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Homeland Security

04 March 2005

Central America Remains A Transshipment Point for Illicit Drugs

State Dept. drug report examines Canada, Central America, Mexico

By Eric Green
Washington File Staff Writer

Washington -- Mexico and the countries of Central America are being used to ship illicit drugs, primarily cocaine and heroin, from South America to the United States and elsewhere in the world, says the U.S. Department of State in its new International Narcotics Control Strategy Report for 2004, released March 4.

In the report -- issued annually at the behest of the U.S. Congress -- the State Department says that the principal U.S. counternarcotics goal in the region is to reduce the transit of drugs to U.S. markets. In Costa Rica, El Salvador, and Guatemala, the means of achieving that goal include reducing the flow of illicit narcotics through those countries, and enhancing the effectiveness of national criminal justice systems. Another priority is to reduce money laundering in several Central American nations, according to the report.

The report said that in Nicaragua, the United States continued to provide significant counternarcotics and law enforcement assistance to the country's national police force during 2004. It added that a new U.S.-Nicaraguan anti-corruption initiative will bring additional U.S. government resources to bear in improving the Nicaraguan judicial system, its postal system, and the customs service.

As much as 90 percent of the cocaine sold in the United States is smuggled through Mexican territory from South America, and Mexico is also one of the largest producers of marijuana and heroin consumed by its northern neighbor, according to the report. Mexico is also a major producer and transit point for methamphetamines, with criminal organizations establishing several methamphetamine laboratories in northwestern Mexico to supply U.S. markets.

The violence of warring Mexican drug cartels has spilled over the border from Mexico to sites in the United States, said the report. In response, U.S. and Mexican law enforcement authorities are working closely to attack these operations on both sides of the border. The report said that in many respects, U.S.-Mexican bilateral counternarcotics cooperation hit a "historic high-water mark in 2004, and represented one of the most positive aspects" of the relationship between the two countries.

The report found that Canada has become an increasingly significant producer and transit country for precursor chemicals and over-the counter pharmaceuticals used to produce illicit synthetic drugs.

U.S. and Canadian authorities have particularly focused on bulk shipments of pseudoephedrine (PSE), a common cold remedy used to manufacture methamphetamine. PSE seizures in the United States linked to Canada dropped significantly in 2004, indicating that Canadian regulation efforts, combined with bilateral enforcement efforts, are deterring the movement.

The report said the United States enjoys an excellent law enforcement partnership with Canada and looks forward to further future joint coordination of efforts.

The full text of the report's section on Canada, Central America, and Mexico is available online at:

(The Washington File is a product of the Bureau of International Information Programs, U.S. Department of State. Web site:

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