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First World Congress of Government Attorneys in Sao Paulo

Remarks by Donnie R. Marshall to the First World Congress of Government Attorneys in Sao Paulo

September 21, 2000

Fonte: Embaixada dos Estados Unidos no Brasil

(In Portuguese) Good morning. Thank you, Dr. Edilson Bonfim, for that very generous introduction. It's great to be back in one of my favorite countries. I worked for four years in Brasilia and Sao Paulo in the 1970s. Your kind invitation to speak at this first World Congress has given me a chance to visit my old neighborhood and eat at some of my favorite restaurants ... and try out my rusty Portuguese.

Well, now you've heard enough to know that I'll never be taken for a native Brazilian. It's been 20 years since I've had a chance to speak in Portuguese, so I hope you will understand if I revert to my native English for the remainder of my remarks.

I was raised in Texas, which is in the American Southwest. People in that part of the country have, I believe, a well-deserved reputation for generosity and a spirit of hospitality.

But back in the 1970s, as a young DEA agent, I simply wasn't prepared for the warm reception my family got from the people of Brazil. I've made many wonderful friends here, and will always consider it one of the real highlights of my career in the Drug Enforcement Administration.

I've returned to Brazil not just to see old friends and visit old neighborhoods, but to talk about my favorite subject - cooperation among international agencies in the fight against drugs.

The 1st World Conference is built on the need for cooperation - an issue that is the top priority for me and for every one of us at DEA. I'd first like to discuss the need for cooperation and then talk about some of the more practical aspects of cooperation.

DEA and its predecessor agencies have recognized the need for cooperating with law enforcement agencies from our own country and from other countries for many years. Our cooperative efforts in the international arena go back to the 1930s. In 1954, the Federal Bureau of Narcotics established its first permanent European office in Rome to help stem the trade in heroin.

I suspect the agents who first got involved in the international area soon discovered then what all of us have since learned through experience - the more we fight drug traffickers, the more we all realize that one country, one agency, cannot solve the drug problem alone.

The need for cooperation becomes much greater with every passing year. Today, more liberal trade policies are lowering economic and political barriers around the world. Sophisticated communications devices are making global businesses much easier to manage.

As we all know, none of this has been lost on the international drug traffickers. They are as up-to-date in their business skills as the heads of most big corporations. Managing a global business like drug trafficking takes all sorts of cooperative efforts.

The traffickers place a high priority on cooperating among themselves - sometimes a higher priority than those of us in law enforcement agencies have placed on cooperating among ourselves.

There's a real need for cooperation among police and prosecutors. Let me say that there's a tendency among a few people in drug enforcement to think that the investigative wing is the only game in town. But it does no good to arrest someone and then watch them walk away scot-free. We depend on your good advice in the pursuit and arrest of criminals, and we depend on your talent and expertise in bringing them to justice.

As a career agent for 30 years, I can tell you that, over the years, I've worked extensively with prosecuting attorneys in the United States to build cases and prosecute violent drug criminals. I have a great deal of respect for your work ... and I recognize, as do virtually all of my colleagues, that without your efforts, our work would be pointless.

There is also a need for extensive international cooperation among law enforcement agencies. Not everyone in law enforcement is committed to international cooperation. There are any number of reasons for that. But one important reason is a misconception about the nature of the worldwide drug problem - a misconception that can divide us and prevent us from joining in a common-effort if we allow it.

My introduction to that misconception dates back to 1975. Back then, I participated in a meeting of the International Drug Enforcement Association, the old IDEA. It was the predecessor to the International Drug Enforcement Conference.

In the discussions at that 1975 conference, a lot was made of the distinction between source countries, transit countries, and consumer countries. I suspected that those distinctions were irrelevant back then. I know that they are irrelevant today.

Drug use, for example, is a worldwide phenomenon - despite the fact that much of the world's media have focused on U.S. consumers. That becomes evident by doing some simple arithmetic. The World Drug Report, published in 1997 by the United Nations International Drug Control Program, estimates that the total revenue accruing to the worldwide drug industry is about $400 billion a year.

There is a mistaken impression that the vast majority of that money is spent by drug users in the United States. But the facts are otherwise.

The White House Office of National Drug, Control has done its best to come up with a reasonably accurate estimate of just how much Americans spend on drugs every year. It's an estimate that is based more on intelligent extrapolations than hard, scientific numbers. After all, the traffickers don't file annual financial reports. But the estimate does give us a rough idea of the dimensions of the drug business - in the United States and elsewhere.

The White House Office has estimated that Americans spent roughly $63 billion on illegal drugs in 1999. When you consider that this represents only 16 percent of the $400 billion spent in total on drugs, it becomes clear that drug abuse is not a uniquely American phenomenon.

In fact, drug abuse is a worldwide problem. Even some of the major source and transit countries are finding that the problem of drug addiction is leaking into their own populations. That has been true from the early days of this current worldwide drug epidemic.

The growing problem of drug addiction in this country is not an issue
peculiar to Brazil, but a problem affecting any country that is used by
traffickers in any portion of the drug production and distribution process

A historian of the drug trade, Jill Jones, looked into this phenomenon. She found that back in the 1970s, the French government overlooked the flow of heroin through Marseilles until it became apparent that not all of the heroin that was coming into the country was leaving the country. The French found that traffickers had begun to market their product in the area around Marseilles, and then in areas beyond Marseilles. It was then that the French government began to rethink its position that the heroin problem was strictly an American problem.

The growing problem of drug addiction in this country is not an issue peculiar to Brazil, but a problem affecting any country that is used by traffickers in any portion of the drug production and distribution process.

The other side of the coin is that drug production is thought by many people to take place, in only a few source countries. That, too, is untrue.

For example, the United States is unfortunately becoming a significant source country in its own right as a producer of large quantities of marijuana and methamphetamine. So any commentary about the responsibility for eliminating drugs at the source must apply to the United States as well.

As some of you may know, traffickers are increasingly using chemical manufacturers and distributors in Brazil and other countries as sources of precursor chemicals for cocaine.

There's been a lot of focus on the countries where the coca leaf is cultivated. The fact is, precursor chemicals are just as important a part of the cocaine production process. Without them, there would be no cocaine.

The production and distribution of chemicals is a vast worldwide business. The only way to deprive traffickers of the chemicals they need is to make sure that there is a very tight regime of chemical controls in every country in the world - and a highly coordinated system of information sharing.

The fact that precursor chemicals are such an integral part of the cocaine trade gives the traffickers located in Brazil, for example, an entrée to the other parts of the business.

Any reasonably alert supplier is going to make it his business to learn the operations of his, customers - if only so he can give them better service.

At some point, an aggressive supplier is going to say to himself: "I can do what they are doing just as well as they can ... and maybe better."

In fact, there are some experts who believe that traffickers based in Brazil could eventually compete with the cartels based in Colombia. It's certainly not outside the realm of possibility.

This may come as a surprise to you, but the traffickers who initiated this 30-year epidemic of cocaine use were originally headquartered in Chile. Only later were they displaced by traffickers from Colombia - who had originally served as couriers for the Chileans.

The only way to make sure traffickers can't operate with impunity is to
make sure the governments of the world are united in their efforts to bring
them down

The only thing constant about drug trafficking is change. There is nothing static about this industry. It's changing all the time. So it does none of us any good to focus all of our efforts on the few countries that grow the coca plant or that serve as the headquarters of trafficking groups.

Drug traffickers are the ultimate multinational corporations. They will use any part of the world that serves their needs. So the only way to make sure traffickers can't operate with impunity is to make sure the governments of the world are united in their efforts to bring them down.

We are all in this together. We all have the same problems, each of us in different degrees. And none of us can afford to rest easy until this global conspiracy that poisons our peoples and destroys our communities is a thing of the past.

So the need for cooperation is becoming all the more apparent. How we organize our cooperative efforts is another thing altogether and one I'd like to discuss by describing some of the common strategies we have used.

I think we can all agree that the best way to fight traffickers is to find and exploit their vulnerabilities. And their most obvious vulnerabilities grow out of their methods of operation.

The modern drug lord is typically a fanatic about control. He knows that mistakes within his organization can result in huge financial losses, hard time in prison - or worse. So he'll take a personal interest in making sure nothing goes wrong.

His business philosophy is micromanagement. His need for total secrecy, and the need to keep his subordinates totally in line, is a necessity for the trafficker - and an opportunity for us.

Micromanagement means that the trafficker has got to maintain effective command and control over a vast criminal enterprise - from the cultivation stage to the retail distribution stage and every step in between.

The trafficker believes that micromanagement is one of his greatest sources of strength. But it is in fact one of his greatest weaknesses.

The best way to build a case against international traffickers is by targeting his organizational infrastructure. These organizations are structured around specialized groups. Each group handles different and separate tasks, such as production, transportation, money laundering, and retail distribution.

We've found that an excellent way to penetrate these organizations is through international controlled deliveries. It's one thing to arrest some low level transporter; it's far more effective to use him in an effort to get at the to of the organization. We have used controlled deliveries to help bring down entire organizations. The more we can cooperate in this area, the more success we will all have in disrupting the major trafficking organizations.

The controlled delivery is just one tool among many in an intelligence strategy that gives us a more detailed picture of the trafficking situation. We then use this information to support additional operations, which in turn provide more information for new intelligence assessments and new investigations.

The point I want to make is that intelligence gathering is not a linear process with a definite end. It's a cycle. Seizures not only result in the arrest of criminals, the dismantling of drug, labs, and the confiscation of drug evidence. They also generate new information.

We can then take this information - even from seemingly unconnected seizures - and weave it together. The little bits of information add up to a big picture of trafficking patterns. When we put all that information together, we have the intelligence we need to launch more investigations and put more traffickers behind bars. The ultimate effect is that together, we are systematically destroying the syndicates' leadership and organizational cohesion.

It's a constant information flow. Basically, any piece of information picked up in a seizure is fed back into the developing worldwide picture of the drug trade. The more evidence we collect, the clearer the picture becomes. The clearer the picture becomes, the more effective we all become.

That's the basic strategy law enforcement employs today. And it's more than just a wish list of things we'd like to do. This basic strategy has been used in some of the most successful operations in recent years.

For example, six different nations contributed their people and resources to Operation Millennium, which resulted in the arrest of 31 individuals last October. Included among the arrested were Fabio, Ochoa and Alejandro Bernal, two of the most powerful cocaine traffickers in the world. This was a great victory for us all, and particularly for the Colombian National Police.

More and more, we are entering an era of cooperative investigation, when the efforts in one country complement those in another country. Millennium is a textbook example of how international law enforcement organizations can cooperate.

The DEA and many other law enforcement agencies in this hemisphere have worked together in such areas as bilateral investigations, intelligence gathering, institution building, and training.

In Operation Millennium, this cooperation paid off. It sent a message to drug traffickers everywhere that freer trade and cutting edge technologies may make drug trafficking easier, but not safer. If you're trafficking in drugs anywhere in the world, the world's law enforcement agencies will find you and we'll arrest you.

And in many cases, not only will we arrest you, but we will seize the assets you acquired through your illegal business. Asset forfeiture is another important tool in the hands of law enforcement. Drug dealers don't enter this business because they love their work. They enter it because they love the money they stand to make, and the many possessions it will buy.

In February 1998, the Brazilian Senate passed a money laundering law. The Brazilian government is now working on ways to implement it. Tough enforcement of this law would send a clear message to traffickers that in the end they have little to gain and a lot to lose by entering this business.

Operation Millennium is just one example of the growing network of international law enforcement cooperation. Last September and October, 15 different countries contributed their resources to Operation Columbus, which resulted in almost 1,300 arrests; the seizure of large amounts of drugs, precursors, money and equipment; and the destruction of almost 500 acres of cocaine fields.

Twelve countries throughout South and Central America, the United States and Europe contributed to Operation Atlantico, a two-year investigation which culminated in the month of August. The operation resulted in the arrests of 43 individuals and the seizure of 22,000 kilograms of cocaine.

Last March, Operation Conquistador was concluded. This 17-day operation Involved 26 countries of the Caribbean, Central and South America. The arrests and seizures in this operation were important, but they pale in significance when compared to the challenge of pulling together the resources and people of 26 countries in a coordinated operation.

All of these operations are good examples of taking the global view of drug trafficking. When it comes right down to it, there is no such thing as a local trafficker. Every drug sale is inevitably tied into a worldwide trafficking conspiracy and a worldwide market for drugs.

There was a time when a local drug transaction was considered just that. Today, we see it for what it is: one small clue to a global conspiracy. Find enough of these small clues; share them with others; give them some thoughtful analysis: the results are sweeping operations like the ones I've just described.

Ten years ago, even five years ago, I'm not sure we could have accomplished that. And I'd like to think that meetings like this are one reason for these successes.

I have been in drug enforcement for more than 30 years. The biggest change I've seen in all those years is not that the traffickers are more sophisticated and more violent, although that's true. It's not that the demand for drugs in the U.S. and many other countries is so much greater, although that too is true.

The biggest change - and the most welcome change - is that so many nations have decided that they share a common interest in destroying the drug trade and a common willingness to put up the resources to achieve it.

It's a recognition that the only way we can meet the growing, threat of transnational crime is through effective, transnational law enforcement. No one country or agency can solve the drug problem by itself. Drug abuse is an epidemic so widespread, and drug trafficking is a conspiracy so vast, that only a concerted, comprehensive, cooperative worldwide effort can do it.

If we put aside those issues that potentially divide us, and concentrate all of our efforts on those things that unite us, I am confident that we can succeed against this relentless global epidemic.

That's the whole purpose of this conference. I hope you are finding it informative and enjoyable. Above all, I hope it leads all of us to find new ways to cooperate in an international solution to the drug problem.

Thank you.