FILE ID:95062906.LAR




TR95062906 (Hearings before House subcommittee) bc (680)

By Bruce Carey

USIA Staff Writer

WASHINGTON -- The United States is winning the war against drug

trafficking, but traffickers in illicit drugs are fighting back in

every way they can, says the commandant of the U.S. Coast Guard.

Adm. Robert E. Kramek told the House subcommittee on National

Security, International Affairs and Criminal Justice June 28 that

"interdiction programs are effective."

"Are we winning the drug war? My answer to that is `yes,'" he said to

the panel. "We can ... ultimately defeat the threat to our people

posed by these insidious criminal organizations."

Lee Brown, director of the Office of National Drug Control Policy,

appointed Kramek to be U.S. interdiction coordinator for counterdrug

matters in the Western Hemisphere last year. Kramek spelled out for

legislators how the interdiction program has been working.

He said the basic interdiction strategy has two basic components:

Press hard on trafficking until the risk of capture and the increased

losses become unacceptable for the traffickers; and reduce domestic


The anti-drug interdiction "gives us the best chance for our strategy"

against trafficking, he said. "It disrupts narcotrafficking at all

points along the route, keeping pressure on the drug mafias, producing

valuable intelligence. It increases their risks and business costs.

"In terms of political will, the deterrent presence of interdiction

forces displays strong U.S. government resolve for other nations to


Kramek said the direct flights into the United States by traffickers

that were common a few years ago "are now rare because of effective

interagency and international efforts. Air traffickers have shifted

from landing and offloading in the United States to conducting

airdrops at transshipment areas," he said.

"The maritime interdiction program is also disrupting the

narcotraffickers by denying them their preferred routes. This creates

a higher risk of interdiction during transport," the admiral said.

"The increased use of aircraft to transport contraband, concealing it

in the legitimate cargo of commercial vessels, the greater use of

concealed compartments and low-profile vessels, and the increased

willingness of traffickers to jettison loads prior to Coast Guard

boardings, are all costly measures which traffickers have adopted in

response to effective interdiction," he added.

Despite these measures, Kramek said, "the narcotrafficking industry is

persevering ... because it has the capability to produce its illicit

product far in excess of the demand, and, at significant cost, absorb

losses from interdiction as the price of doing business."

He painted a daunting picture of the enemy. "These drug mafias are

exceptionally sophisticated and adaptable; they are privy to

exceptional intelligence; they utilize a number of safe havens along

their routes; they can corrupt officials with huge amounts of money or

with threats; they have a decentralized and flexible control

structure; they engage in global cooperative ventures with other

criminal organizations; and they have one of the largest financial

bases in the world," he said.

Kramek's testimony came on the second of two days of hearings by the

panel on efforts to fight the international drug trade.

On June 27, Jean E. Becker, acting assistant secretary of state for

international narcotics and law enforcement affairs, testified that a

series of successes achieved in the past year against Latin America's

narcotics traffickers shows that the U.S. policy of focusing

anti-cocaine efforts on the Andean source countries is working.

Becker said "prospects may be better than ever for fundamental and

lasting progress against the international narcotics trade if the

United States and the key narcotics-producing and transit stay focused

and intensify their efforts."

She also said the operational and diplomatic shift in focus to

Bolivia, Colombia and Peru "does not mean that we are abandoning

efforts in the transit zone."

"To the contrary," she added, "transit zone interdiction and other law

enforcement operations aimed at seizing drugs and evidence, thwarting

money laundering and disrupting transportation and distribution

elements of the Colombia-based and other major syndicates are

important components of our overall strategy."