seized 1,622 ecstasy pills in 2004, up slightly from the 1,321 seized during 2003. These seizures suggest increasing consumption in Costa Rica and the potential use of Costa Rica as a transshipment point for "club drugs." Two indoor hydroponics cannabis facilities were seized in 2004, but the small size of these operations indicates domestic consumption only, despite potential for export due to high THC content. The GOCR is directing more resources to address the serious threats posed by narcotics trafficking, but budgetary limitations continue to constrain the capabilities of law enforcement agencies.

III. Country Actions Against Drugs in 2004

Policy Initiatives. The 1999 bilateral Maritime Counterdrug Cooperation Agreement and the Coast Guard Professionalization Law passed in 2000 have continued to provide impetus for the professional development of the Costa Rican Coast Guard and have been instrumental in improving the overall maritime security of Costa Rica. The Costa Rican Coast Guard Academy, established in 2002, has thus far graduated 125 officials. Costa Rica is the depository for the multilateral "Agreement Concerning Co-operation in Suppressing Illicit Maritime and Aeronautical Trafficking in Narcotics Drugs and Psychotropic Substances in the Caribbean Area" signed in 2003 in San Jose. Throughout 2004, the Pacheco Administration pressed for domestic ratification and spearheaded an active international lobbying effort, including sponsorship of a high-level multilateral seminar in San Jose, to help bring the agreement into force. Other regional cooperation initiatives include co-hosting with the DEA of two International Drug Enforcement Conferences (IDEC's). The Costa Rican Counternarcotics Institute develops an annual counternarcotics plan; however, resource limitations frustrate full implementation of the plan.

Accomplishments. Relations between U.S. law enforcement agencies and GOCR counterparts, including the Judicial Investigative Police Narcotics Section, the Ministry of Public Security Drug Control Police, the Coast Guard, and the Air Surveillance Section, remain close and productive, resulting in regular information-sharing and joint operations. Costa Rican counternarcotics officials confiscated over $1.2 million in currency and 38 vehicles in 2004. In addition, they destroyed over 3,000 kilos of seized cocaine in close cooperation with U.S. law enforcement officials. U.S. DEA Agents and Coast Guard Officers have worked closely with GOCR counterparts and prosecutors in developing cases against narcotics traffickers, all of whom have been sentenced or remain in pre-trial detention. Since the inauguration in 2004 of the Mobile Enforcement Team (MET)—an interagency team consisting of canine units, drug control police, customs police, and specialized vehicles—the MET participated in coordinated cross-border operations with Nicaragua and Panama and increased its internal patrols.

Law Enforcement Efforts. The primary counternarcotics agencies in Costa Rica are the Judicial Investigative Police (OIJ), under the Supreme Court, and the Ministry of Public Security's Drug Control Police. The Judicial Investigative Police operate a small, but highly professional, Narcotics Section that specializes in investigating international narcotics trafficking. The Drug Control Police investigate both domestic and international drug smuggling and distribution, and are responsible for airport interdiction as well as land-based interdiction at the primary ports of entry. Both entities routinely conduct complex investigations of drug smuggling organizations, resulting in arrests and the confiscation of cocaine and other drugs, using the full range of investigative techniques permitted under the country's counternarcotics statutes.

Agents of the Drug Control Police, through the effective use of canines and contraband detectors/density meters at both northern and southern borders, have increased seizures of cocaine hidden within tractor-trailers. Inauguration in April 2004 of the USG-funded Penas Blancas Border Control Checkpoint, located at a natural chokepoint on the border with Nicaragua, was an important milestone in efforts to battle the growing threat from overland narcotics transportation. The frequency of seizures at the Penas Blancas inspection facility is already twice that of the Paso Canoas station on the border with Panama, although the quantity seized at the southern border was slightly higher.

Corruption. During 2004, unprecedented corruption scandals provoked the worst political crisis of the last 50 years in Costa Rica. The scandals, involving apparent kickbacks to officials at the highest levels of the government, severely tested Costa Rica's legal system. Although the implications are still unfolding, with two ex-presidents currently in jail awaiting trial, Costa Rica's commitment to combat public corruption appears to have been strengthened by the recent challenges. In October 2004, the Legislative Assembly passed a strict new anticorruption law that punishes "illicit enrichment" on the part of public officials.

Costa Rica signed the Inter-American Convention Against Corruption in March 1996 and ratified it in May 1997. In March 2004, the Attorney General for Public Ethics (Procuradoria de la Etica Publica) was established, and in May that office was designated the central authority for channeling resources and technical assistance related to the Convention. U.S. law enforcement agencies continue to consider the public security forces and judicial officials to be full partners in counternarcotics investigations and operations. To the best of these agencies' knowledge, no senior official of the GOCR engages in, encourages, or facilitates the illicit production or distribution of such drugs or substances, or the laundering of proceeds from illegal drug transactions.

Agreements and Treaties. The six-part bilateral Maritime Counterdrug Cooperation Agreement continues to serve as the model maritime agreement for Central America and the Caribbean. The Agreement has promoted closer cooperation in the interdiction of maritime smuggling and was responsible for the interdiction of 25,369 kilograms of illicit drugs in Costa Rica's Exclusive Economic Zone by U.S Coast Guard and Navy vessels since 1999. Results of the Agreement in 2004 include five maritime counternarcotics interdictions, 25 U.S. law enforcement ship visits to Costa Rica in support of Eastern Pacific and Caribbean counternarcotics patrols, and a number of search and rescue cases by USG assets. The United States and Costa Rica have had an extradition treaty in force since 1991. The treaty is actively used for the extradition of U.S. citizens and third-country nationals, but Costa Rican law does not permit the extradition of its own nationals. Costa Rica has ratified the Inter-American Convention Against Corruption and is a signatory to the UN Convention Against Corruption. Costa Rica ratified a bilateral stolen vehicles treaty in October 2002. Costa Rica is a party to the 1988 UN Drug Convention, the 1961 Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs, as amended by its 1972 Protocol, and the 1971 Convention on Psychotropic Substances.

Costa Rica and the United States are also parties to bilateral drug information and intelligence sharing agreements dating from 1975 and 1976. Costa Rica is a member of the Caribbean Financial Action Task Force and the Egmont Group. It is also a member of the Inter-American Drug Abuse Control Commission of the Organization of American States (OAS/CICAD). Costa Rica is a party to the UN Convention against Transnational Organized Crime and its three protocols.

Cultivation/Production. Marijuana cultivation is relatively small-scale and generally occurs in remote mountainous areas near the Panamanian border, in the Caribbean region near Limon and Talamanca, and the Valle del General on the southern Pacific Coast. Such cultivation is sometimes intermixed with legitimate crops. Joint U.S.-Costa Rican eradication operations are periodically carried out under the auspices of "Operation Central Skies," utilizing U.S. Army air assets. Over six and a half million marijuana plants have been destroyed to date during these operations. Costa Rican authorities continued to conduct eradication operations independent of USG assistance, seizing 553,000 plants in 2004. The quantity of plants eradicated suggests that marijuana is not being exported from Costa Rica. Costa Rica does not produce other illicit drug crops. We have no indications to date of any synthetic drug manufacturing in Costa Rica.

Drug Flow/Transit. 2004 witnessed a continuation of the trend detected late last year toward frequent, smaller (50-500 kilograms) overland shipments transiting Costa Rica in truck compartments, dump truck loads and car compartments that were characteristic of trafficking trends before 1999. GOCR officials have made numerous seizures at the international airport in San Jose, typically from departing passengers. The recent trend of increased trafficking of narcotics by maritime routes has also continued, with indications that maritime traffickers use Costa Rican-flagged fishing vessels to serve as logistical support vessels for northbound go-fast boats in the Costa Rican exclusive economic zone. During 2004, several vessels, allegedly carrying far too much fuel for their purported needs, caught fire.

Domestic Programs (Demand Reduction). Costa Ricans have become increasingly concerned over local consumption, especially of crack cocaine and Ecstasy. Abuse appears to be highest in the Central Valley (including the major cities of San Jose, Alajuela, Cartago, and Heredia), the port cities of Limon and Puntarenas, the north near Barra del Colorado, and along the southern border. All but 30 of the 1,622 Ecstasy tablets seized in 2004 were confiscated in San Jose. The Prevention Unit of the Costa Rican Counternarcotics Institute oversees drug prevention efforts and educational programs throughout the country, primarily through well-developed educational programs for use in public and private schools and community centers. In 2004, the Institute continued its country-wide campaign against Ecstasy use with billboards posted in high schools, universities, and pharmacies. 2004 also saw a large-scale print, television and radio demand reduction campaign aimed at heads of households entitled "Impose Limits."

The Institute and the Ministry of Education distribute demand reduction materials to all public school children. The MET often visits local schools in the wake of a deployment. The team's canines and specialized vehicles are effectively used to deliver demand reduction messages. The Costa Rican Drug Abuse Resistance Education (DARE) Foundation, modeled after its U.S. counterpart, conducts drug awareness programs at over 500 public and private schools and graduated its millionth alumnus in 2004.

IV. U.S. Policy Initiatives and Programs

U.S. Policy Initiatives. The principal U.S. counternarcotics goal in Costa Rica is to reduce the transit of drugs to U.S. markets. Means of achieving that goal include: reducing the flow of illicit narcotics through Costa Rica; enhancing the effectiveness of the criminal justice system; reducing the use of Costa Rica as a money laundering center by encouraging stricter controls and strengthening enforcement; supporting efforts to locate and destroy marijuana fields; and the continued targeting of high-level trafficking organizations operating in Costa Rica. Specific initiatives include: continuing to implement the bilateral Maritime Counterdrug Cooperation Agreement; enhancing interdiction of drug shipments by improving the facilities and training personnel at the northern border crossing of Penas Blancas; enhancing the ability of the Air Section of the Public Security Ministry to respond to illicit drug activities by providing equipment and technical training; improving law enforcement capacity by providing specialized training and equipment to the Judicial Investigative Police Narcotics Section, the Drug Control Police, the Intelligence Unit of the Costa Rica Counternarcotics Institute, the National Police Academy, and the Customs Control Police; and increasing public awareness of dangers posed by narcotics trafficking and drug use by providing assistance to Costa Rican demand reduction programs and initiatives.

Bilateral Cooperation. The Department of State allocated $1.9 million appropriated under Title III, Chapter 2, of the Emergency Supplemental Act, 2000, as enacted in the Military Construction Appropriations Act (P.L. 106-246) for expanded assistance to the Costa Rican Coast Guard consistent with the MOU on Maritime Assistance and the Maritime Agreement. This assistance is designed to enhance Costa Rican and U.S. maritime security through the development of a professional Coast Guard. In 2004, USG assistance included numerous U.S. Coast Guard training programs, overhaul and spare parts for the three U.S.-donated 82-foot patrol boats, furniture and computer equipment for the new Coast Guard Station in Quepos and for the, furniture and computer equipment for the Penas Blancas inspection facility, and two vehicles for the OIJ. The U.S. also provided increased information on suspect vessel and air traffic movements near Costa Rica. The U.S. Embassy hosted a series of seminars on the law of maritime interdiction and boarding procedures that brought together Costa Rican Coast Guard officers, prosecutors, and judges. The Embassy used the same inter-agency approach to provide a training series on law enforcement techniques related to border control and cargo inspection. In addition, the USG acquired computer equipment, software and other equipment for the Ministry of Public Security's Drug Control Police and Migration Section, the Judicial Investigative Police Narcotics Section, the Public Prosecutor's Economic Crimes Section and Sex Crimes Section, the Costa Rica Counternarcotics Institute's Financial Intelligence Unit, and the inter-agency MET unit. Additional training and equipment were donated to the Ministry of Public Security's Canine Section.

The Road Ahead. The U.S.-sponsored $2.2 million Costa Rican Coast Guard Development Plan was completed in 2003. Subject to the availability of funds, the United States will continue to provide technical expertise, training, and funding to professionalize Costa Rica's maritime service and enhance its capabilities to conduct U.S. Coast Guard-style maritime law enforcement, marine environmental protection, and search and rescue operations within its littoral waters in support of the bilateral Maritime Counterdrug Cooperation Agreement. The United States seeks to build upon the on-going successful maritime experience by turning more attention and resources to land interdiction strategies, including expanded coverage of airports and seaport facilities. The United States will continue to cooperate closely with the GOCR in its efforts to professionalize its public security forces and implement and expand controls against money laundering.

El Salvador

I. Summary

El Salvador is a transit country for narcotics, mainly cocaine and heroin. In 2004, the National Police seized 2,703 kilograms (Kg) of cocaine (a 20-percent increase over 2003 levels) and 3.84 kilograms of heroin. The Forward Operating Location facilities contributed to the seizure of 2.2 metric tons (MT) of illicit narcotics in Salvadoran territory and disrupted the delivery of 71 metric tons narcotics to the rest of the region. Salvadoran law enforcement agencies cooperated with U.S. authorities on cases that led to the U.S. indictments of 12 major drug traffickers. Although El Salvador is not a major financial center, assets forfeited and seized as the result of drug-related crimes amounted to $554,113 dollars. Salvadoran authorities complied with resolutions regarding terrorist assets and did not find assets from individuals or entities on the terrorism lists. El Salvador is a party to the 1998 Drug Convention.

II. Status of Country

Located in the isthmus between the United States and the major drug producing nations, El Salvador is a transit point for illicit narcotics trafficking. Cocaine and heroin are the most commonly trafficked drugs. Climate and soil conditions are unfavorable for coca cultivation. Precursor chemical production, trading, and transit are not significant problems.

III. Country Actions Against Drugs in 2004

Policy Initiatives. According to the Salvadoran Anti-Drug Commission, progress in achieving the 2002-2008 counternarcotics master plan of the Salvadoran Government (GOES) was made in the categories of: 1) the sale and transport of narcotics within El Salvador; 2) bilateral law enforcement and drug-transit cooperation; and 3) prevention, treatment, rehabilitation, and social reintegration. The GOES implemented Plan Super Heavy Hand ("Super Mano Dura") and Plan Friendly Hand ("Mano Amiga") to address issues related to street gangs, including narcotics trafficking, substance abuse, and social reinsertion.

Accomplishments. Several significant developments during the year demonstrated the GOES commitment to achieving compliance with the objectives of the 1988 UN Drug Convention. Armed with a new counternarcotics law that came into effect in November 2003, the National Civilian Police (PNC) interdicted 20 percent more cocaine over the preceding year. Using the same comparison, the PNC arrested 49 percent more individuals for drug trafficking offenses. The GOES seized US$554,113 in assets linked to narcotics trafficking, representing an exponential increase over the US$33,749 seized in 2003. Once convictions are realized, seized assets are used to fund law enforcement, drug treatment, and drug prevention efforts.

The Embassy-supported Containerized Freight Tracking System (CFTS) at the Amatillo border crossing with Honduras began operations in July 2004. The purpose of the facility is to permit the GOES to inspect commercial and passenger vehicles arriving from Honduras. In the last half of 2004, PNC personnel at the CFTS seized 4.1 kilograms of marijuana, 2.1 kilograms of cocaine, and 2.2 kilograms of heroin.

Aircraft deployed to the Forward Operation Location (FOL) at the Salvadoran Air Force base in Comalapa track aircraft and sea vessels moving north towards the United States. FOL aircraft report their findings to U.S. law enforcement agencies, which then notify regional governments. In 2004, cooperation between the FOL, the Embassy, the Salvadoran Air Force, and the PNC resulted in the seizure of 2,968 kilograms, and the arrest of nine narcotics traffickers by Salvadoran officials. The presence of the FOL in El Salvador contributed to an additional total seizure of 2.2 metric tons of cocaine by U.S. law enforcement agencies and other regional governments.

In July 2004, the GOES implemented Plan Super Heavy Hand in response to rising street gang violence. Although the plan addresses all gang related activity (to include kidnapping, rape, extortion, murder, fraud, aggravated theft, human trafficking), it also aims to disrupt narcotics trafficking and distribution controlled by gangs. During the year, the PNC arrested 332 and convicted 35 gang members for drug trafficking and distribution offenses.

The GOES actively cooperated with the United Nations Drug Control Program. The obstacles that prevented El Salvador from fully achieving all of the objectives of the 1988 UN Drug Convention included legal impediments and limited resources, as discussed below.

Law Enforcement Efforts. Salvadoran law enforcement efforts are still hindered by constitutional prohibitions against using some investigative tools, such as wiretapping. Salvadoran authorities have encountered difficulties obtaining judicial authorization to destroy clandestine airstrips situated on private property and used by drug traffickers. The GOES gives a very high priority to counternarcotics law enforcement, but its available resources are inadequate to achieve all of its counternarcotics objectives.

Nonetheless, law enforcement efforts in 2004 were adequate, given resource constraints and legal impediments. These efforts were primarily focused on priority targets of mutual interest to both the United States and the GOES. Salvadoran police investigators and prosecutors traveled to the United States on numerous occasions throughout the year to share intelligence and coordinate operations. Joint cooperation led to the U.S. indictments of 12 major drug traffickers in El Salvador. Apart from joint operations, the PNC seized 402 kilograms of marijuana, 2,703 kilograms of cocaine, and 3.84 kilograms of heroin. PNC officers arrested 1,561 individuals for drug related offenses, 1,015 of which resulted in convictions.

Corruption. Under Salvadoran law, using one's official position in relation to the commission of a drug offense is an aggravating circumstance that can result in an increased sentence of up to one-third of the statutory maximum. This includes accepting or receiving money or other benefits in exchange for an act or omission in relation to one's official duties. The PNC's Internal Affairs Unit and the Attorney General's Office (FGR) investigate and prosecute GOES officials for corruption and abuse of authority.

The FGR's Anti-Corruption Unit is investigating several important cases of public corruption, including one involving a public water utility (ANDA) in a multimillion-dollar fraud. Although none of these cases is directly related to narcotics, they illustrate that the GOES is making efforts to enforce its laws against corruption.

In 2004, the INL-supported and U.S.-based National Strategic Information Center, in cooperation with the Salvadoran Ministry of Education, began implementing the Culture of Lawfulness program in Salvadoran schools. The program focuses upon the advantages that accrue to the individual and to society if everyone follows the rule of law. Special emphasis is placed on the social costs of corruption and bribery. Thus far, 10 teachers have been trained in the mechanics of presenting the program. The program will begin being taught in public schools in 2005.

As a matter of policy, the GOES does not encourage or facilitate illicit production or distribution of narcotics or psychotropic drugs or other controlled substances, or the laundering of proceeds from illegal drug transactions. No senior official is known to engage in, encourage, or facilitate the illicit production or distribution of such drugs or substances, or the laundering of proceeds from illegal drug transactions. The GOES has no INL-provided aircraft, nor has it misused any other equipment purchased with INL funds.

El Salvador is a party to the Inter-American Convention Against Corruption. Consistent with the country's obligations under that Convention, the law criminalizes soliciting, receiving, offering, promising, and giving bribes, as well as the illicit use and concealment of property derived from such activity.

Agreements and Treaties. El Salvador is a party to the following international agreements: the 1988 UN Drug Convention, the 1971 UN Convention on Psychotropic Substances; and the 1961 UN Single Convention as amended by the 1972 Protocol; the Central American convention for the Prevention of Money Laundering Related to Drug-Trafficking and Similar Crimes; and the UN Convention against Transnational Organized Crime and its three protocols.

An extradition treaty is in force between the United States and El Salvador. Narcotics offenses are covered as extraditable crimes by virtue of the 1988 UN Drug Convention, to which El Salvador is a party.

Mutual legal assistance in narcotics cases is available to the United States and El Salvador under Article 7 of the 1988 UN Drug Convention. The Inter-American Convention on Mutual Assistance in Criminal Matters, to which El Salvador is a party, provides further tools to facilitate legal cooperation between the United States and the GOES.

Cultivation/Production. The climate and soil conditions of El Salvador do not favor the cultivation of coca plants. Small quantities of cannabis are produced in the mountainous regions along the border with Guatemala and Honduras. However, the cannabis, which is consumed domestically, is of poor quality. There were no gains or setbacks in controlling cannabis cultivation and production because the small quantity and poor quality of the crop does not justify the expenditure of a systematic campaign against it. There is no local methodology for determining cannabis crop size and yields. Cannabis is detected due to tips, routine foot patrols, and air surveillance.

Drug Flow/Transit. Cocaine from Colombia typically transits El Salvador via the Pan-American Highway and via maritime routes off the country's Pacific coast. Heroin from Colombia usually goes through Panama, then via courier on a commercial passenger flight to El Salvador, with another commercial flight to Honduras, and then by bus to Guatemala. The Pan-American and Littoral Highways are the land routes preferred by traffickers. As in the rest of Central America, there has been a notable increase in the amount of heroin transiting both the international airport and land ports of entry. Both heroin and cocaine also transit by sea off the Salvadoran coast as well as through Salvadoran airspace.

Domestic Programs (Demand Reduction). The GOES manages its demand reduction program through several government agencies. The Ministry of Education presents lifestyle and drug prevention courses in the public schools, as well as providing after school activities. The PNC operates a D.A.R.E. program modeled on the U.S. program of the same name. The Ministries of Governance and Transportation have antidoping units that advocate drug-free lifestyles. The Public Security Council (Consejo Nacional de Seguridad Publica) is actively involved in demobilization and substance abuse prevention within Salvador's gang communities.

The Salvadoran NGO FundaSalva works with the GOES to provide substance abuse awareness, counseling, rehabilitation, and reinsertion services (job training) to the public. In 2004, FundaSalva provided demand reduction services to over 3,000 individuals. Other less comprehensive rehabilitation programs exist, usually faith-based and run by recovering addicts.

In addition, as part of Plan Friendly Hand, FundaSalva operates a USG-donated laser tattoo removal machine. Former gang members who meet the stringent requirements of gang demobilization (leaving the gang life behind) and successful substance abuse treatment are eligible to have their gang tattoos removed for free. Removing tattoos decreases the possibility of gang recidivism while increasing the prospect of finding gainful employment, both of which reduce the likelihood of future drug consumption. In 2004, FundaSalva provided tattoo removal services for 251 individuals.

A national survey conducted last year by FundaSalva reveals that substance abuse in El Salvador is significant and growing. According to the survey results, seven percent of the population (ages 12 to 45) used illicit narcotics in the past year, with four percent using drugs within the past month. Fourteen percent of those surveyed admitted to ingesting pharmaceutical stimulants and depressants in the past year. First use of alcohol or drugs occurs between the ages of twelve and fourteen years old. Fifty percent of all minors surveyed indicated that they had used drugs or alcohol on at least one occasion. Relative to the size of the at-risk and addicted populations, demand reduction programs are inadequate.

IV. U.S. Policy Initiatives and Programs

Policy Initiatives. U.S. assistance focuses upon developing El Salvador's law enforcement agencies, increasing the GOES ability to combat money laundering and public corruption, and ensuring a transparent criminal justice system.

Bilateral Cooperation. The United States provided funding for operational support of Grupo Cuscatlan and the high-profile crimes unit (GEAN) within the Anti-Narcotics Police. The United States also funded training and travel related to airport security, money laundering, maritime boarding operations, and antigang measures. Officers from the Drug Enforcement Agency and State's Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement work closely with the PNC counternarcotics unit, the PNC financial crimes unit, the Financial Investigations Unit of the federal prosecutors office, and the federal banking regulators on issues relating to drug trafficking and money laundering.

Road Ahead. The United States will continue to provide operational support to Salvadoran law enforcement institutions, anti-money laundering training, and essential investigative tools. In partnership with the GOES, the United States plans to finance the completion of construction modifications at the CFTS in Amatillo, the new headquarters for the PNC Joint Intelligence Coordination Center, and the new kennels for the PNC's narcotics detection canine unit.

Guatemala

I. Summary

Guatemala remains a major drug-transit country for cocaine, heroin and illicit narcotics in route to the United States and Europe. In spite of substantial counternarcotics efforts by the Government of Guatemala (GOG) in 2004, large shipments of cocaine continue to move through Guatemala by air, road, and sea.

Acute lack of resources, weak leadership at the middle management level of the GOP, widespread corruption and frequent personnel turnover continue to affect the GOG's ability to deal with narcotics trafficking and organized crime. However, there are substantial accomplishments. Most notably, the GOG has pursued numerous public corruption cases against former public officials, army officers and police. The attorney general commenced corruption cases against 383 individuals during 2004, including the former vice president and finance minister, who are both awaiting trial; the former president fled to Mexico when it became evident he was about to be arrested. Similarly, 2088 cases have been opened against police officers accused of offenses ranging from homicide to extortion and robbery (including 23 command level officers), and half the officers (325) of the criminal investigation division have been fired.

The GOG has seized every opportunity to cooperate with the USG in CN operations. The first major legislative action of the Berger government was to renew the legislative authority for joint US/Guatemalan military and law enforcement operations to take place in Guatemala. Since that time, six successful Mayan Jaguar operations have taken place under the Central Skies operational framework. The GOG also enthusiastically implemented the CN bilateral maritime agreement. During 2004, the GOG authorized boarding of a Guatemalan-flagged vessel in international waters and 3.2 metric tons of cocaine were seized. The GOG also agreed to three transfers of third country alien prisoners through Guatemalan territory under the terms of the maritime agreement. A total of 44 drug traffickers arrested by the USCG in international waters were thus transferred to the U.S. for prosecution, allowing USCG assets to remain on station to pursue drug interdiction/homeland security missions.

The Anti-Narcotics Analysis and Information Services (SAIA, the Guatemalan counternarcotics police) seized 4481 kilograms of cocaine in 2004, less than last year, largely due to the grounding of their A-37 fleet and most of their helicopters. This has severely limited GOG capability to pursue suspected narcotics trafficker air tracks, or to transport police to air-track termination points in time to disrupt drug off-loading. As a result, the GOG has not been able to make sizable drug seizures in the extreme northern part of Guatemala where traffickers prefer to operate. The GOG was more successful in domestic eradication in 2004, eradicating over 5.4 million poppy plants, or 181 hectares. These eradications were accomplished in the remote and mountainous west of the country without helicopter support, and with support costs paid entirely by the GOG. Guatemala is a party to the 1988 UN Drug Convention and the OAS Inter-American Corruption Convention.

II. Status of Country

Guatemala is a preferred transit point in Central America for onward shipment of cocaine to the United States. USG estimates indicate that up to 400 metric tons of cocaine are shipped annually through, over and around the Central American corridor to Mexico and the United States. Guatemalan law enforcement agencies interdicted 4.5 metric tons of cocaine in 2004, down significantly from the previous year's 8.8 metric tons. With their A-37 fleet and most of their helicopters grounded, Guatemala has limited capability to project force into the extreme northern area of the country where the traffickers operate, and where the bulk of the previous year's seizures were made. Narcotics traffickers continue to pay for transportation services with drugs, which enter into local markets leading to increased domestic consumption and crime.

Guatemala has a strong anti-money laundering law, which provides for sentences of up to 20 years, with augmentation of up to one-third the sentence if the accused is a public official. This law has served as one basis for many of the numerous public corruption cases that were brought by the GOG in 2004. Guatemala was also removed from the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) list of non-cooperating countries and territories (NCCT) in 2004, after undertaking a long list of financial sector reforms.

Cultivation of opium poppy is a problem that has returned to Guatemala. In 2004, 181 hectares of opium plants were eradicated in Guatemala, up from only one hectare in 2003. It is suspected that much of this opium is being processed into heroin in Guatemala, for smuggling north through Mexico to the U.S. Marijuana is also grown, but only for local consumption. It is unknown if any quantities of club drugs are processed in Guatemala. Diversion of precursor chemicals is, at present, an un-quantified problem in Guatemala; the registration and control of these substances has just begun. Precursor chemical control legislation was enacted in 1999, and implementing regulations were approved in 2003, but have resulted in no meaningful law enforcement effort, largely due to lack of resources.

III. Country Actions Against Drugs in 2004

Policy Initiatives. In 2004, Guatemala signed four Letters of Agreement (LOAs) with the USG on control of organized crime and narcotics trafficking, law enforcement institution building and demand reduction.

The GOG continues to use a multi agency-working group to focus their counternarcotics efforts. This mechanism allowed Guatemala to make good progress on each of the 13 benchmarks for 2004.

In January, the first major legislative action of the Berger government was to reauthorize the law permitting joint U.S./Guatemalan military and law enforcement operations to taker place in Guatemala. Since then, seven such operations (known as "Mayan Jaguar") were held under the Central Skies operational framework (an operation involving Central American countries and Joint Interagency Task Force South), including three operations to implement the bilateral maritime agreement.

Illicit Cultivation, Production and Distribution. There is growing opium poppy cultivation. During the spring 2004 poppy cultivation season, Guatemala eradicated more than 5.4 million poppy plants, or about 181 hectares (using a conversion factor of 30,000 plants to one hectare); it should be noted that lack of air assets for reconnaissance and transportation of personnel make manual eradication very difficult in a country with mountainous terrain and limited infrastructure. To address the need for reliable reconnaissance, the GOG allowed U.S.-funded Regional Aerial Reconnaissance and Eradication (RARE) deployments in December and July. The December mission observed extensive poppy cultivation, estimated at 12 hectares. Target packages developed from the December RARE mission will be incorporated into the next major GOG manual poppy eradication operation.

Guatemala has significant cannabis cultivation, all of which is consumed locally, and continues a robust eradication program, with an increase of better than 64 percent over 2003 (102 hectares vs. 62). Most of the marijuana plants were eradicated in the remote northern area of the country.

Past seizures at processing labs indicate that shipments of cocaine transiting Guatemala are reprocessed to reduce purity, prior to repackaging for onward shipment to the U.S. Seizures of heroin at the points on the Guatemala/Mexico border near to Guatemala's western highlands suggest that opium poppy being cultivated there is being processed into heroin within Guatemala for smuggling north through Mexico to the U.S.

Sale, Transport, and Financing. Cocaine seizures in Guatemala were made from land, air and sea transportation.

The Pan-American Highway is a major conduit for drugs traveling north to Mexico and eventually the U.S. The trend continued of individuals transiting Guatemala being arrested in U.S. airports with cocaine and heroin. This year the trend for delivery to Guatemala shifted away from aircraft towards more use of go-fast boats and commercial fishing vessels, particularly during the second half of the year.

Commercial containers, both on land and through seaports, continue to offer the best opportunity for smuggling larger quantities of drugs through Guatemala's ports of entry. Other than one major seizure in April of 979 kilos at Puerto Santo Tomas, this is an area that has had little interdiction success. Guatemala's Port Security Program (PSP) is trying to improve counternarcotics interdiction at the seaports. PSP is self-financed by a fee levied on shipping companies and provides monetary and technical assistance to the SAIA agents who operate in the ports. The USG provides technical assistance, logistical support, and training. Seizures have been very low due to continuing corruption in the seaports. However, the new Director General of the National Civilian Police (PNC) wants to see improvement, and is using the electronic manifest system to supervise, through his office, the issuance of container inspection orders. He has also ordered SAIA to inspect all non-manifested containers. Thus far, these new procedures have yielded no drug seizures.

Law Enforcement and Transit Cooperation. Guatemalan law enforcement representatives work with U.S. personnel and organizations to curtail the flow of drugs through Guatemala in instances where the USG can provide intelligence, funding and technical assistance. U.S. law enforcement agencies continue to have collaborative relationships with Guatemalan law enforcement authorities, and Guatemala exchanges limited information and maintains links with other Joint Intelligence Coordination Centers (JICCs) in South and Central America.

Guatemala actively participated in the Central Skies combined counternarcotics campaign plan that included DEA and the U.S. Army. Guatemala has also been very cooperative in allowing the U.S. permission to enter its airspace and territorial waters in connection with counternarcotics missions, and in granting requests for prisoner transfers under the bilateral maritime agreement. The GOG granted all three requests made by the USCG in 2004, allowing U.S. Department of Justice aircraft to transport 44 third-country nationals arrested in international waters for drug trafficking.

Demand Reduction. The GOG continues to support counternarcotics education and rehabilitation programs pursuant to the country master plan. Guatemala's demand reduction agency, SECCATID, implemented a variety of projects, including hosting an International Drug Prevention Conference. Experts from twelve countries discussed program strategies based on the results of the first-ever nationwide drug consumption survey results conducted in 2002. In Guatemala, the study found that between 1998 and 2002, alcohol use among youths has increased by 50 percent, cocaine by 40 percent, marijuana by 55 percent, and tranquilizers (primarily by young females) 380 percent.

Through the National Program of Preventive Education, SECCATID trained 6,285 instructors this year, an increase of about 450 percent compared to last year's 1,138, throughout the country using the "train the trainer" concept with the participation of the Ministries of Health and Education. SECCATID also provided training and education to 1,661 parents, who trained 34,784 other parents, as agents of preventive education. More than 70,000 Guatemalan students received drug awareness from SECCATID and trained teachers. SECCATID also provided training to more than 4,651 NGO reps, private company reps, soldiers, prison guards, nurses, doctors and other adults. The DARE program provided training to 5,569 students and teachers. In 2004, SECCATID developed and distributed counternarcotics educational materials, including 400,000 pamphlets, 6,860 t-shirts and caps, 25,000 school agendas and over 130,000 notebooks with drug preventive messages. The month-long public awareness media campaign during the 2004 International Drug Prevention Day approximately reached half a million listeners and viewers.

Law Enforcement Efforts. Cocaine seizures were down in 2004, largely due to the grounding of Guatemala's A-37 fleet and most of their helicopters. There is close cooperation between the USG and the Guatemalan Air Force (GAF), particularly during Mayan Jaguar exercises. When it can, the GAF provides air assets for interdiction missions and airlift for police and prosecutors conducting drug interdiction and eradication operations. Ageing aircraft and lack of money for fuel continue to be constraints.

The SAIA has the potential to become an honest and credible threat to narcotics trafficking. However, GOG law enforcement agencies must function with limited resources, as the GOG is having trouble paying salaries and utilities for all of its agencies. Significant resources, training and support from the USG will be needed to prepare and support the GOG to effectively engage in counternarcotics operations, particularly against major organized crime figures.

The Public Ministry's narcotics prosecutors receive USG training and assistance, and continue to try cases and achieve convictions, but success in prosecuting major organized crime figures, including narcotics traffickers, has been limited. Lack of resources in the judiciary, as well as an absence of criminal conspiracy laws in Guatemala, are important reasons for the lack of success in prosecuting and convicting major traffickers.

High turnover of law enforcement personnel and poor leadership also frustrate GOG law enforcement efforts.

Corruption. Corruption remains a large obstacle to overall efficiency of all USG sponsored programs in Guatemala. No one is immune from the corruption, and there are frequent allegations of police, prosecutors, and judges being corrupt. High levels of impunity and intimidation only exacerbate the problem.

However, the GOG is making substantial efforts against corruption. Currently, new entries to the SAIA undergo a background investigation, polygraph exam, and urinalysis testing. On average, this process eliminates in excess of 60 percent of new candidates. This program has been institutionalized and extended to the Anti-Corruption, Money Laundering and Narcotics prosecutor's offices and includes the periodic re-testing of all active members of the SAIA.

More importantly, the GOG has moved aggressively against all forms of public corruption. This year, the anticorruption prosecutor (a NAS-supported program) has brought cases against 383 individuals, including many high-ranking former public officials, army officers and police. These cases include the former vice president and finance minister. The former president fled to Mexico when it became evident he was about to be arrested.

The Director General of the police has established a "zero tolerance" policy on corruption. During 2004, there have been 2,088 cases opened against police officers, including 23 command-level officers. Half (325) of the criminal investigation division has been fired. The charges cover a range of serious crimes, including murder, kidnapping, extortion, bank robbery, tractor-trailer theft, robbery, home invasions and attempted theft of drugs from evidence storage. The 11 police arrested last year for attempting to steal 10 kilograms of cocaine from the drug warehouse are still in jail awaiting trial.

Finally, a counternarcotics prosecutor who solicited a bribe from a drug defendant was sentenced to 13 years imprisonment.

Guatemala is a party to the Inter-American Corruption Convention and is a signatory to the UN Corruption Convention.

Agreements and Treaties. Guatemala is a party to the 1961 UN Single Convention and its 1972 Protocol; the 1971 UN Convention on Psychotropic Substances; the 1988 UN Drug Convention; the Central American Commission for the Eradication of Production, Traffic, Consumption and Illicit Use of Psychotropic Drugs and Substances; and the Central American Treaty on Joint Legal Assistance for Penal Issues. Guatemala is a party to the UN Convention Against Transnational Organized Crime and its three protocols.

Guatemala has also signed bilateral counternarcotics agreements, including information exchanges, with Mexico (1989), Venezuela (1991), Argentina (1991), Colombia (1992), Ecuador (1992), Peru (1994), and Spain (1999).

While most GOG law enforcement efforts have been consistent with the goals and objectives of the 1988 UN Drug Convention, some aspects of the Convention, such as the provisions on extradition, have not been codified into law. The extradition treaty between the GOG and the USG dates from 1903. A supplementary extradition treaty adding narcotics offenses to the list of extraditable offenses was adopted in 1940. When a Guatemalan citizen is involved, an extradition request will usually involve a significant expenditure of effort and time due to the required legal procedures. U.S. citizen fugitives are usually expelled to U.S. custody on the basis of violations of Guatemalan immigration laws, a much shorter process. During 2004, the GOG agreed to consolidate all U.S. requests for extradition in drug and organized crime cases in specialized courts located in Guatemala City. The new procedures are expected to expedite processing of extradition requests. In 2003, the GOG signed the OAS multilateral Mutual Legal Assistance Treaty, to which the U.S. is a party.

IV. U.S. Policy Initiatives and Programs

Policy Initiatives and the Road Ahead. In spite of the difficulties, the U.S. strategy in Guatemala continues to focus on strengthening the GOG law enforcement and judicial sector through training, technical assistance, and the provision of equipment and infrastructure, especially for the units directly involved in combating narcotics trafficking and other international organized criminal activity that directly affects the U.S.

Special emphasis has been directed toward management skills, leadership, human rights, investigative techniques, and case management issues.

The U.S. strategy also is aimed at reducing the level of corruption in Guatemala by implementing training, education, and public awareness programs.

Future efforts will focus on investigations, interdiction, corruption, money laundering, task force development, and successfully implementing the maritime agreement. A successful interdiction and maritime strategy will necessarily involve close cooperation with units of the Guatemalan military that have a clean human rights record, within the limits of existing U.S. law and policy.

The USG will also continue to assist the GOG in improving the successful Regional Counternarcotics Training Center.

Bilateral Cooperation. The USG supports a wide range of law enforcement assistance and counternarcotics programs in Guatemala. We work with the office of the Vice President to support Guatemala's demand reduction agency, SECCATID, to provide technical assistance in education, training and public awareness programs.

The USG also works with the Public Ministry and the Attorney General to support three task forces dealing with narcotics, corruption and money laundering investigations. This cooperation takes the form of training, technical and logistical support on case management and specialized legal subjects.

We also support the specialized drug police, the SAIA, through an agreement with the Ministry of Government. This support is designed to create a professional and capable force through training and development of infrastructure for units involved in counternarcotics operations.

An important part of this program is the Regional Anti-Drug School. The school primarily teaches the basic entry course for new SAIA agents, narcotics investigations and canine narcotics detection. They also offer regional courses in polygraph, false documents, intelligence analysis, and canine explosive detection, among others. This year we had student participation from Bolivia, Colombia, Venezuela, Uruguay and all of Central America.

The International Criminal Investigation Training Assistance Program (ICITAP) (now a part of the Narcotics Affairs Section) in Guatemala continued to focus on law enforcement areas not specifically related to narcotics trafficking, such as the unification of police and prosecutor forensic laboratories, establishment of an Internal Affairs Unit in the Public Ministry, computerization of police case files, and the continued development of a model precinct that includes offices for prosecutors and judges to increase successful case investigation and closure.

Honduras

I. Summary

The transshipment of cocaine through Honduras by air, land, and maritime routes continued in 2004. While seizures were slightly down in 2004 compared to last year's record levels, Honduran authorities did successfully disrupt one of the most active trafficking organizations in the country, dealing a significant setback to organized crime in the region. Corruption within the police, Public Ministry (PM), and the judiciary, however, continues to hamper law enforcement efforts.

Limited resources remain the largest obstacle to Honduras' ability to implement its national counternarcotics policy, yet the Government of Honduras (GOH) remains committed to stemming the flow of illegal narcotics transiting its territory. Both the police and military take an active part in Honduras' counternarcotics strategy, with the Honduran Navy responding particularly well given its limited resources. While many arrests are made, the PM has had little success in prosecuting these individuals. Drug abuse in Honduras appears to be on the rise, with availability and usage up in 2004. Honduras is a party to the 1988 UN Drug Convention.

II. Status of Country

Honduras's geographic location and the GOH's limited interdiction resources contribute to the continued transshipment of drugs, primarily cocaine, through Honduras at an alarming rate. Transshipment is facilitated by direct air and maritime links to U.S. cities and the Pan-American Highway, which crosses southern Honduras. While the police and military lack sufficient assets to comprehensively attack drug trafficking in Honduras, there were nonetheless significant drug seizures this year. Honduras is not a significant producer of drugs or precursor chemicals.

III. Country Actions Against Drugs in 2004

Policy Initiatives. The GOH continued a joint police and military counternarcotics initiative launched in April 2003 to discourage traffickers from using Honduras as a transit point. This initiative includes the use of the Honduran Air Force to interdict illicit flights entering Honduran airspace. A Honduran Frontier Police presence at Honduras' Pan-American Highway checkpoint also provides a deterrent to the flow of narcotics into Honduras from its southern border with Nicaragua.

A new draft counternarcotics law under review in the National Congress would significantly expand the authority of law enforcement agencies to initiate undercover operations. Current law prohibits law enforcement agencies from using these types of operations to conduct investigations mandating the arrest of anyone participating in the purchase and/or sale of narcotics, including police conducting sting operations.

Honduras is also in the process of considering revisions to its Criminal Procedures Code that took effect on February 20, 2002. Proposed revisions include increased penalties for crimes related to drug trafficking and/or possession.

Accomplishments. As of December 1, 2004, Honduran authorities have seized 3,866 kilograms of cocaine, 1,611 pounds of marijuana, one kilogram of heroin, and destroyed approximately 71,152 marijuana plants during the year. The GOH seized $2,058,803 in cash (setting a new national record) plus numerous other assets, including property, aircraft, go-fast boats, and vehicles worth well over $2,000,000. Honduran authorities also made 751 narcotics-related arrests.

The Honduran Frontier Police have been largely responsible for these successes, drawing on intensive counternarcotics training, and U.S. technical assistance and equipment. In 2004, cooperation among all elements of the police, military, and other special investigative units increased. The Honduran Navy participated in a number of regional counternarcotics efforts that led to large seizures in international waters.

On July 14, Pedro Garcia Montes was killed in Cartagena, Colombia. Montes, a Honduran citizen, was considered to be the head of a major trafficking organization in Honduras. Upon Montes' death, police raided numerous properties belonging to him, resulting in seizures of weapons, cash, and other contraband. They also arrested Ethalson Mejia Hoy, a key Montes associate. Montes' death effectively decapitated his organization and was a significant blow to organized crime in the country.

Law Enforcement Efforts. Counternarcotics law enforcement is a priority for the Maduro Government, although limited resources, corruption, and inexperienced personnel hinder GOH efforts to stop traffickers using Honduras as a transit country. Police, constrained by lack of adequate transportation, rarely patrol some areas of the country, particularly in the isolated northeast. Despite these constraints, Honduran law enforcement agencies made many drug-related arrests. The Honduran judicial system, however, has a poor track record of turning these arrests into convictions.

Corruption. Endemic corruption continues to impede effective counternarcotics law enforcement in Honduras. Corruption within the judicial system particularly has been problematic (a judge released Ethalson Mejia on bail after police had arrested him on a valid INTERPOL notice). In 2004, Honduras amended its constitution to strip high-level government officials' immunity from prosecution. To date, the National Congress has not passed implementing legislation that many GOH officials believe is necessary, and there have been no prosecutions of formerly immune individuals. Honduras is a party to the Inter-American Convention Against Corruption, but has fallen short of fully implementing the Convention's recommendations. Honduras also is a signatory to the UN Corruption Convention.

Agreements and Treaties. Honduras has counternarcotics agreements with the United States, Belize, Colombia, Jamaica, Mexico, Venezuela, and Spain. Honduras is a party to the 1988 UN Drug Convention, the 1971 UN Convention on Psychotropic Substances, and the 1961 UN Single Convention as amended by its 1972 Protocol. Honduras recently certified its major public maritime ports in compliance with International Ship and Port Facility Security codes and is an active member of the Inter-American Drug Abuse Control Commission (CICAD). Honduras is a party to the UN Convention Against Corruption, but it has yet to be approved by the National Congress. A U.S.-Honduras maritime counternarcotics agreement entered into force in 2001 and a bilateral extradition treaty is in force between the U.S. and Honduras. Honduras is one of ten nations to sign the Caribbean Maritime Counterdrug Agreement, but has not yet ratified it.

Cultivation/Production. Cannabis is the only illegal drug known to be cultivated in Honduras. The GOH does not permit the use of aerial eradication; however upon detection, marijuana plants are cut down and destroyed.

Drug Flow/Transit. In 2004, there was a noticeable increase in the number of detected suspect maritime vessels transiting through Honduran territorial waters en route to southern Mexico and the United States. Suspect air-tracks, however, decreased. Cocaine and heroin are smuggled overland by commercial and private vehicles. Approximately 90 percent of all drugs transiting Honduras are destined for the United States. There is evidence of the existence of an illicit trade in "arms for drugs," with arms from these deals presumably destined for use by terrorist groups in Colombia.

Domestic Programs/Demand Reduction. Drug abuse in Honduras appears to be on the rise and illegal drugs are becoming increasingly available, particularly along the Caribbean coast. The Maduro Administration launched a pilot program directed at Honduran youth to fight drug abuse and the National Anti-Narcotics Council is making demand reduction a major part of Honduran counternarcotics efforts. This effort reflects the government's appreciation that drug trafficking through Honduras is not only a national security threat, but a major public policy problem as well.

IV. U.S. Policy Initiatives and Programs

U.S. counternarcotics assistance to Honduras is intended to augment GOH efforts to strengthen the rule of law, increase police, judicial, and investigative efficiency, reduce corruption, and build strong counternarcotics institutions. In 2004, assistance was primarily directed to the Frontier Police, Ministry of Public Security, and the Public Ministry, although the U.S. also provided limited funds to assist Honduras in demand reduction efforts. The GOH has made a firm commitment to combat drug trafficking and the U.S. will continue to assist Honduras in its fight to reduce narcotics trafficking in the region and associated corruption.

Mexico

I. Summary

As a result of the serious threat that drug trafficking poses to its national security and public safety, the Mexican Government (GOM) has sustained an intensive counternarcotics and law enforcement effort throughout 2004. The administration of Mexican President Vicente Fox continued its unprecedented cooperation with the United States in fighting drug trafficking and other serious trans-border crimes menacing the citizens of both countries. Despite its intense law enforcement efforts, Mexico is the leading transit country for cocaine and a major producer of heroin, methamphetamine, and marijuana destined for U.S. markets.

During the year, Mexican authorities arrested numerous drug kingpins and principal lieutenants in a continuing attack aimed at dismantling major international crime organizations operating in the U.S. and Mexico. Through November, the GOM had seized over 25 metric tons of cocaine, nearly 300 kilograms of heroin, and over 2,000 metric tons of marijuana. The leadership of the Secretariat of National Defense (SEDENA) and the Attorney General's Office (PGR) continued to act forcefully against personnel who engaged in corrupt practices. These two federal entities carried out robust eradication programs against marijuana and opium poppy crops, with the army deploying up to 35,000 troops for manual eradication missions and the PGR using helicopters for aerial spray eradication of illicit drug cultivation. Several entities of the PGR, including the Federal Investigative Agency (AFI), the National Center for Analysis, Planning, and Intelligence Against Organized Crime (CENAPI), and the Forensics Laboratory, continued initiatives to develop first-rate cadres of professional investigators, analysts, and technicians.

The Fox administration's counternarcotics policies derive from the acceptance that illicit drug trafficking and related crimes pose serious direct threats to the national security and public health of the country. President Fox and his cabinet pressed forward with reforms aimed at professionalizing law enforcement agencies and promoting greater transparency and accountability. The administration proposed ambitious justice sector reforms to re-organize federal law enforcement agencies, introduce oral testimony at criminal trials, and create a more professional public defender system. These reforms have not been enacted. Extraditions reached an all-time high, with the GOM extraditing 34 fugitives to the U.S., compared to 31 in 2003; nevertheless, no active drug kingpin has been extradited. Numerous extradition requests were denied based on the prohibition against life sentences and on a failure by the U.S. to satisfy newly-imposed technical requirements. There remain many opportunities during the final year of the Fox administration to institutionalize this historic cooperation, enhance ongoing drug interdiction, and continue improving the capacities and capabilities of Mexican federal law enforcement institutions.

II. Status of Country

As much as 90 percent of the cocaine sold in the U.S. is smuggled through Mexican territory from South America. Mexico is also one of the largest producers of marijuana and heroin consumed in the U.S. Most cocaine smuggled through Mexico arrives by maritime means, including commercial shipping, with ocean vessels moving large quantities along the eastern Pacific and through the Gulf of California, and fishing vessels and go-fast boats operating in the Pacific between the northern coast of South America and the southern coast of Mexico. While the Pacific coast of Mexico remained the preferred smuggling route for Andean cocaine, there is increased trafficking through the western Caribbean—possibly a response to the success of Mexican and regional interdiction operations. In addition, traffickers used air cargo, couriers, and mail parcels through Mexico and Central America as alternate smuggling routes.

Mexico's proximity to the U.S. has made it the second principal supplier of heroin, despite the country's relatively small percentage (less than five percent) of global production. Mexico was the largest foreign source of marijuana sold in the U.S. Marijuana and opium poppy growers used small, widely dispersed plots in remote, inaccessible regions of Mexico, including in the Sierra Madre mountains, to avoid having their crops detected and eradicated. Favorable climate and terrain make it possible to have up to three poppy and two marijuana harvests a year in primary growing regions.

Mexico is a major and producer and transit point for methamphetamines, its precursors, and other synthetic drugs, principally concentrated in Mexican border areas with Texas, Arizona, and California. Criminal organizations have established several methamphetamine laboratories in northwestern Mexico to supply U.S. markets. As a result of the huge traffic in drugs, Mexican criminal organizations dominate operations, controlling most of the thirteen primary drug distribution centers in the U.S. The violence of warring Mexican cartels has spilled over the border from Mexico to U.S. sites on the other side. U.S. and Mexican law enforcement authorities worked closely to attack these operations on both sides of the border. Mexican domestic drug consumption continued to increase in 2004. Consequently, drug traffickers continued in 2004 to expand their operations into major cities, the northern border, and tourist zones.

III. Country Actions Against Drugs in 2004

Policy Initiatives. To promote a more transparent, professional, and accountable law enforcement and judicial system, President Fox submitted a judicial reform proposal to the Mexican Congress that would substitute written proceedings with public trials, including oral testimony, and incorporate the concept of presumption of innocence. The bill is designed to enhance the professionalism of law enforcement entities, placing greater reliance on forensic evidence and credible investigations than on confessions. Other elements of the proposed reform include re-organization of public security institutions to create a unified police force with strong investigative powers. The proposal would also create a more autonomous federal prosecutor's office and enhance the public defender system. However, the reforms do not appear to allow for a confidential investigative stage, an important provision in effective organized crime legislation.

President Fox and Attorney General Rafael Macedo de la Concha continued to reform law enforcement offices and promote the creation of professional investigative entities to fight drug trafficking, terrorism, and other organized crimes. In the process, Mexico invested considerable human and material resources in counternarcotics and law enforcement efforts. During 2004, AFI agents and investigators figured prominently in the investigation and arrests of drug traffickers, violent kidnappers, and corrupt officials. Only three years since its inception, AFI has become the centerpiece of GOM efforts to promote more honest, professional, and effective law enforcement institutions. AFI leaders established a rational and institutionalized career path for all agents—characterized by upward mobility, job stability, periodic salary increases, and promotions based on performance and seniority. However, the PGR prosecutors still do not have a career or civil service system.

Accomplishments. In an initiative to disrupt organized crime by attacking its operational chain of command and leadership, AFI personnel continued to arrest or detain impressive numbers of drug kingpins, lieutenants, "hit men," operators, and money launderers. Major drug traffickers arrested included Guatemalan trafficker Otto Roberto Herrera Garcia, Gilberto Higuera Guerro, Jaime Herrera Herrera, Gulf Cartel lieutenant Ramiro Hernandez Garcia, and Arellano Felix Organization (AFO) enforcer Carlos Ignacio Acosta Ibarra. Cumulatively, AFI detentions of traffickers accounted for half of the arrests of over 36,000 drug traffickers during the first four years of the Fox Administration.

Despite occasional setbacks, Mexico pushed forward its ambitious program to make federal law enforcement institutions more professional. Building on earlier initiatives, such as the development of a law enforcement career path, PGR leaders established the groundwork for sound, harmonized basic police training, including a self-sustaining system employing the train-the-trainer approach.

Law Enforcement Efforts. Mexican counternarcotics enforcement actions included arrests of major drug traffickers, increasingly sophisticated organized crime investigations, aggressive marijuana and poppy eradication, and bilateral cooperation on air, land, and maritime drug interdiction. The PGR, other police agencies, and the military services continued to target successfully major drug-trafficking organizations in Mexico.

Mexican authorities seized over 25 metric tons of cocaine hydrochloride through November 2004. Marijuana interdiction continued at an impressive pace, with authorities confiscating nearly 2,000 metric tons. In addition, authorities confiscated 300 kilograms of heroin, 435 kilograms of opium gum, and 590 kilograms of methamphetamine. They seized 1,885 vehicles, 39 maritime vessels, and 28 aircraft.

Authorities arrested 10,252 persons on drug-related charges, including 10,106 Mexicans and 146 foreigners, according to statistics from CENAPI. Cumulatively, Mexican officials arrested over 36,946 drug traffickers during the first four years of the Fox Administration, including 2004. The most prominent detentions of the past year included:
  • In January, SEDENA troops, in an effort to halt a wave of violence in Sinaloa at the start of 2004, detained Javier "El J.T." Torres Felix in Culiacan following a shoot-out. Torres is accused of being the area's senior operator for kingpin Ismael Zambada. Torres, who remained in custody at the end of 2004, had been arrested twice before, but saw little jail time.

  • In January, AFI, working closely with Colombian authorities, dismantled a major cocaine trafficking ring led by Juan Pablo "El Halcon" Rojas Lopez. Police suspected Rojas of moving an estimated two metric tons of cocaine monthly through Mexico to the U.S. and supplying retail drug dealers in Mexico City. Authorities arrested Rojas along with 14 associates and seized two metric tons of cocaine in Mexico City ready for shipment to the United States.

  • In June, AFI captured two senior lieutenants of the Arellano Felix Organization, (AFO), Jorge "El Macumba" Aureliano Felix and Efrain "El Efra" Perez Arciniega. Authorities suspected that Aureliano had handled security operations for the drug group, while Perez oversaw counterintelligence and "enforcement" activities. The U.S. State and Justice Departments narcotics award program played a principal role in bringing these two to justice.

  • In the summer, authorities jailed several AFO gunmen, including veteran enforcers Mario "El Cris" Rivera Lopez and Carlos "El Big Boy" Acosta Ibarra, together suspected of dozens of murders.

  • In August, a PGR-SEDENA operation outside Mexico City resulted in the arrest of Ramiro "El Mati" Hernandez Garcia, "El Mati," who had allegedly served as the Gulf Cartel's liaison with Colombian suppliers, along with 13 of his associates. This operation resulted in the discovery and destruction of a cocaine-processing laboratory in an upper-class neighborhood in Mexico City and the seizure of 154 kilograms of cocaine, along with several weapons, vehicles, and properties.

  • In August, AFI arrested Gilberto "El Gilillo" Higuera Guerrero--a top-tier operator long affiliated with the AFO--outside of Mexicali, Baja California. State and Justice Departments had offered a reward of up to two million dollars for information leading to the capture of this trafficker.

  • In October, SEDENA soldiers captured Carlos "El Tisico" Rosales Mendoza, a senior lieutenant in the Osiel Cardenas organization (the Gulf Cartel). Authorities believed that Rosales, detained in Morelia, Michoacan, oversaw the drug group's operations and was planning an operation to free Cardenas from jail.

Sensitive Investigative Units (SIUs—specialized investigative teams that undergo a full vetting process) continued to serve as effective mechanisms for sharing sensitive intelligence data in both directions without compromise. As a result, SIUs have played important roles in successful investigations against drug trafficking organizations on both sides of the border.

A Mexican court sentenced drug kingpins Jose de Jesus Amezcua and his brother Adan Amezcua, whose extradition to the U.S. had previously been denied, to long jail terms in September. Jose de Jesus, known as the "amphetamine king," received 53 years in prison and Adan received 22 years in prison and a US$6,500 fine for money laundering and criminal association. The sentences represented two of the stiffest meted out in recent memory to drug traffickers. In November, a federal court sentenced Jorge Solis Hernandez to ten years in prison for laundering money for the Juarez Cartel.

Corruption. The Fox Administration placed high priority on combating police and judicial corruption during 2004. Mexican leaders made significant efforts to investigate and punish instances of corruption among federal law enforcement officials and military personnel. President Fox, Attorney General Macedo, and other Cabinet members repeatedly warned that they would punish public servants engaged in corruption. The Organizational Law for the Attorney General's Office, which became effective in August 2003, outlines requirements for employment within the organization, standards of conduct, and procedures for dismissal from service of corrupt officials. Provision of better pay and benefits and dismissal and prosecution of corrupt officials have served as deterrents to corrupt behavior.

The Secretariat of Public Service (SFP) and the PGR led day-to-day efforts, coordinating anticorruption initiatives and implementing policy for the entire government. The PGR conducted more than 1,300 investigations into possible malfeasance of 2,200 PGR officers from the outset of the Fox Administration through May 2004. These investigations resulted in 418 legal cases against 711 officers (including 267 prosecutors and 335 AFI agents, many of whom represented holdovers from the now-disbanded Federal Judicial Police) for offenses ranging from abuse of authority to criminal collusion to kidnapping. Highlights include the following:
  • Drug-corruption scandals forced the resignation of senior law enforcement officers in several states during 2004, including in the states of Sonora, Veracruz, and Chihuahua. As the year drew to a close, the PGR conducted an investigation into alleged drug trafficking links by PGR and AFI officers in the state of Quintana Roo as well as possible complicity in the executions of three AFI agents.

  • Authorities also continued to seek an AFI officer suspected of accepting large bribes from Juarez cartel figures.

  • The killing of drug figure Rodolfo Carrillo Fuentes in Culiacan, Sinaloa, in September revealed possible police protection. These charges were directed against the then commander of the Sinaloa State Police (now a fugitive) and a former police commander who served as Carrillo's bodyguard while under state salary.

  • In March, federal authorities brought a two-year alien smuggling investigation to a close with the arrests of 42 serving and former officials of the National Migration Institute (INM) and the municipal police force of Ciudad Jimenez, Chihuahua.

  • Authorities implicated the State Police Commander in Ciudad Juarez, Chihuahua, and a dozen underlings in a string of murders. Their criminal ties and activities came to light with the grisly discovery of more than ten graves in a residential neighborhood. Nearly all men remained fugitives by year's end.

Extradition and Mutual Legal Assistance. Mexico extradited 34 fugitives to the United States in 2004 (up from the record numbers of 25 in 2002 and 31 in 2003). These included 19 Mexican citizens (a record) and 17 narcotics defendants (down from 19 in 2003). There was also an important decision that allowed the re-submission of an extradition request, allowing for the extradition of a fugitive, even if the initial extradition is denied. This decision also confirmed the 2001 decision precluding extradition if a life sentence might be imposed upon conviction.

There were four extradition denials of major narcotics cases in 2004, fewer than in 2003 and 2002. However, these losses included the extradition requests for Miguel Caro Quintero and Jesus Hector Palma Salazar, significant traffickers who have operated with impunity for many years. The request for Palma Salazar's extradition has been resubmitted; the request for Caro Quintero's extradition will be resubmitted by both the Districts of Arizona and Colorado. The fact remains that no major Mexican drug trafficker has ever been extradited to the United States.

In addition to the extraditions, the National Migration Institute (INM), the International Police Organization (INTERPOL), the United States Marshal's Service and the Embassy Legal Attaché have coordinated closely to deport or expel more than 135 fugitives to the United States (almost double the number in 2003). The Marshals Service, DEA, FBI and Mexican PGR also worked effectively together to develop a specialized unit in the AFI to locate and apprehend fugitives. A workshop will be held in 2005 in Mexico to assist Mexico's prosecutors and law enforcement officers in ascertaining the most efficient methods of locating their fugitives in the United States and in adequately and properly identifying the fugitives. This workshop should benefit both the United States and Mexico when accused felons are returned to Mexico to face justice.

On April 13, 2004, the Mexican Supreme Court reaffirmed its October 2001 decision, finding life imprisonment unconstitutional under Mexican law. This makes extradition impossible for crimes with potential life imprisonment without parole sentences unless the United States provides adequate assurances that this sentence will not be imposed. (The United States succeeded in its request for extradition in 2004 in most state cases in which the possible sentence is life imprisonment with a possibility of parole.) However, there is no parole in federal cases and cases from several U.S. states, U.S. conviction in cases involving more than five kilograms of cocaine, one kilogram of heroin, or fifty grams of methamphetamine carries a penalty of a minimum of 10 years and a maximum of life. To provide the required assurances to Mexico, the U.S. prosecutor must agree, in spite of the facts of the case, to charge an amount less than the above-specified amounts or submit a jury finding that does not expressly exceed the specified amounts. Because the maximum sentence for lesser amounts is 40 years and sentences may be stacked, such assurances have been provided in major narcotics cases presented in 2004 (Arellano Felix, Palma Salazar).

On October 8, 2004 a panel of the Supreme Court held that Article 10 of the Mexican International Law of Extradition sets "procedural norms" for extraditions—and therefore must be followed under Article 13 of the Mexico-U.S. Extradition Treaty. This decision put at risk all pending cases, at whatever stage of the extradition proceedings, and led to major triage work in the last three months of the year. The United States has devised a standard diplomatic note that addresses the Court's holding that the United States must provide assurances that: there must be reciprocity in extraditions; the fugitive cannot be prosecuted for crimes other than for those for which extradition was granted; the fugitive must be tried by a court of competent jurisdiction; the fugitive has the right to present a defense and have legal counsel; the fugitive cannot be sentenced to a penalty of death; the fugitive cannot be extradited to a third country expect in specific circumstances; and the U.S. must provide a copy of the judgment of acquittal or conviction at the conclusion of the case.

Cultivation and Production. Mexico is the leading foreign source of marijuana consumed in the United States. It continues to be a principal cultivator of drug crops, despite continuing government efforts to control production through eradication. Farmers planted large amounts of opium poppy and marijuana in small, widely dispersed plots in remote, inaccessible zones of the western Sierra Madre Mountains in an effort to thwart GOM eradication programs. They also hung cables across fields and shot at spray aircraft. Mexico's favorable climate and terrain produces two to three harvests yearly in the primary growing regions of each drug crop.

Military and PGR personnel maintained vigorous eradication efforts. SEDENA officials deployed up to 35,000 troops in the field to eradicate drug crops manually, and the PGR employed helicopters to spray herbicides. The army accounted for some 80 percent of the eradication results with the PGR Air Services Section accounting for the other 20 percent.

Drug Flow and Transit. Cocaine flow to the United States became more concentrated through Mexico in 2004. Approximately ninety percent of South American cocaine sold in U.S. markets passed through Mexico territory. Mexico was also a major producer and transit zone for marijuana, heroin, and methamphetamine destined for the U.S. Methamphetamine traffic was concentrated in Mexican/U.S. border area and drug groups established methamphetamine laboratories in northwestern Mexico, with production for exported to the U.S. Mexican criminal organizations dominated drug trafficking operations in the U.S., controlling most of the primary distribution centers. U.S. and Mexican authorities have cooperated closely to dismantle these operations on both sides of the border.

With the sharp increase in Mexican domestic drug abuse, traffickers expanded operations into major Mexican cities, along Mexico's northern border, and in major tourist zones to complement smuggling to the United States and diversify their markets.

Domestic Programs. The National Council Against Addictions (CONADIC) of the Secretariat of Health reported in October that some 1.3 million Mexicans suffered from addiction to some form of illicit drug. Mexican leaders are increasingly concerned over the ever-younger age at which drug experimentation begins, with evidence that ten-year-old children are beginning to use drugs. Mexico also confronted increased abuse of synthetic drugs by young women, particularly along the U.S. border and in large metropolitan areas, with use rates reaching twice the national average. CONADIC reported that 15 of every 100 inhabitants of Mexico City aged 12 to 65 had at one time tried illegal drugs.

In 2004, President Fox named Dr. Cristobal Ruiz Gaitan as Technical Secretary of CONADIC. Observers applauded the appointment of a medical professional to lead CONADIC, a move that may help regain some of the organization's earlier stature and influence within the government. CONADIC coordinates prevention, treatment, and rehabilitation programs through the use of state organizations and federal entities, such as the Social Service and Child Welfare Agency and private foundations. The U.S. collaborates to complement CONADIC's programs through support to non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and youth councils involved in counternarcotics abuse and rehabilitation programs.

Agreements and Treaties. Mexico is Party to the 1988 UN Drug Convention, the 1961 UN Single Convention Drugs as amended by the 1972 Protocol and to the 1971 UN Convention on Psychotropic Substances. Mexico also subscribes to regional counternarcotics commitments, including the 1996 Anti-Drug Strategy in the Hemisphere and 1990 Declaration of Ixtapa, which committed signatories to take strong actions against drug trafficking, including controlling money laundering and preventing diversion of precursor chemicals. Mexico also is a party to the UN Convention against Transnational Organized Crime and its three protocols, and to the UN Convention against Corruption.

Mexico is Party to the Inter-American Convention Against Corruption, and, in July 2004, ratified its membership to the United Nations Convention Against Corruption. President Fox hosted the signing of the United Nations Convention Against Corruption in Merida in December 2003.

The United States-Mexico Extradition Treaty entered into force in 1980. A Protocol to the Extradition Treaty requested by Mexico, which became effective in May 2001, permits the temporary surrender for trial of fugitives serving a sentence in one country but wanted on criminal charges in the other. Neither country has made a request under the Protocol. The United States and Mexico have continued to improve implementation of the Mutual Legal Assistance Treaty.

In October 2004, Mexico and Guatemala signed a Protocol for the Establishment of Bilateral Coordination on Early Warning and Response. The pact is intended to bolster earlier bilateral efforts to improve border security and calls for joint planning of operations against the drug trade, organized crime, and possible terrorist threats. Mexican officials continued in 2004 to participate actively in the Inter-American Drug Abuse Control Commission (CICAD) of the Organization of American States.

IV. U.S. Policy Initiatives and Programs

Bilateral Cooperation. Bilateral counternarcotics cooperation was close and represented one of the most positive aspects of the bilateral relationship. U.S. law enforcement confidently shared sensitive information with Mexican counterparts, resulting in the capture and conviction of drug traffickers, as well as seizures of illicit narcotics.

The Binational Commission (BNC) continued to serve as the venue where cabinet level officials of both countries meet to discuss an array of bilateral issues, including counternarcotics and related law enforcement topics. The BNC also guided bilateral discussions carried out through its Law Enforcement Working Group. Under the umbrella of the BNC, the Senior Law Enforcement Plenary (SLEP) met twice during the year to evaluate, guide, and work to overcome obstacles to bilateral progress at the operational level. The SLEP comprised several working groups, including those dealing with major drug trafficking organizations, money laundering, demand reduction, arms trafficking, extradition, interdiction, training, and precursor chemicals. Most of our bilateral progress is attributable to these working groups and to working-level, one-on-one cooperation.

The U.S. Interdiction Coordinator (USIC) led the U.S. delegation at several meetings of the Bilateral Interdiction Working Group (BIWG), complemented by the participation of the Director of Joint Interagency Task Force—South (JIATF—South). The Mexican delegation visited JIATF-South and gained a better understanding of the operational capabilities related to information exchange. Post-seizure analysis and information sharing have increased, but will require more attention. To better target the cross-border activities of drug traffickers, the United States and Mexico regularly prepared joint border threat assessments. These assessments served to develop a stronger mutual understanding of threats on both sides of the border.

As a result of close bilateral cooperation, implementation of major border projects progressed well during 2004. The Advanced Passenger Information System (APIS) entered into operation in April 2004, permitting authorities to compare airline passenger manifests against criminal databases. The U.S. Government arranged for the procurement and installation of Portal Vehicle and Cargo Inspection Systems (VACIS) at ports of entry at Colombia (Nuevo Leon), Nuevo Laredo (Tamaulipas), Piedras Negras (Coahuila), Nogales (Sonora), and Mexicali (Baja California). U.S. officials also supported the installation of a railroad VACIS unit at Mexicali and a pallet VACIS at Mexico City's International Airport. Contractors made important progress in preparing design drawings for new or expanded SENTRI (Secure Electronic Network for Traveler's Rapid Inspection) Lanes at Tijuana (Baja California), Mexicali, Nogales, Nuevo Laredo, Matamoros (Tamaulipas), and Ciudad Juarez (Chihuahua). Completion of these new or expanded SENTRI lanes should occur during 2005, which will facilitate the cross-border movement of travelers who have enrolled in the program and undergone background investigations. Tax Administrative Service (SAT) personnel continued to operate three Mobile X-Ray Vans (donated to the GOM in December 2003) at three airports, contributing to the detection and seizure of bulk smuggling of millions of dollars in drug-related currency. Software engineers developed a test version of Border Simulation software and collected data at various ports of entry. This software will help Mexican officials to evaluate needs and plan infrastructure and staffing changes at ports of entry along the United States-Mexico border. While designed primarily to deter terrorist acts and facilitate cross-border movement of bona fide visitors, goods, and services, border security projects also help authorities to identify and arrest drug traffickers, detect and seize drugs, and confiscate other illicit contraband.

Institutional Development. Institutional Development was a top priority program that enjoyed the full support of the Fox Administration. The Embassy's Law Enforcement Professionalization and Training Program successfully integrated Embassy Law Enforcement Committee (LEC) training requests with local, state, and federal training and technical assistance programs with positive results in 2004. The Narcotics Affairs Section (NAS) provided 100 training courses to over 4,000 police, investigators, and prosecutors at all levels. In late 2004, NAS initiated a five-week Police Investigations School (EIP) for all new AFI candidates, as well as current investigators. Roughly 175 AFI personnel graduated from the EIP, and the PGR Police Training Academy has taken over full responsibility for operating the EIP. Future U.S. support will be limited to equipment donations, technical consultations and other developmental innovations.

The Embassy worked closely with the PGR Office of Professionalization and Training on all aspects of training to build on successes of the past three years. In 2005, working jointly with PGR officials, NAS programs will emphasize infrastructure development and enhancing self-sufficiency within the training institutions. Training will continue to play a major role in the transition to infrastructure development by increasing the number of Train-the-Trainer courses and other selective training to enhance the overall efficiency, effectiveness and quality of the curriculum, as well as the training institutions and instructors.

The Embassy anticipates sponsoring as many as 10 separate, five-week, Train-the-Trainer courses during 2005 for PGR, INM, and SFP personnel. It will dedicate seven of the courses to PGR personnel to fully staff the PGR Police Training Academy for the EIP and to assume instructional duties at the PGR Police Academy. Training will benefit not only investigative personnel, but also PGR prosecutors. Courses will include Ethics in Government, Management and Leadership, Anti-Corruption Investigations, as well as investigative courses to enhance prosecutors' overall case handling and presentation ability.

Building on this bilateral cooperation, GOM efforts to professionalize law enforcement institutions continued to produce tangible results. The PGR established a School of Criminal Investigation, entailing course work on basic crime investigation techniques. PGR leaders are planning to create a more universal basic law enforcement curriculum aimed at producing competent law enforcement officers at the state and local levels capable of carrying out professional criminal investigations leading to prosecutions. To strengthen the prosecutorial element, the PGR initiated a prosecutor training program to upgrade prosecutorial skills and permit better understanding of the investigation process.

The Road Ahead. In many respects, bilateral counternarcotics cooperation hit a historic high-water mark in 2004 and represented one of the most positive aspects of the bilateral relationship. Law enforcement personnel of both countries routinely shared sensitive information to capture and prosecute leaders of major drug trafficking organizations and seize important shipments of cocaine, heroin, marijuana, and methamphetamine. President Fox and Attorney General Macedo strove to identify and reduce corruption within federal police entities. Despite only three years in existence, the re-invented and reformed principal federal police, AFI, has developed into an excellent police institution. Control of precursor chemicals has improved considerably since October 2002.

On the negative side, the extradition relationship has been frayed by Mexican court rulings, including the April 2004 Mexican Supreme Court decision. The production and flow of drugs with its huge illicit profits continues to flourish, directed by captured kingpins from within maximum security prison.

There are many new opportunities during these last two years of the Fox Administration to enhance the extremely positive and productive cooperation that both governments enjoy and to institutionalize the resulting close personal and operational relationships. The U.S. Government plans to continue to support Mexico's efforts in building institutions to reinforce and make permanent this unprecedented cooperation. Even with the remarkable progress made to date, Mexican police and prosecutors still need improved equipment, training, and investigative tools. The U.S. intends to promote increasing and improving of intelligence sharing; enhance bilateral teamwork to fight money laundering; encourage the increase of opium poppy and marijuana eradication programs; support GOM and bilateral efforts to attack criminal organization and disrupt their activities; improve interdiction efforts on both sides of the border; decrease the diversion of precursor chemicals towards drug production; and improve the successful prosecutions of criminal.

Mexico Statistics
(1995-2004)

 
2004
2003
2002
2001
2000
1999
1998
1997
1996
1995
Opium
 
 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 
 
 
Potential Harvest (ha)

  

  
2,700
4,400
1,900
3,600
5,500
4,000
5,100
5,050
USG Estimated Impact (ha)

 

 
 
7,400
7,600
7,900
9,500
8,000
7,900
8,450
Eradication (ha)
14,575
 
19,157
19,115
15,300
15,469
17,449
17,732
14,671
15,389
Cultivation (ha)
 
 
 
11,800
9,500
11,500
15,000
12,000
13,000
13,500
Potential Yield (mt)
 
 
 
 
47
71
25
43
60
46
54
53
Cannabis
 
 
 
 
   
 
 
 
  
 
   

   

 
 
 
 
 
Potential Harvest (ha)
 
 
 
 
7,900
4,100
3,900
3,700
4,600
4,800
6,500
6,900
USG Estimated Impact (ha)
 
 
 
 
7,900
7,400
13,000
19,400
9,500
10,500
12,200
11,750
Eradication (ha)
29,606
 
30,775
28,699
33,000
33,583
23,928
23,576
22,961
21,573
Cultivation (ha)
 
 
 
7,900
4,100
16,900
23,100
14,100
15,300
18,700
18,650
Potential Yield (mt)
   
   
7,900
7,400
7,000
6,700
8,300
8,600
11,700
12,400
Seizures
 
 
 

 
 
 

 
 

  
 
 
Opium (kg)
435
189
310
516
270
800
150
340
220
220
Heroin (kg)
270
165
282
269
268
258
120
115
363
203
Cocaine (mt)
25
20
12.6
30.0
18.3
33.5
22.6
34.9
23.6
22.2
Cannabis (mt)
1,838
2,019
1,633
1,839
1,619
1,459
1,062
1,038
1,015
780
Methamphetamine (kg)
590
652
457
400
555
358
96
39
172
496
Arrests

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

   
Nationals
10,106
7,653
6,930
9,784
  
10,261
10,034
10,572
11,038
9,728
Foreigners
146
139
125
189
 203
255
170
207
173
Total Arrests
10,262
7,792
7,055
9,973
 10,464
10,289
10,742
11,245
9,901
Labs Destroyed
 
 
13
28
 
 
7
8
19
19



Nicaragua

I. Summary

Nicaragua is not a major drug producing country. However, the country is a transit zone for narcotics trafficked from South America to the United States and Europe. Major trafficking routes are found on both coasts and drugs pass through the country on the Pan American Highway. The isolation of the country's Atlantic Coast (where drug trafficking and consumption are highest), its vulnerable banking system, its endemic poverty, and the fact that many in the population remain well-armed from the 1980s civil war, all make Nicaragua a rich target for drug traffickers. The GON is making a determined effort to fight both the domestic use of illegal drugs and the international narcotics trade, but the Nicaraguan National Police (NNP) and the Nicaraguan Armed Forces require USG help to make significant gains against the well-financed and well-armed drug traffickers.

In 2001, Nicaragua approved a six-part bilateral maritime counternarcotics agreement with the United States. On the basis of this agreement, Nicaraguan and U.S. law enforcement authorities engaged in several joint maritime counternarcotics operations in 2004, including several seizures of thousands of kilograms of cocaine. In previous years, a number of high seas prisoner transfers took place under the accord, but the USCG did not request any such transfers in CY2004. The U.S. also continued to assist the NNP's counternarcotics efforts during the year. Working with the DEA office in Managua, the NNP seized significant amounts of cocaine and heroin. The Nicaraguan National Assembly still has not passed new legislation on money laundering that would set up an operational, technically capable Commission of Financial Analysis to help the banking sector identify and track suspicious deposits over $10,000. Nicaragua is a party to the 1988 UN Drug Convention.

II. Status of Country

Colombian drug traffickers move illegal narcotics through Nicaragua by land, sea, and air. DEA and the NNP have noted continued movements of illegal drugs by air, which the GON is powerless to intercept. Advances in maritime interdiction by the governments of Panama and Costa Rica have pushed drug traffickers northward in their search for refueling areas and Colombian drug boats now enter Nicaraguan waters via the Colombian islands of Providencia and San Andres. Nicaragua is also in danger of becoming a target for money laundering due to a vulnerable banking sector.

The NNP is a relatively capable law enforcement organization. From December 2003 through November 2004, the DEA office in Managua and the NNP conducted joint investigations that resulted in the capture of 63 kilograms of heroin and 6,250 kilograms of cocaine, a slight decrease in heroin seizures but nearly a 600 percent increase in cocaine seizures over last year. Despite these achievements, resource constraints and an inefficient and corrupt legal system continue to limit the effectiveness of police operations. Consumption of illegal drugs (especially crack cocaine) remains a serious problem, particularly along the Atlantic Coast. Although the NNP is responsible for law enforcement, the Army, of which the Navy is a part, is increasingly playing an important support role in counternarcotics efforts on the Atlantic coast.

III. Country Actions Against Drugs in 2004

Policy Initiatives. The GON continues efforts to revamp the country's legal system. In December 2002, the new Criminal Procedures Code went into effect. The Code requires oral testimony and presentation of evidence through witnesses, a change that should allow more impartial and transparent processing of cases. The GON prosecutors, with USAID and INL/RLA (Resident Legal Advisor) training, are learning how to use this new system effectively. The National Assembly is currently stalled on passing reforms to the major statute that covers illegal drugs. The draft reforms include important provisions related to money laundering. There is also a proposal to make money laundering an autonomous crime, as opposed to only being a component of drug trafficking cases. Unfortunately, this proposal is tied to the political fortunes of former president Aleman, who was convicted--and is appealing--under the original money-laundering statute.

Accomplishments. Nicaraguan authorities continued to destroy domestically-grown marijuana plants in 2004. They also carried out major seizures of transshipped cocaine and heroin. During the year, several joint maritime operations were carried out between the Nicaraguan military, the NNP, and U.S. law enforcement vessels under the auspices of the U.S.-Nicaraguan bilateral maritime counternarcotics agreement that went into force in 2001. The NNP has conducted operations against local drug distribution centers and large shipments transiting the country, gathering intelligence on their locations and making arrests.

Law Enforcement Efforts. From December 1, 2003 through November 30, 2004 the NNP arrested 78 international traffickers (including at least 24 foreigners), and several hundred small-time street drug dealers. During the same period, DEA statistics show that Nicaraguan authorities (NNP and Navy) seized 6,250 kilograms of cocaine, 63 kilograms of heroin, 41,427 marijuana plants and 850 pounds of cleaned marijuana, plus 11,626 crack "rocks." In 2002, 19,860 tablets of Ecstasy were seized; in contrast, in 2004, the NNP did not make a single Ecstasy seizure. The GON also seized $1,040,240 in drug-related currency. Within the totals listed above, the Nicaraguan Navy seized 4,266 kilograms of cocaine and one kilogram of heroin, compared to 121 kilograms of cocaine and one kilogram of heroin in 2003. (Note: In a fourth USCG/Nicaraguan Navy pursuit, another 1,900 kilograms of jettisoned cocaine was recovered from a fleeing--and later captured--drug boat. Since the drugs were then turned over to the USCG, this amount is not reflected in the DEA statistics. Therefore, Nicaraguan naval forces were actually instrumental in capturing 6,166 kilograms of cocaine in 2004. End Note). One noteworthy arrest involved the seizure of a boat carrying USD 210,940 in drug money being repatriated to Colombia. The Nicaraguans also seized 17 fast boats, some of which had already jettisoned or delivered their cargo. The Navy also broke up affiliated alien smuggling and arms smuggling rings. Despite this record, resource limits continue to plague both the NNP and the Navy. The Narcotics Unit has only 116 officers, including administrative support, to cover all of Nicaragua. The 850-man Nicaraguan Navy, with INL help, is only now developing a long range patrol capability that will enable it to maintain a presence at sea for days at a time.

Corruption. The NNP rotates officers to prevent conflicts of interest from developing at the local level. The NNP also issues numbered badges in order to make it easier for the public to identify abusive police officials. Finally, the Narcotics Unit answers only to the two top ranking officials in the NNP, a measure that maintains the integrity of confidential information. However, low salaries make it difficult to eliminate corruption. A new Nicaraguan police officer earns about USD 120 a month. Judges' official salaries run about USD 500 month. Corrupt judges often let detained drug suspects go free after a short detention, a practice that puts drug traffickers back on the streets, undercutting police morale. In a recent "drugs for guns" case, the judge released the suspects for "lack of evidence," in spite of the seizure of over 100 kilograms of cocaine, many automatic weapons and tens of thousands of rounds of ammunition.

From 2000-2003, with funding provided by INL and using expertise provided by the Department of Justice's International Criminal Investigative Training Assistance Program (ICITAP) in Guatemala, the NNP developed an Anti-Corruption Unit (UAC) to investigate cases of abuse of government power. The unit has contributed to cases that have resulted in a number of arrests for corruption and misuse of government funds. ICITAP programs terminated at the end of 2003, but INL plans, as part of the new Resident Legal Advisor program, to maintain support for the GON under a new multi-agency anticorruption initiative for the police anticorruption unit, the Attorney General's office, and the Superintendent of Banks.

Agreements and Treaties. Nicaragua is a party to the 1961 UN Single Convention, as amended by the 1972 Protocol, the 1971 UN Convention on Psychotropic Substances, and the 1988 UN Drug Convention. A U.S.-Nicaragua extradition treaty has been in effect since 1907. Nicaragua is a member of the Caribbean Financial Action Task Force (CFATF). The United States and Nicaragua signed a bilateral counternarcotics maritime agreement in November 2001. Nicaragua is a party to the UN Convention against Transnational Organized Crime and its protocol on trafficking in persons, and is a member of the Inter-American Drug Abuse Control Commission (CICAD) of the Organization of American States (OAS). Nicaragua is a party to the Inter-American Convention Against Corruption and in 2001 signed the consensus agreement on establishing a mechanism to evaluate compliance with the Convention. Nicaragua also ratified the Inter-American Mutual Legal Assistance Convention in 2002, an agreement that facilitates the sharing of legal information between countries.

Cultivation/Production. With the exception of marijuana, illegal drugs are not cultivated in Nicaragua. The marijuana grown in Nicaragua is dedicated to local consumption.

Drug Flow/Transit. Nicaragua's location in the isthmus of Central America, the deep poverty of a large proportion of the population, the lack of government presence in large sections of the country, and the paucity of government monies that can be dedicated to law enforcement make the country an attractive transit zone for drug traffickers. Nicaragua's isolated Atlantic Coast is the most vulnerable part of the country. This region's many islands and inlets provide way stations for drug smugglers moving between Colombia and points farther north. Many Atlantic Coast residents, the majority of whom are ethnically and culturally distinct from residents of the rest of Nicaragua, support the traffickers by refueling their vessels, storing drugs, and serving as lookouts. In some communities drug smuggling has become the principal economic activity, creating concern that an incipient "narcotics culture" is emerging. In a recent case, people in the port town of Puerto Cabezas rioted in an attempt to recover a ton of cocaine that had just been captured by the Navy. Drugs also move north along the Pan-American Highway and in "go-fast" boats that run along the Pacific Coast. Multiple unidentified small aircraft transit Nicaraguan airspace at night and at least one aircraft has utilized an unmarked airfield to make a delivery. On occasion, drug shipments have been "dropped" on the Atlantic coast for further surface transshipment. The GON has no capability to intercept narcotics trafficking flights. At this time, the GON has little capability to monitor or prevent the diversion of precursor chemicals that are utilized in drug manufacturing in neighboring countries.

Domestic Programs (Demand Reduction). Drug consumption in Nicaragua continues to be a problem. Atlantic Coast leaders in particular have become concerned about increasing levels of crack cocaine use in that region. The Atlantic coast is the poorest part of Nicaragua and suffers from chronic 60-70 percent unemployment. Narcotics traffickers pay for help from locals by distributing drugs, a practice that augments the number of addicts in the local population. In addition, drug shippers threatened by interdiction in the Caribbean Sea toss their cargoes overboard. The drug packages then wash ashore in communities where residents divide and sell them. Both trends reinforce local use. The GON has responded to its growing domestic drug problem. The Ministries of Education and Health, the NNP, and the Nicaraguan Fund for Children and Family (FONIF) have all undertaken limited demand reduction campaigns. In February 2001, the USG established the D.A.R.E. Program in Nicaragua. Since its inception, approximately 150 NNP officers have received training as D.A.R.E. instructors. In 2004, the USG sponsored the retraining of these instructors in the newest D.A.R.E. pedagogical techniques. During 2001-2003, over 14,125 Nicaraguan schoolchildren were awarded certificates of participation in the D.A.R.E. program. During 2004, nearly 6,000 additional students received D.A.R.E. training.

IV. U.S. Policy Initiatives and Programs

Bilateral Cooperation. Nicaragua and the United States are strong allies in counternarcotics activities. The police have done much to professionalize their force since Nicaragua returned to the democratic fold in 1990. The NNP established formal relations with the DEA in 1997. From that time, cooperation between the two organizations has been ongoing and effective. During 2004, the U.S. continued to provide significant counternarcotics and law enforcement assistance to the NNP through the DEA, State/INL, and the U.S. Department of Justice. A new bilateral anticorruption initiative will bring additional USG resources to bear in improving the judicial system, the postal system, and the customs service. The Nicaraguan military has also proven to be an effective and reliable partner in the counternarcotics field and has committed ground, air, and naval forces to support law enforcement operations. INL is refurbishing several large and numerous smaller patrol boats to carry out interdiction activities on both the Atlantic and Pacific coasts. Nicaragua is also cooperating with the U.S. in efforts to cut off terrorist financing. The USG shares information on suspect persons or organizations whose assets should be frozen with the Superintendent of Banks as well as the Ministry of Finance and the Foreign Ministry. Nicaragua is a party to the 2002 International Convention on the Suppression of the Financing of Terrorism.

The Road Ahead. Nicaragua's leaders and its people recognize the threat that illegal drugs pose to Nicaraguan society and sovereignty. The Nicaraguan military and the NNP are committed to the counternarcotics effort. But Nicaragua does not possess the resources to wage this war alone and will require continued assistance. If the country is to become a successful partner with the U.S. in fighting the narcotics trade, it also needs urgent internal reforms, particularly the professionalization of the judiciary and the passage and application of stronger statutes to combat crimes like corruption and money laundering.

Panama

I. Summary

By virtue of its geographic position and well-developed transportation infrastructure, Panama is a major transshipment point for narcotics from the Andean Region to the United States and Europe. Cooperation between United States and Panamanian law enforcement agencies to stem the flow of narcotics, illegal firearms, and money, is excellent. Since taking office September 1, 2004, the Torrijos Administration has built upon its predecessor's policies of close cooperation with the United States on security and law enforcement issues. At the same time, Panama's critical fiscal situation has placed increased pressure on the budgets of law enforcement agencies, hampering their ability to fulfill their respective missions. As a result, assistance provided by the United States remains crucial to ensuring effective Panamanian law enforcement. Panama is a party to the 1988 United Nations drug convention.

II. Status of Country

Panama's geographic proximity to the Andean cocaine- and heroin-producing regions makes it an important transshipment point for narcotics destined for the United States. Although security in the Darien region bordering Colombia has improved in recent years, smuggling of weapons and drugs across the border continues. Panama is also a major drug-transit hub due to its containerized seaports, the Pan-American Highway, an international hub airport, numerous uncontrolled airfields, and vast unguarded coastlines on both the Atlantic and Pacific oceans. The steady flow of cheap illicit drugs has taken a toll on Panamanian society by increasing domestic drug abuse, particularly among young people. The lucrative drug trade has also contributed to pervasive public corruption, thereby undermining the GOP's criminal justice system. Panama is not a significant producer of drugs or precursor chemicals. Cannabis is cultivated for local consumption, primarily within the Pearl Islands in the Gulf of Panama.

III. Country Actions Against Drugs in 2004

Policy Initiatives. In 2004, the GOP continued to implement 81 projects the Panamanian National Commission for the Study and Prevention of Drug-Related Crimes (CONAPRED) released in a 2002 report. The GOP also established an inter-agency task force to coordinate narcotics enforcement at Tocumen International Airport. Since taking office in September 2004, the Torrijos Administration has adopted a broad policy of enhanced inter-agency coordination related to narcotics interdiction activities.

Accomplishments. During the year, Panama launched an interagency narcotics information-sharing network under the coordination of the Drug Prosecutor's Office. During 2004, Panama and the United States co-hosted a Key Leaders Conference, attended by law enforcement officials from the hemisphere as part of the effort to create a Latin America International Law Enforcement Academy (ILEA).

Law Enforcement Efforts. USG law enforcement entities enjoy a healthy and cooperative relationship with GOP counterpart agencies in every aspect of narcotics-related criminal matters. In January 2004, Colombian kingpin Jesus Henao Montoya was apprehended in Panama and deported to the U.S. for prosecution. DEA-monitored statistics through November 2004 indicate seizures of 7,068 kilograms of cocaine, 91.4 kilograms of heroin, 2,751 kilograms of cannabis, 0 kilograms of MDMA, 3,006,430 tablets of Pseudoephedrine, 0 tablets of Amphetamines, $1,946,645.00 in currency seizures, and 224 arrests for international drug-related offenses. Cocaine, heroin, MDMA, Pseudoephedrine, Amphetamines, currency seizures, and international drug-related arrests have declined slightly since last year, while seizures of cannabis have risen. Some of the decrease in seizures can be attributed to a temporary hiatus in operations during the transition between governments in September 2004. As in recent years, many narcotics operations are intelligence-driven movements and are usually cooperative ventures between the GOP and the USG.

The Public Ministry's Drug Prosecutor's Office (DPO) remains a respected entity for combating narcotics-related crimes and a principal coordinator of Panama's Public Forces' counternarcotics investigative resources. DPO cooperation with U.S. law enforcement agencies is excellent and extensive. The PNP's Directorate of Information and Intelligence (DIIP) and its Anti-Drug Sub-Directorate (DAD) are effective drug investigative units.

The NAS-funded and DEA-supported Public Ministry/PTJ sensitive investigative unit, with authority to conduct investigations relative to major drug and money laundering organizations, continues to grow and regularly carries out operations. The PNP Mobile Inspection Unit and Paso Canoas Interdiction Enhancements, the International Airport Drug Task Force, and the Canine Unit continue to operate with USG support and have fielded major arrests and seizures.

The National Maritime Service (SMN) is a professional and capable agency that enjoys good relationships with USG counterparts. The SMN responds to USG requests for boarding and interdictions, assisting the U.S. Coast Guard (USCG) with verifying ship registry data, and transferring prisoners and evidence to Panama for air transport to the United States. The USCG and JIATF-S hosted two joint exercises (CONJUNTOS) with the SMN in 2004 and hope to host a follow-on exercise in early 2005. Despite the SMN's successes and cooperation, operations are threatened by a lack of resources, particularly fuel. There is concern that without USG assistance the SMN operational status may erode significantly. The SMN and National Air Service (SAN) have positive relations and annually team together to eradicate cannabis fields in the Pearl Islands.

The National Air Service is continually plagued by limited air assets, but provides excellent support for counternarcotics operations when their resources are available. The SAN, like other Panama Police Forces (PPF), had its budget cut for 2005, which may threaten future operations. The SAN continues to respond to U.S. law enforcement requests to over-fly and photograph suspect areas and to identify suspect aircraft in flight or on the ground. The SAN provides logistical support in the transfer of detainees and drug evidence through Panama to U.S. jurisdiction. The SAN-SMN relationship continues to grow in a positive direction. Both forces were involved in operations to burn cannabis fields on the Pearl Islands.

Cultivation and Production. Joint DEA-SAN aerial reconnaissance efforts indicate small-scale coca cultivation increased in July 2004. Reports of cocaine laboratories in the Darien are unconfirmed and have not been confirmed since 1993-94. GOP resource constraints, triple-canopy jungle, and the presence of heavily armed Colombian insurgents in the region have prevented crop eradication. Limited cannabis cultivation, principally for domestic consumption, exists in Panama, particularly in the Pearl Islands. The SMN, SAN, and PNP cooperate effectively to eradicate these crops.

Precursor Chemicals. Panama is not a significant producer or consumer of chemicals used in processing illegal drugs. However, it is believed that a significant volume of chemicals transits the Colon Free Zone for other countries. Legislation to strengthen Panama's chemical control regime has been drafted with U.S. assistance and presented to the National Assembly for approval. Seizures of pseudoephedrine by November 2004 totaled 3 million tablets. Until new legislation is signed into law, Panamanian chemical regulatory and enforcement infrastructure will remain inadequate and will continue to threaten USG success against regional narcotics production.

Drug Flow/Transit. Panama remains an integral territory for the transit and distribution of South American cocaine, heroin, and Ecstasy. These drugs are moved in a variety of modes: traffickers primarily use fishing vessels, cargo ships, small aircraft, and go-fast boats. These vehicles often refuel or exchange goods in or near Panama. Goods exchanged from sea borne mediums to land are loaded onto trucks for a northbound journey via the Pan-American Highway or placed in sea-freight containers near the Panama Canal for transport on cargo vessels. Illegal airplanes utilize hundreds of abandoned or unmonitored legal airstrips for refueling, pickups, and deliveries. Couriers transiting Panama by commercial air flights continued to move cocaine, as well as heroin, to the United States and Europe during 2004.

Domestic Programs (Demand Reduction). CONAPRED's five-year counternarcotics strategy identifies 29 demand reduction, drug education, and drug treatment projects to be funded between 2002 and 2007 at a cost of U.S. $6.5 million. During 2004, five projects were funded under this strategy, with a total cost of $790,000. The Ministry of Education and CONAPRED—supported by U.S. funding—promoted demand reduction through training for teachers and information programs. NAS is assisting with the implementation of an August 2003 law that created a national drug prevention education program, which mandates inclusion of drug prevention in school curriculum. CONAPRED and the Embassy's NAS also supported the Ministry of Education's National Drug Information Center (CENAID). The PNP Juvenile Police, with NAS funding, implemented the DARE Program in Panama City public schools.

Corruption. Corruption emerged as one of the primary issues in the 2004 Presidential campaign. As a result of the public's opinion on corruption, current President Martin Torrijos ran a campaign based on purging corruption from the government. The new administration made several strides towards accomplishing this goal since taking office in September 2004, including auditing government accounts, and launching investigations into major public corruption cases. The GOP has also revoked the Moscoso Administration's implementing decree that limited public requests for government information. Panama has created a national anticorruption commission in the Ministry of the Presidency that is charged with coordinating the government's anticorruption activities.

Agreements and Treaties. Panama is a party to the 1988 UN Drug Convention, the 1961 UN Single Convention on Narcotics Drugs, as amended by the 1982 Protocol, and the 1971 UN Convention on Psychotropic Substances. A mutual legal assistance treaty and an extradition treaty are in force between the United States and Panama, although the Panamanian constitution does not permit extradition of Panamanian nationals. A Customs Mutual Assistance Agreement and a stolen vehicles treaty are also in force. In 2002, a comprehensive maritime interdiction agreement between the USG and GOP entered into force. Panama has bilateral agreements on drug trafficking with the United Kingdom, Colombia, Mexico, Cuba, and Peru. Panama is a party to the UN Convention Against Transnational Organized Crime and its three protocols, and is a signatory to the UN Convention Against Corruption. Panama is a member of the Organization of American States and is a party to the Inter-American Convention on Mutual Assistance in Criminal Matters and the Inter-American Convention Against Corruption.

IV. U.S. Policy Initiatives and Programs

Policy Initiatives. The United States provided crucial equipment, training, and information to enhance the performance of GOP counternarcotics, public force, and law enforcement institutions in 2004. These U.S.-supported programs are aimed at improving Panama's ability to intercept, investigate, and prosecute illegal drug trafficking and other transnational crimes; strengthening Panama's judicial system; assisting Panama to implement domestic demand reduction programs; encouraging the enactment and implementation of effective laws governing precursor chemicals and corruption; improving Panama's border security; and ensuring strict enforcement of existing Panamanian laws.

NAS is implementing a law enforcement modernization project that has the goal of professionalizing the Panamanian National Police. The key pillars of the project involve implementing community policing in Panama, expanding existing crime analysis technology and promoting managerial change to allow greater autonomy and accountability to develop best practices among local police commanders.

Years of support to the SMN, including donations of equipment and regular USCG training contributed to the 2004 SMN successes. The SMN accounted for 17 percent of Panama's total cocaine seizures last year. Aside from equipment for the 180-foot SMN ship, NAS also continued refurbishing "go fast" boats for the SMN.

The United States has provided Panamanian Customs with training, operational tools, and a canine program that has become a linchpin of the Tocumen International Airport Drug Interdiction Law Enforcement Team. A U.S.-funded X-Ray machine also became operational at the airport during 2004.

In 2004 the USG, through the NAS, assisted the GOP in upgrading the Public Ministry's Anti-Corruption Unit. NAS supplied computers, office equipment, and other necessary gear. NAS also purchased several vehicles for the PTJ Vetted Unit.

NAS continued to support the Ministry of Education's teacher training programs in demand reduction.

Bilateral Cooperation. The Torrijos Administration continues to maintain close cooperation with the U.S. by sustaining joint counternarcotics efforts with the DEA and by strengthening national law enforcement institutions. The maritime interdiction agreement has facilitated enhanced cooperation in maritime interdiction efforts, with Panama playing a vital role in facilitating the transfer of prisoners and evidence to the United States.

The Road Ahead. The GOP continues to demonstrate its commitment to build strong law enforcement institutions and deter the flow of narcotics northward. The U.S. will continue to encourage Panama to devote sufficient resources to enable its forces to patrol fully the land borders, the Panamanian coastline, and the adjacent sea-lanes, rendering them inhospitable to illicit arms and narcotics traffic. The U.S. is encouraging the development of a multi-agency Panamanian Port Security Boarding Unit, which is scheduled to start operations in 2005.

In 2004, multinational maritime border operations yielded a 2.6MT cocaine seizure and turned around or chased 4 other go-fast boats. Continuing this operation should be a priority for 2005. The USG will continue to work with the GOP to help strengthen Panama's ability to deter trafficking in drugs by providing training and equipment. The United States will also continue to work with the GOP to help strengthen Panama's law enforcement and public forces institutional capacity and will provide assistance to Panama to support criminal justice reform, as well as anticrime and anticorruption efforts.



Back to Top
Sign-in

Do you already have an account on one of these sites? Click the logo to sign in and create your own customized State Department page. Want to learn more? Check out our FAQ!

OpenID is a service that allows you to sign in to many different websites using a single identity. Find out more about OpenID and how to get an OpenID-enabled account.