Michael Botticelli, Acting Director of the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy, announced the Obama Administration’s 2014 Caribbean Border Counter-Narcotics Strategy this week.
“For years, ONDCP has published a Southwest Border Counternarcotics Strategy and a Northern Border Counternarcotics Strategy,” Puerto Rico Resident Commissioner Pierluisi pointed out, “but it did not publish any document that detailed the federal government’s strategy to address drug trafficking and related violence on the nation’s third border in the Caribbean.”
The strategy document was produced in response to a federal mandate imposed by Congress in legislation enacted a year ago.
Drug trafficking, along with the violence it brings and the negative climate for business these two factors create, has become an increasingly severe problem for Puerto Rico. As the border with Mexico has been more firmly controlled, the Caribbean border has stayed relatively open. At Rep. Pedro Pierluisi’s urging, additional resources have recently been devoted to law enforcement in Puerto Rico, yet the passage of cocaine through the Caribbean to the United States has, according to the White House blog, more than doubled since 2012.
The report details the steps which are being taken and proposes additional efforts that should be made to control this problem. Primary strategic objectives are listed as follows in the report and in the statement from the White House:
- Enhance intelligence and information-sharing capabilities and processes associated with the Caribbean border.
- Interdict illicit drugs and drug proceeds at and between U.S. ports of entry in the Caribbean.
- Interdict illicit drugs and illicit drug proceeds in the air and maritime domains in and around the Caribbean border; maximize evidence and intelligence collection to support criminal investigations leading to associated and higher echelon networks.
- Disrupt and dismantle transnational criminal organizations operating in and around the Caribbean border.
- Substantially reduce the level of drug -related violent crime in Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands.
- Strengthen communities and reduce the demand for drugs.
The 46-page report brings up many significant points. 80% of the murders in Puerto Rico are drug-related, and this is the reason for the unacceptably high homicide rate in Puerto Rico. School violence and vandalism are also part of the problem, and drug use is, according to the Puerto Rico Department of Education, quite high among schoolchildren, with more than 40% of students reporting that they used drugs before age 14. Money laundering and other financial crimes, associated with drug trafficking, are also on the increase.
The report points out that the current economic problems in Puerto Rico have left the island’s government unable to cope with the increasing maritime drug trafficking.
The report goes on to list specific tactics, ranging from law enforcement to work within communities to improvement in communication. Read the full report.