U. S. Department of Justice

Federal Bureau of Investigation

 For Immediate Release   Washington DC 
 May 7, 1998    FBI National Press Office

FBI Director Louis J. Freeh will travel next week to South America for unprecedented meetings with senior government officials in five South American nations to discuss enhanced cooperative efforts against major crime problems.

In a five-day visit to the region -- the first-ever for an FBI Director -- meetings will be held with officials of Chile, Argentina, Brazil, Colombia and Venezuela. Freeh will discuss with his Western Hemisphere counterparts a range of shared crime, terrorism and criminal justice issues that impact on the United States. The issues range from the daunting challenges posed by the illegal drug trade and money laundering to emerging problems such as the shared threat from international terrorist and crime groups and the threat from weapons of mass destruction.

In Santiago, Chile, Freeh is scheduled to meet with the Ministers of the Interior and Justice, and other law enforcement leaders, to discuss important criminal justice and security issues that affect the two nations. In recent years, the FBI has sponsored training for Chilean police, magistrates, judges and other government officials in various areas of crime investigation and forensics. The FBI has received assistance from Chilean officials with the investigation of violations of U.S law.

In Buenos Aires, Argentina, Freeh is scheduled to meet with President Carlos Menem, Ministers of Justice and Interior, and police, security and counter-terrorism officials to discuss crime and terrorism issues that impact upon the public safety of both countries. He is scheduled to deliver a speech at the Casa Rosada -- Argentina's presidential government house -- on the subjects of international law enforcement cooperation and the shared threat from terrorism, as well as to thank Argentine officials for assistance to the FBI with investigations of U.S. law.

In the Brazilian capital of Brasilia, Freeh plans to meet with the Justice and Foreign Affairs ministers, and federal and regional law enforcement leaders to discuss such crime issues as drug smuggling, money laundering and weapons trafficking. Last year, the FBI worked closely with the Brazilian Federal Police which led to the extradition of a major drug figure back to the U.S. to face charges. The U.S. is considering opening an FBI office in Brasilia.

In Bogota, Colombia, Freeh will hold discussions with senior government and law enforcement officials on significant crime threats to both nations, including money laundering, terrorism, organized crime, drug trafficking and fugitives. Freeh will use the opportunity to express his appreciation to Colombian officials for their continued support and assistance to the FBI.

The trip will conclude in Caracas, Venezuela, where Freeh will meet with the Attorney General and other very senior Venezuelan officials. The FBI works closely with Venezuelan law enforcement and receives their assistance with domestic violations that have international aspects. The subjects to be discussed will include terrorism and organized crime.

In each city, Freeh will meet with the American Ambassador and other key Embassy officials. He will also meet with FBI Agents assigned to the embassy. Those Agents, known as Legal Attaches, are part of a system of Agents overseas working with their police counterparts to provide assistance and information to the FBI at home. Importantly, they serve as the United States' first line of defense--an early warning system--against the most serious crimes that originate abroad. Legal Attaches also assist host-country law enforcement with investigations that have a U.S. connection. Last year, they handled nearly 2,500 investigative matters.

Note: For further information related to each city, please contact the press attache assigned to the respective embassy.