Western Hemisphere Drug Policy Commission Act Of 2009
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Ms. ROS-LEHTINEN. Madam Speaker, I yield myself such time as I may consume.
Madam Speaker, the United States has been involved in multilateral international drug control efforts for nearly a century.
Over the years, our agencies have used a wide array of tools to counter the drug trade in our hemisphere, ranging from multilateral cooperation and foreign assistance restrictions, to crop eradication, alternative development, interdiction, and institutional capacity building. Here within our own hemisphere the U.S. remains a major supporter and participant of the Inter-American Drug Abuse Control Commission.
Regionally and bilaterally the U.S. has also worked closely with responsible partners on counternarcotics efforts through important programs such as the Merida Initiative, the Andean Counterdrug Initiative, Plan Colombia, and the upcoming Caribbean Basin Security Initiative. Through these programs and others, at least eight U.S. agencies are involved in implementing U.S. international counternarcotics activities.
The Western Hemisphere Drug Policy Commission, created by this bill, H.R. 2134, will be responsible for assessing the promotion of economic development alternatives to illicit drugs, how to better employ technology to target major drug cartels, U.S. drug prevention and treatment programs, and the value of working with other governments and NGOs to promote the reduction of supply and demand for illicit drugs.
After this 1-year review, the commission will complete its mandate by providing a report to Congress that provides an assessment of overall U.S. international illicit drug control policies in our Western Hemisphere and recommendations on how to best improve these policies. It is critical that the appropriate measures be taken to ensure that U.S. drug policy, both here at home and abroad, is responsible and is effective.
Already we have seen tremendous results from some of our efforts. For example, in the last 2 years, the price of cocaine in the United States has increased nearly 80 percent while its purity has decreased nearly 30 percent. Drugs not only poison our children and our communities, but drugs fund and sustain many of the violent criminal groups and extremist organizations lurking in our hemisphere.
Within the last year or so, two major drug rings with ties to Hezbollah have been caught operating in our Western Hemisphere. The comfort with which these criminals traipse around the region is alarming.
However, with leaders like Hugo Chavez and Daniel Ortega bending over backwards to let rogue states like Iran expand its presence in the region, it really is no surprise that extremist groups like Hezbollah would also make their homes here.
We cannot allow the Western Hemisphere to become a staging ground for extremists. From money laundering to drug smuggling to arms trafficking, extremist groups like the FARC and Hezbollah, the regimes who support them, and their enablers are putting the people of the Americas in direct danger.
The United States must continue to work with our democratic allies to stamp out these threats. I am hopeful that this commission will help us to do just that.
Madam Speaker, I yield back the balance of my time.
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