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Diplomacy in Action

Combating Transnational Criminal Threats and Illicit Pathways

David M. Luna
Director for Anticrime Programs, Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs
Cartagena, Colombia
November 15, 2011


Net-Centric Partnerships to Protect the Homeland and Advance National Security: Shutting Down Illicit Markets, Putting Criminal Entrepreneurs and Kleptocrats Out of Business, and Dismantling Transnational Illicit Networks

Buenos Dias! Les doy la bienvenida a todos. Es un gran placer estar aquí con ustedes esta mañana.

I would like to thank the Government of Colombia, the Colombian National Police (CNP), and the Department of Homeland Security’s Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) for their leadership in co-hosting and organizing this training conference.

It is a great honor to join at this opening ICE Deputy Director Kumar Kibble, U.S. Department of Homeland Security, and General Óscar Adolfo Naranjo Trujillo, CNP Director General. I would also like to acknowledge the senior CNP delegation with us this morning including CNP General Carlos Ramiro Meña and CNP General Ricardo Alberto Restrepo.

On behalf of U.S. Department of State, we welcome all of our partners to this innovative conference in Cartagena and applaud your commitment.

Combating Transnational Criminal Threats and Illicit Pathways

I have just come from the APEC Leaders’ Summit in Honolulu, Hawaii where President Barack Obama, Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, and other APEC leaders and ministers, agreed to new commitments on open governance and transparency and to launch a public-private partnership with the private sector across Asia and the Pacific to combat corruption and illicit trade and dismantle cross-border illicit networks.

This is a significant political commitment and one that allows us to make further progress in constructing a network of networks to combat mutually-shared transnational illicit threats, which we recognize as a common enemy that harms our communities, poisons our markets, and threatens the security and stability of all nations at each end of licit and illicit supply chains.

Now more than ever, APEC and other international partners are committed to shutting down illicit markets, putting criminal entrepreneurs and kleptocrats out of business, and dismantling transnational illicit networks.

ICE Director John Morton provided early leadership in helping us chart this course of action when he joined me as Chair of the Anti-Corruption and Transparency (ACT) Working Group in keynoting the first APEC Senior Officials’ meeting in Washington, DC in March 2011 to build a common agenda on combating corruption, illicit trade, counterfeits—including counterfeit medicines—and other cross-border illicit threats that impact our economies, especially in areas where they threaten human health and safety.

This conference in Cartagena could not have taken place at a more opportune moment.

With its geo-security position at the crossroads of illicit pathways from North to South and across both the Pacific and Atlantic oceans, there is perhaps no country more strategically poised to partner with the international law enforcement community to leverage our respective capabilities to dismantle cross-border threats and raise barriers to illicit trade.

Moreover, Colombia has long been an indispensable partner to the United States and the international community.

General Naranjo and other courageous Colombian law enforcement officials have been at the forefront of this battle for many years, first combating drug cartels within their own borders and transforming Colombia into a beacon for the rule of law and a new frontier for investment and economic development, and now actively lending their expertise to the fight against transnational illicit threats in other parts of the world.

Of course, their efforts have come at a heavy price as thousands of patriotic Colombians have made the ultimate sacrifice to secure a brighter future for their children and their country. But their sacrifice proves that where there is a will to combat crime and corruption, strengthen institutions, build capacities, and invest in criminal justice sectors, we can secure our communities, protect our economies, and safeguard the peace.

Transforming and Bridging Partnerships Across the Pacific and Atlantic to Attack Illicit Pathways and Dismantle Transnational Criminal Networks

Building on our success in APEC in 2011 as manifested by the commitment of leaders in Hawaii this past weekend, our gathering here today in Cartagena, tomorrow in Trinidad and Tobago at the Organization of American States (OAS) Transnational Organized Crime meetings and related Ministerial for Public Security in the Americas (MISPA), and in coming months around the hemisphere and other regions, the United States is actively building partnerships with other nations against the destabilizing influence of transnational criminal networks and their corruptive power.

In recent years, the United States and other partners have launched several innovative inter-regional platforms to combat transnational crime and dismantle illicit networks that threaten the security and stability of communities around the world.

For example, in Lisbon, Portugal in May 2011, the United States and the European Union (EU) co-hosted the Trans-Atlantic Symposium on Dismantling Transnational Illicit Networks, a practical dialogue among senior European, U.S., West African, and Western Hemisphere law enforcement and judicial officials to strengthen international cooperation to combat transnational criminal threats and illicit networks that span the Atlantic, including drugs, arms, human smuggling/trafficking, money laundering and illicit finance, corruption, and maritime crimes, as well as the accelerating convergence of these threats.

Similarly, since 2009, the U.S. has partnered with Australia, New Zealand, Thailand, and other partners in Asia and the Pacific to establish the Trans-Pacific Network: a platform among senior law enforcement, security, and justice sector officials to strengthen cooperation to fight cross-border criminal organizations and other transnational threat networks with our own networks across the Asia Pacific region. Last month, with the leadership of ICE, we brought the Trans-Pacific Network to Phuket, Thailand to strengthen our collective action to combat corruption and illicit trade in new areas such as environmental crime, counterfeit medicines, and other emerging threats.

Of great significance in our discussion in both Lisbon and Phuket was that while law enforcement agencies across the Pacific and Atlantic have made significant narcotics seizures, arrests, and confiscations and recovery of bulk cash related to drug trafficking in their cross border operations, a growing concern is the expansion and influence of criminals and illicit networks across borders including, for example, the Latin cartels in West Africa, Asia, and Europe; West African gangs in Asia and the Americas; and Eurasian and Asian criminal syndicates active in many regions.

Criminals respect no borders and are very global, partnering and entering into joint ventures with each other, exploiting weak borders and seizing opportunities to expand further their criminal enterprises and create new illicit investment frontiers.

This underscores again why our partnerships, joint operations, coordination efforts, and inter-regional networks become even more important.

The United States is also strengthening partnerships with the United Nations, the World Bank, the G8/G20, ASEAN, the Pacific Islands Forum (PIF), OAS, the Caribbean Community (CARICOM), the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), INTERPOL, the World Customs Organization (WCO), and via public-private partnerships with the private sector and civil society organizations.

Attacking Criminal Networks Within and Beyond our Borders

As President Barack Obama recently underscored several months ago in his message in unveiling his Strategy to Combat Transnational Organized Crime: Addressing Converging Threats to National Security, no nation can win this war against transnational criminal threats and illicit networks alone:

We encourage our partners and allies to echo the commitment we have made here and join in building a new framework for international cooperation to protect all our citizens from the violence, harm, and exploitation wrought by transnational organized crime.

As global financial, transportation, and communications systems become more globalized and interconnected, and as transnational criminal organizations diversify their illicit portfolios and arbitrage weaknesses in regulation and enforcement across borders, enhanced international cooperation becomes ever more important for protecting our markets and institutions and excising transnational organized crime from the global value chain.

The United States will work with our partners globally to fight networks with networks by reducing arbitrage opportunities through the harmonization of our regulatory and law enforcement efforts, and disrupting and dismantling transnational criminal threats by targeting criminal entrepreneurs, illicit pathways, and organizations that are involved in the web of crime and corruption.

For nations that have the will to fulfill their international law enforcement commitments but lack the means, the United States will stand by you and partner with you to help you develop stronger law enforcement and criminal justice institutions necessary for ensuring the rule of law.

In places like Central America, where traffickers and criminal gangs now facilitate the flow of up to 95% of all cocaine reaching the United States, we must continue to promote the rule of law in order to provide a foundation for all other efforts to succeed. Through the Central America Regional Security Initiative (CARSI), we our supporting our partners to combat the effects of organized crime and strengthen the rule of law in Central America.

In other parts of the world like West Africa, we continue to work with committed governments to strengthen judicial sectors and to promote more responsive and transparent criminal justice systems and achieve regulatory harmonization so that illicit actors lose the incentive to produce and distribute illicit goods in those areas.

We must also ensure that Island countries particularly those in the Pacific and Caribbean do not become neither safe havens for organized criminal networks nor illicit financial hubs.

Bilaterally, we continue to support partners such as Afghanistan, Thailand, Indonesia, Mexico, Peru, and others, to build capacities and institutions – from fighting corruption to basic policing to investigators, prosecutors, courts and correction systems to strengthening border security and internal controls.

We will invest in information sharing across borders and frontiers because we know it works best when information is shared between governments and between law enforcement organizations.

We will also continue to deny safe haven to kleptocrats and criminal entrepreneurs around the world, freeze and seize their illegally-acquired assets, raise the transaction costs of engaging in illicit trade, and, in so doing, strongly signal that theft from our economies will no longer be tolerated.

Following illicit financial routes must be an integral part of our combined strategies to deny criminals and their respective networks access to channels to launder their illicit wealth. Recognizing the increasing convergence of illicit threats and networks, we must re-set our sights not on illicit goods, but the transactions that drive whole illicit markets from one end of the globe to the other.

We will continue to support the growing body of important international legal frameworks that provide us with road maps for the prevention and combating of corruption and organized crime, and that give us tools for international legal cooperation in those areas. The United States and Colombia are both parties to the Inter-American Convention against Corruption – the world’s first anticorruption treaty – and the UN Convention against Corruption – the world’s most comprehensive.

Both our countries have supported the development of robust peer review processes to support real implementation, including through open government, greater transparency, and civil society participation, and through country visits by the review experts; we should continue to partner to encourage other countries to make the most of these opportunities.

I also would like to recognize Colombia’s aspiration to join the OECD Working Group on Bribery and to ratify the OECD Anti-Bribery Convention. The Working Group reviewed Colombia’s legal regime at its October meeting and decided to recommend that Colombia be invited to accede to full membership, a recommendation that now will go to the OECD Council for endorsement.

We will continue to articulate the harms caused by transnational crime to communities around the around – whether it is the drug wars and associated violent crime or young children becoming drug addicts at 4-8 years of age or illicit networks pillaging forests, wildlife, and other natural resources for illicit gain, or rapacious criminal entrepreneurs trafficking in fake medicines that harm the health our citizens, we all pay a deep social and sustainable development cost.

Finally, we will be examining the potential nexus between criminal organizations and terrorist networks where, in some cases, terrorist or insurgent groups may resort to “marriages of convenience” with criminal entrepreneurs and dual facilitators to advance and finance their ideological agenda and campaigns.

Dynamic Threat Mitigation: Coordination, Information-Sharing and Leveraging Capabilities

By leveraging our collective capacities, expertise, and will to combat transnational organized crime and dismantle transnational illicit networks, we can shut down illicit markets in order to strengthen our own markets, protect our communities, bolster our economies, and preserve the stability of our nations.

Again, we applaud our law enforcement partners in Colombia and from the other nations that are here with us this week in Cartagena.

The U.S. Department of State will continue to also support our partnership with DHS/ICE to support these types of inter-regional partnerships and training workshops, as well as the efforts by Drug and Enforcement Administration (DEA), the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), International Organized Crime Intelligence and Operations Center (IOC-2) and other US law enforcement agencies and fusion centers, which are enhancing coordination and cooperation with other committed governments around the world to combat transnational criminal threats and dismantle illicit networks.

Working together, we can confront the threats and risks posed by transnational criminal networks and safeguard our communities. Thank you.

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