LATIN AMERICA: International Drug Cartels Widening Influence

March 15, 2012 at 11:55 pm Leave a comment

North and South

The two U.S. military commanders in charge of security in the Western Hemisphere say trans-national criminal groups – particularly Latin American drug cartels – pose a threat on both sides of the U.S.-Mexican border.

Mexican drug gangs are spreading their influence south to Central and South America, says Air Force Gen. Douglas Fraser, the commander of U.S. Southern Command, which is responsible for U.S. military issues in Central and South America as well the Caribbean.

SOUTHCOM'S area of responsibility

Click on the image to enlarge the map

Additionally, Fraser and his counterpart at Northern Command (NORTHCOM), Army General Charles Jacoby Jr., concede that the cartels’ influence has also spread to into the U.S.

The top Democrat and Republican on the committee were in agreement on the immediacy and broad scope of the threat. “While there is no traditional military threat emanating from the region, SOUTHCOM is contending with an increasingly powerful and capable threat in the form of Transnational Organized Crime,” said Sen. Carl Levin (D-Michigan), the committee chairman. “These criminal organizations have grown to the point where thhey are a real threat to national and international security,” he added.

Sen. John McCain (R-Arizona), the panel’s senior Republican, noted that nearly 50,000 Mexicans havebeen killed in drug-related violence since 2006. But “the threat from these groups does not end at the border.” A 2011 Justice Department National Drug Threat Assessment found that “the cartels maintain a presence in over 1,000 U.S. Cities.” McCain said. And a city in Honduras, San Pedro Sula, is now more dangerous than Ciudad Juarez, Mexico. With 159 homicides per 100,000 residents, San Pedro Sula bypassed the Mexican border city in 2011 had been rated the most dangerous city in the world.

In 2011, nearly 1,100 metric tons of cocaine moved through Central America to the U.S. Another 60 metric tons bound for Europe – primarilly from Venezuela – moves though West Africa, according to Fraser’s testimony.

He also noted that small semi-submersible vessels that can carry eight to 10 tones of cocaine have been spotted in the Caribbean Sea for the first. Previously, they were only spotted in the eastern Pacific Ocean. Fraser said the subs were not just a maritime problem “because they’re built in the jungle.” He said SOUHCOM could use more Navy and Coast Guard vessels as well as surveillance airplanes to keep the drug traffic under scrutiny.


Entry filed under: International Crime, Latin America, National Security and Defense, Special Operations. Tags: , , , , , .

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