U.S. plans to revise and integrate its hemispheric drug policy

The United States is forging a new anti-drug policy that will combine all the existing initiatives in the region.

The plan was outlined last week in a U.S. Senate hearing by Gil Kerlikowske, director of the Office of National Drug Control Policy.

Kerlikowske outlined a series of policies, including one to prevent the importation of synthetic drugs like ecstasy and high potency marijuana from Canada.

“Today, a comprehensive Western Hemisphere Counterdrug Strategy, composed of numerous integrated programs and multi-national partnerships, is becoming a reality, Kerlikowske told senators. “In developing the strategy we are reaching out to members of Congress, non- governmental organizations, the counter-drug and counter-crime divisions of the OAS, and foreign government partners in the region. We are convinced that their views need to be taken into consideration if we are to design a truly comprehensive, collaborative and viable strategy.” The OAS is the Organization of American States.

He noted that the U.S. Congress has appropriated $1.5 billion for Mexico since the inception of the Mérida Initiative in fiscal year 2008, of which over $400 million has been expended to date and over $500 million more is planned for delivery in 2011.

The man, known as President Barack Obama’s drug czar, said that the details of the strategy would be worked out by summer. He praised efforts that have cut down the flow of
drugs to the north and noted that a reduction in drug use in the United States is needed. He titled his presentation to the senators a shared responsibility, suggesting that more effort would be made to train local police forces in Central America.

He said that the plan is to expand community- based policing, strengthen juvenile justice systems, and invest in crime and drug prevention programs.

“The global nature of the drug threat requires a strategic response that is also global in scope,” he said. “It is not realistic for countries to expect to be effective if they are operating in a vacuum. We no longer live in an either-or world of ‘demand reduction’ versus ‘supply reduction’ or ‘producer country’ versus ‘consumer country.’ Accordingly, the strategy addresses drug production and consumption throughout the world and explicitly builds on international partnerships to achieve our national drug control goals.

‘By the same token, criminal conduct engaged in by transnational criminal organizations is not limited to drug trafficking. Increasingly, international criminal syndicates are involved in kidnapping, extortion, human trafficking, arms trafficking, and a variety of other illegal

Kerlikowske said the United States was placing much of our attention and resources in Central America, Mexico, and the Caribbean because transnational drug trafficking organizations are most active there. The Central American Regional Security Initiative is one program designed to reduce the drug flow, and Kerlikowske said the United States was prepared to spend $200 million.

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