Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Guatemala Wants to Use Colombian Anti-Drug Plan

Officials from the U.S. DEA and from Colombia shared effective strategies against drug traffickers with local authorities. After these meetings there appears to be agreement to put a law on the books that enables confiscation of property, to form an elite group of investigators, and to expedite extraditions.

Representatives of the executive, legislative and judicial branches, and the Attorney General view these proposals favorably but agree that each sector should strive to make it a reality.

Perry Holloway, director of Narcotics Affairs at the U.S. Embassy in Colombia, and Omar Adolfo Figueroa, deputy director of property at the National Narcotics Directorate of Colombia, spoke this week with Guatemalan officials to explain the plan that has succeeded in reducing drug trafficking activities in Colombia.

Holloway and Figueroa explained that the implementation of an asset forfeiture law has allowed the Colombian authorities to confiscate more than 70,000 properties from drug traffickers, including 2,000 companies, over a period of seven years. Figueroa said: "We have out of these seizures the holding company's largest drugstore and the largest chain in South America with 600 establishments. Such companies will be gradually handed over to private enterprise."

In addition, 600 aircraft and 9,000 vehicles have been seized. These seizures have brought Colombia $90 million which has been invested in a housing plan.

Holloway spoke about the speed in extradition proceedings in Colombia. Arrested drug kingpins have negotiated more lenient sentences in the U.S. in exchange for information on criminal operations and structures. He added, "This technique has enabled us to have information in record time that would have taken prosecutors 10 years to obtain."

The speakers made known that Colombia's society has benefited from these strategies with a 90 percent reduction in kidnappings, 60 percent reduction in homicides, and an equal reduction in extortions.

The visit of the officials is at a time when Guatemala is under attack by Mexican drug trafficking groups who commit massacres.

"Without security there can be no development and investment. If not controlled, these groups are going to kill judges and prosecutors. In addition, drugs and money laundering can permeate any institution," said Holloway. He stated that the violence that Guatemala is facing has to do with drug trafficking and he emphasized that the geographical position of Central America between the U.S. and Mexico makes it a natural bridge chosen by drug traffickers to move 70 percent of their product.

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