Drug Control:

Update on U.S. Interdiction Efforts in the Caribbean and Eastern Pacific

NSIAD-98-30: Published: Oct 15, 1997. Publicly Released: Nov 14, 1997.

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Benjamin F. Nelson
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Office of Public Affairs
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Pursuant to a congressional request, GAO reviewed drug trafficking lanes into the United States from the Caribbean Sea, Gulf of Mexico, and eastern Pacific Ocean, focusing on: (1) the nature of drug trafficking activities through the transit zone; (2) host nation efforts, capabilities, and impediments to an effective counternarcotics program; (3) U.S. agencies' capabilities, including funding, in interdicting drug trafficking activities in the region; and (4) the status of U.S. agencies' efforts to plan, coordinate, and implement U.S. interdiction activities.

GAO noted that: (1) since its April 1996 report, the amount of drugs smuggled and the counternarcotics capabilities of host countries and the United States have remained largely unchanged; (2) cocaine trafficking through the Caribbean and Eastern Pacific regions continues, and drug traffickers are still relying heavily on maritime modes of transportation; (3) recent information shows that traffickers are using "go-fast" boats, fishing vessels, coastal freighters, and other vessels in the Caribbean and fishing and cargo vessels with multi-ton loads in the Eastern Pacific; (4) recent estimates indicate that, of all cocaine moving through the transit zone, 38 percent (234 metric tons) is being shipped through the Eastern Pacific; (5) although the United States has continued to provide technical assistance and equipment to many Caribbean and other transit zone countries, the amount of cocaine seized by most of the countries is small relative to the estimated amounts flowing through the area; (6) the counter-drug efforts of many transit zone countries continue to be hampered by limited resources and capabilities; (7) the United States does not have bilateral maritime agreements with 12 transit zone countries to facilitate interdiction activities; (8) the United States has increased funding but has had limited success in detecting, monitoring, and interdicting air and maritime trafficking in the transit zone; (9) Joint Interagency Task Force (JIATF)-East assets devoted to these efforts have stayed at almost the same level; (10) JIATF-East has requested additional resources from the Department of Defense to address Eastern Pacific drug trafficking; (11) Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP) officials told GAO that it developed an overall strategy that identifies agency roles, missions and tasks to execute the drug strategy and establish task priorities; (12) according to ONDCP, its performance measurement systems remains incomplete; (13) until measurable targets are developed, it will not be possible to hold agencies with jurisdiction in the Caribbean accountable for their performance; and (14) law enforcement agencies with Caribbean jurisdiction are developing a regional plan to be completed by January 1998, led by the Drug Enforcement Administration, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, and the U.S. Customs Service.

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