U.S. Senator Robert Menendez (D-NJ), a member of the Foreign Relations Committee, and Committee Chairman John Kerry (D-MA), introduced legislation today directing a more focused approach to regional counternarcotics efforts. The "Counternarcotics and Citizen Security for the Americas Act of 2010" (S.3172) reflects a more nuanced approach to counternarcotics efforts in the region and emphasizes the building of civilian institutions, less military involvement in enforcing the law, more effective local, regional, and federal law enforcement institutions to deal with the challenge, and improvements in the judicial institutions, the rule of law, and viable and licit alternatives to the drug trade.
"Developing a comprehensive and balanced approach to combating the drug trade in our Hemisphere will directly help improve security here at home and keep drugs off of our streets," said Menendez. "The drug trade spreads corruption and money laundering, while eroding the institutional capacity of Latin America's relatively new and sometimes fragile democracies. The United States counternarcotics programs in the region are therefore crucial in helping our partners build law enforcement institutions, prosecute traffickers, and seize their assets. These programs must be viewed in a comprehensive, coordinated manner in order to thwart the "balloon effect.' Bolstering our regional partnerships and improving cooperation in order to effectively improve citizen security, generate economic and social opportunities, and professionalize the law enforcement and judicial elements of partner nations is in the best interest of the health and safety of the American people."
"Our counternarcotics strategies in Latin America have to reflect the changing conditions in the region, including the need for a focus on citizen safety and civilian institution building, and the growing desire for partnership against common threats. The producers and traffickers of illegal drugs adapt fast to our pressures on them, so our emphasis has to be on agile, intelligence-aided approaches that include many partners," said Kerry.
Counternarcotics programs in the Western Hemisphere are managed and implemented across several government agencies and departments. As a result, program effectiveness can be limited due to fragmented management, unclear reporting chains, and duplicative and overlapping agenda. Sub-regional initiatives have expanded in recent years but the strategic thinking for these initiatives has not yet caught up with the resources that are being provided. The Menendez-Kerry bill works to calibrate efforts by standardizing metrics and monitoring protocols for counternarcotics and public security programs throughout the region; putting the authority for counternarcotics and anti-crime foreign assistance-related activity into the hands of the Secretary of State; and mandating a coordinated report outlining a regional counternarcotics strategy for the Latin American and Caribbean region that takes into consideration the so-called "balloon effect."
Click http://menendez.senate.gov/imo/media/doc/20100326CounternarcoticsBill.pdf for a PDF of the "Counternarcotics and Citizen Security for the Americas Act of 2010" (S.3172)