The mission of the Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs' Office of Western Hemisphere Programs (INL/WHP) is to develop policies and manage programs to help partner countries in the Western Hemisphere strengthen law enforcement and other rule of law institutional capabilities so that they can more effectively combat international narcotics production and trafficking, international crime and terrorism. INL/WHP implements its mission through a comprehensive range of bilateral, regional, and global initiatives and assistance programs to set international counter drug and anti-crime standards, foster cooperation among states, and build up the law enforcement capacity of foreign governments. The programs enable foreign governments to act directly against traffickers and other crime groups and cooperate more effectively with U.S. law enforcement agencies. INL/WHP provides guidance to Foreign Service posts in implementing USG policies on international narcotics and crime; provides program direction for bilateral narcotics assistance; and is responsible for developing and revising regional and drug- and crime-specific strategies and coordinating these strategies with the interagency. INL/WHP coordinates policy and programs with other U.S. Government departments and agencies involved in international narcotics control and crime activities, including the Department of Defense, Department of Justice and its agencies, Department of Homeland Security, Office of National Drug Control Policy, Department of Treasury, and Agency for International Development.
The Merida Initiative, launched in 2007, is a partnership between the governments of the United States, Mexico, and Central America to confront the violent national and transnational gangs and organized criminal and narcotics trafficking organizations that plague the entire region. Merida initiative programs designed to increase Mexican capacity, and to institutionalize our partnership, focus on four goals: Disrupting Organized Criminal Groups; Institutionalizing Reforms to Sustain Rule of Law and Respect for Human Rights; Creating a 21st Century Border; and Building Strong and Resilient Communities.
To date, Merida Initiative funding has supported significant purchases, such as aircraft, IT systems, police and forensics equipment, canines and handlers, and non-intrusive inspection equipment. We have also provided funding for Mexican justice sector institutions to target the organized criminal groups, disrupt their activities and build strong justice sector institutions. We are now accelerating our efforts to support and help build stronger democratic institutions in Mexico, especially the police and justice sector, expanding our border focus beyond interdiction of contraband to include facilitation of legitimate trade and travel, and cooperating in building stronger communities that are resistant to the corrupting influence of organized crime. The Merida Initiative is closely linked to the Central America Regional Security Initiative (CARSI) and the Caribbean Basin Security Initiative (CBSI), and envisions strengthening and integrating security from the U.S. Southwest border to Panama.
The Central America Regional Security Initiative (CARSI) supports development of a regional capacity to respond to drug traffickers and other transnational criminal organizations. INL/WHP programs focus on the creation of interconnected information systems in all seven countries, extending them to more remote areas and increasing information handling capacity and sharing, as well as support for vetted units targeting bulk currency smuggling, in addition to drug trafficking and alien smuggling. CARSI programs provide advanced training on border and mobile inspections, police training and equipment and complement programs under the regional Criminal Youth Gangs program by consolidating best practices, and providing equipment and technical assistance to enhance the effectiveness of preventive policing programs, witness protection programs and community activities. To strengthen the justice sector, INL/WHP CARSI programs support training and professional development activities for prosecutors, investigators, and courts to ensure rapid and transparent judicial procedures across the region, as well as provide continued support for corrections officials to better manage prisons.
Narcotics trafficking remains the principal threat to Caribbean security. INL/WHP's programs in the Caribbean support host government efforts to effectively interdict narcotics destined for the United States by providing equipment, training and technical expertise to improve the effectiveness of special prosecutors, to improve anti-corruption measures, and measures against other types of transborder crime. The Caribbean Basin Security Initiative (CBSI) is a collaborative, multinational approach to addressing the issues of narcotics and arms trafficking, and organized crime, while simultaneously focusing on the root causes of crime in the region, which include a lack of economic and educational opportunities, and resource-depleted governmental institutions. Its objectives are to (1) substantially reduce illicit trafficking, (2) advance public safety and security and (3) promote social justice. INL programs in support of these objectives will develop and strengthen the capacity of law enforcement and justice sector institutions to detect, interdict, and successfully prosecute criminal element operating in the region. INL programs within CBSI will continue development of Caribbean regional air and maritime assets, enhance rule of law, provide equipment and training to counternarcotics and other law enforcement forces, assist efforts to strengthen anti-crime legislation and prosecutorial capabilities, and support information sharing among the law enforcement, customs and border control agencies in the Caribbean.
Under the Colombian Government’s National Consolidation Plan, the United States is focusing much of its assistance in several key geographic areas where instability, drug trafficking and a lack of economic activities continue to impede stability and democratic growth. In this regard, INL/WHP’s programs are consolidating and advancing the security and counternarcotics progress achieved under Plan Colombia. Our assistance also helps improve Colombia’s judicial institutions, including enhancing the protection of human rights and developing local capacity to fully address sensitive criminal cases. We have also undertaken coordinated efforts to nationalize/turn over planned financial and operational responsibilities for a number of programs to the Government of Colombia.
Elsewhere in South America, INL/WHP programs aim to reduce the flow of drugs to the United States and prevent instability in the Andean region by attacking the organizational sources of 100 percent of the cocaine and most of the heroin entering the United States and by strengthening the ability of both source and transit countries to investigate and prosecute major drug trafficking organizations and their leaders and to block and seize their assets. INL programs in South America focus on reducing illegal drug production and drug trafficking to a manageable problem for host nation police forces; help to extend state authority and services to remote or previously contested areas; make legal systems more transparent and effective; and provide support for drug eradication and interdiction programs.