Daily Archives: September 14, 2015

Presidential Determination — Major Drug Transit or Major Illicit Drug Producing Countries for Fiscal Year 2016

MEMORANDUM FOR THE SECRETARY OF STATE

SUBJECT:       Presidential Determination on Major Drug Transit or Major Illicit Drug Producing Countries for Fiscal Year 2016

Pursuant to section 706(1) of the Foreign Relations Authorization Act, Fiscal Year 2003 (Public Law 107-228) (FRAA), I hereby identify the following countries as major drug transit and/or major illicit drug producing countries:  Afghanistan, The Bahamas, Belize, Bolivia, Burma, Colombia, Costa Rica, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, El Salvador, Guatemala, Haiti, Honduras, India, Jamaica, Laos, Mexico, Nicaragua, Pakistan, Panama, Peru, and Venezuela.

A country’s presence on the foregoing list is not a reflection of its government’s counternarcotics efforts or level of cooperation with the United States.  Consistent with the statutory definition of a major drug transit or drug producing country set forth in section 481(e)(2) and (5) of the Foreign Assistance Act of 1961, as amended (FAA), the reason major drug transit or illicit drug producing countries are placed on the list is the combination of geographic, commercial, and economic factors that allow drugs to transit or be produced, even if a government has carried out the most assiduous narcotics control law enforcement measures.

Pursuant to section 706(2)(A) of the FRAA, I hereby designate Bolivia, Burma, and Venezuela as countries that have failed demonstrably during the previous 12 months to adhere to their obligations under international counternarcotics agreements and take the measures set forth in section 489(a)(l) of the FAA.  Included in this report are justifications for the determinations on Bolivia, Burma, and Venezuela, as required by section 706(2)(B) of the FRAA.  Explanations for these decisions are published with this determination.

I have also determined, in accordance with provisions of section 706(3)(A) of the FRAA, that support for programs to aid Burma and Venezuela are vital to the national interests of the United States.

This determination also highlights the importance of international cooperation and certain countries of particular concern to the United States relevant to our drug-control policies and programs.

The International Framework for Narcotics and Crime Control

The United States remains a leader in galvanizing international efforts to cooperate in addressing the full range of negative consequences tied to the drug trade and its links to criminal enterprise.  The global framework for this cooperation is articulated in the three U.N. drug-control conventions as well as the U.N. conventions against transnational organized crime and corruption.  The United States defines its priorities in this field in the annual National Drug Control Strategy, the 2011 U.S. Strategy to Combat Transnational Organized Crime, and other Federal public policy guidelines.

The United States shares the view of the international community that the U.N. drug-control conventions are resilient enough to unify countries that often hold divergent views about the international narcotics problem, while at the same time providing a framework upon which to build the best solutions to it.  The U.N. drug-control conventions allow sovereign nations the flexibility to develop and adapt the most appropriate policies and programs in keeping with their own national circumstances, while also achieving the conventions’ aims.  These aims include ensuring the availability of controlled substances for medical and scientific purposes, preventing drug abuse and addiction, and suppressing drug trafficking and related criminal activities.

In April 2016, member states, the scientific community, and civil society will assemble in New York City for the U.N. General Assembly Special Session on drugs (UNGASS) to assess the successes and shortcomings of drug policy and to identify ways to meet new challenges in the future.  The UNGASS is an opportunity to improve and develop international drug- control policies, in particular with regard to (1) increasing international efforts to address the world drug problem from a public health perspective; (2) sharing best practices in criminal justice reform; and (3) strengthening international law enforcement cooperation.

The world drug problem is complex and dynamic.  This determination focuses selectively on those countries in Asia and the Americas that have been designated as major drug producing or transit countries that significantly impact the United States.  The global challenges also include sophisticated crime networks that traffic narcotics along coastal regions of Africa, across the steppes of Central Asia, and into developed markets of Europe, East Asia, and Oceania.

Illegal poppy cultivation in Afghanistan is among the most difficult international drug-control problems.  For 15 of the last 16 years, Afghanistan has been the world’s largest producer of opium poppy.  The United States Government estimated that in 2014 Afghanistan cultivated 211,000 hectares of opium poppy and produced 6,300 metric tons of opium (up 7 percent and 15 percent over 2013 levels, respectively).

A number of U.S. programs, in collaboration with multinational partners, have had positive results in developing economically viable alternatives for Afghan farmers.  Successful programs include the U.S.-funded Good Performers Initiative that rewards provinces demonstrating verifiable counternarcotics achievements against defined standards with development assistance for alternative livelihood projects.  The program promotes holistic and integrated action on counternarcotics and encourages farmers to forgo poppy cultivation by strengthening and diversifying alternatives to illegal poppy cultivation.  United States funds also support the development of the specialized drug interdiction units of the Afghan Counternarcotics Police.  In 2014, the Afghan police seized 23 metric tons of opium poppy.  At the December 2014 London Conference on Afghanistan, the Kabul government pledged to intensify its drug-control efforts.  United States and international experts agree that political resolve is integral in efforts to combat the production and trade of Afghan-sourced opiates.  President Ghani has expressed a clear commitment to address Afghanistan’s narcotics crisis comprehensively.  Most recently, the Afghan Ministry of Counternarcotics shared with United States Government officials its draft National Drug Action Plan, which covers the full spectrum of government efforts for interdiction, eradication, treatment, education, and alternative development.

The Colombo Plan for Cooperative Economic and Social Development in Asia and the Pacific is an organization of 21 countries dedicated to providing technical assistance on drug-control issues to Afghanistan and the region.  The Colombo Plan has taken the lead in strengthening Afghanistan’s drug treatment services, especially for vulnerable populations such as women, children, and the homeless.

The Golden Triangle, which includes Burma and Laos, is also central to the Colombo Plan’s regional focus.  Burma and Laos are the second and third largest illegal opium poppy cultivation countries, respectively.  As in Afghanistan, countering illegal drug cultivation in Burma and Laos will require strengthening of state institutions and sustainable economic development.

The international community is also taking steps to focus attention on illegal drug activity in China, especially precursor chemicals produced in China that are diverted from legitimate commerce to criminal elements for the production of illicit plant-based and synthetic drugs.

Mexico, the Caribbean, and Central America

Through the Merida Initiative, the United States and Mexico have engaged in an unprecedented partnership to break the power and impunity of transnational criminal organizations; strengthen border, air, and maritime controls; expand the capabilities and professionalism of Mexican law enforcement at the federal, state, and local levels; and improve the capacity of justice systems to investigate and prosecute cases.  The two countries also collaborate to further respect for human rights and the rule of law, increase citizen security, and reduce the demand for drugs.  The Merida Initiative is guided by four goals:  (1) disrupt the capacity of organized crime to operate; (2) institutionalize the capacity to sustain the rule of law; (3) create a 21st century border; and (4) build strong and resilient communities.  Each of these goals has a positive impact on our countries’ ability to combat narcotics trafficking.  For example, the United States has provided scanners, x-ray machines, other non-intrusive inspection equipment, as well as trained canines, to enhance Mexican authorities’ ability to detect illicit goods at key checkpoints and ports of entry along the border, resulting in significant seizures of illicit drugs, currency, weapons, and explosives.  The Mexican government has also undertaken innovative efforts to implement alternatives to incarceration for non-violent, low-level, drug-use offenders by instituting drug treatment courts in many Mexican states.

The seven Central American and four Caribbean nations are included in this year’s determination as major drug transit countries that impact illegal drug activities and consumption in the United States.  According to seizure data of cocaine destined for U.S. markets, an estimated 86 percent transited through the Central American corridor and the remaining 14 percent traveled via the Caribbean in 2014.

In recent years, Haiti has demonstrated serious political will as a regional partner to counter transnational criminal activity.  In 2014, for example, with U.S. technical assistance and financial support, Haiti took meaningful steps to enhance the capabilities of its Police Brigade in the Fight against Narcotics Trafficking (BLTS).  United States assistance continues to help improve Haiti’s ability to address the drug problem, in particular by strengthening the operational capacity of its national law enforcement; providing infrastructure and equipment enhancements; and, facilitating training opportunities.  Institution building is also being carried out to strengthen Haiti’s maritime interdiction capabilities, which is a fundamental tool given the large percentage of drugs smuggled via its surrounding waterways.  Working with the U.S. Coast Guard and the Drug Enforcement Administration, two operations in Haiti resulted in the seizure of almost a metric ton of cocaine and nearly five metric tons of marijuana.  In 2014, Haiti also signed a law formally criminalizing public corruption, establishing standard penalties for corrupt practices by Haiti’s officials.

South America

Within South America, Colombia and Peru demonstrate highly effective leadership in countering illegal drug trafficking and transnational crime.  While Peru remains the top cocaine producer in the world, the Peruvian government has a comprehensive 5-year counternarcotics strategy to aggressively eradicate illicit coca, implement alternative development programs, interdict illicit narcotics, and reduce domestic drug abuse.  With support from the United States, Peru exceeded its historic 2014 goal to eradicate 30,000 hectares of illicit coca, eradicating a total of 31,205 hectares.  Peru has achieved success establishing state institutions and building infrastructure in coca-producing regions, and developing alternative livelihoods for farmers previously dependent on illicit cultivation.  Peru has also achieved historic results in seizures of cocaine, netting nearly 30 metric tons in 2014.  In total, 300 metric tons of cocaine was removed from global supply through Peruvian interdiction and eradication.

Colombia also continues to be a strong partner on counternarcotics.  Annually, Colombian authorities seize well over 100 metric tons of cocaine.  Due to sustained coca eradication efforts and drug enforcement activity, coca cultivation dropped 52 percent between 2007 and 2013, and cocaine production potential declined by 58 percent for the same time period.  The government made substantial gains in establishing a state presence in remote areas, developing alternatives for coca producers, and improving the capacity of  its law enforcement and judicial institutions.  Calendar year 2014, however, saw a reversal in illegal crop cultivation, due primarily to increased cultivation in areas off limits to aerial eradication.  Colombia is also exporting its hard-won security expertise to third countries.  From 2009 to 2014, the Colombian National Police reported training nearly 26,500 international police personnel from over 61 countries from Latin America, Africa, and Europe.

The Way Forward

The United States will continue to expand and enhance collaborative counternarcotics and anti-crime partnerships to advance common goals and increase citizen security.  The United States will also continue to support like-minded nations through evidence-based technical assistance to modernize law enforcement, reform justice systems, support training, and develop drug demand reduction and treatment programs.  Such global undertakings aim to build sustainable national capacity and permanent international partnerships to counter the threat to international security posed by the world drug trade and other illegal activities associated with transnational organized crime.

You are hereby authorized and directed to submit this report, with the enclosed memoranda of justification regarding Bolivia, Burma, and Venezuela, under section 706 of the FRAA, to the Congress, and publish it in the Federal Register.

BARACK OBAMA

New IACS Chairman to Focus on Goal-Based Standards, Cyber System Safety and Quality

ABS CEO Pledges to Support Three Areas Crucial to Industry as it Tackles Current Challenges With an Eye to the Future

LONDON, Sept. 14, 2015 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) — ABS Chairman, President and CEO Christopher J Wiernicki has set out his priorities as incoming IACS chairman, emphasizing the unique role the organization plays in promoting global safety and security.

The IACS strategic plan has been designed to address both the current and future needs of the shipping industry by focusing on three key areas: structural, machinery and cyber system integrity.

“By focusing on these three legs of the safety stool, I believe we can build on IACS’ recent achievements and set out an agenda that addresses existing and emerging challenges,” Wiernicki says. “My priorities for 2015-2016 strike a balance between the completion of ongoing projects and the need to look forward and formulate the next generation of IACS guidelines, unified and procedural requirements.”

In the coming year, Wiernicki’s focus areas also include ensuring a smooth completion of the initial round of audits for the IMO Goal-Based Standards process.

He will also advance the creation of a cyber-system safety framework that addresses control systems, software quality assurance, data integrity and cyber security, enhancing the initiative that was commenced in 2014.

Wiernicki will further seek to ensure that the IACS Quality System Certification Scheme (QSCS) remains the ‘gold standard’ for classification society performance.

Wiernicki, who assumed the role of IACS Chairman at the end of the 71st session of the IACS Council in Paris on July 2, 2015, singled out the importance of IACS in supporting the industry at a time when more stringent regulatory requirements are being formulated and implemented.

“IACS’ relationships, extensive technical knowledge, experience and independence place it in a unique position to work with regulators and industry,” he says. “IACS will continue to reach out and strengthen relationships with all parties, continuing to demonstrate that its commitment to safety, quality and environmental protection are more important than ever.”

About IACS
Dedicated to safe ships and clean seas, IACS makes a unique contribution to maritime safety and regulation through technical support, compliance verification and research and development. More than 90% of the world’s cargo carrying tonnage is covered by the classification design, construction and through-life compliance Rules and standards set by the twelve Member Societies of IACS. Visit www.iacs.org.uk to learn more.

Robert Ashdown, Secretary General
robertashdown_pvt@iacs.org.uk

Germany Blocks Border With Austria

This is a big deal. The refugee crisis has apparently caused Germany to reinstate controls along a border that had long been totally open. “Germany introduced border controls on Sunday, and dramatically halted all train traffic with Austria, after the country’s regions said they could no longer cope with the overwhelming number of refugees entering the country. Interior minister, Thomas de Maizière, announced the measures after German officials said record numbers of refugees, most of them from Syria, had stretched the system to breaking point. “This step has become necessary,” he told a press conference in Berlin, adding it would cause disruption. Asylum seekers must understand “they cannot chose the states where they are seeking protection,” he told reporters. All trains between Austria and Bavaria, the principal conduit through which 450,000 refugees have arrived in Germany this year, ceased at 5pm Berlin time. Only EU citizens and others with valid documents would be allowed to pass through Germany’s borders, de Maizière said.’ The decision means that Germany has effectively exited temporarily from the Schengen system. It is likely to lead to chaotic scenes on the Austrian-German border, as tens of thousands of refugees try to enter Germany by any means possible and set up camp next to it.” (Guardian http://bit.ly/1KkAk9g)

Mexican Tourists Killed in Egypt…Egypt’s police and military killed 12 Egyptians and Mexicans and injured 10 when they accidentally shot at a Mexican tourist convoy whilst engaging militants in the country’s western desert, the ministry of interior said on Monday. (NYT http://nyti.ms/1KkzUQf)

The New York Times Discovers the War in Yemen…”More than 4,500 people have been killed in the war. Hundreds have died in street battles between the Houthis and their rivals for control of Yemen’s most important cities, like Taiz and Aden, where residents have accused the Houthis in particular of resorting to brutal force. The ground war and harsh Saudi restrictions on imports have deepened humanitarian suffering in Yemen, causing shortages of fuel, water and medical supplies while inflating prices of food and other goods. The majority of civilians have been killed by coalition warplanes, often dropping American munitions ranging from 250 to 2,000 pounds. There are no comprehensive tallies of the deaths. But the United Nations Human Rights Commissioner said on Friday that of 1,527 civilians who died between the start of the Saudi offensive and June 30, at least 941 people were killed by airstrikes.” (NYT http://nyti.ms/1KkABsM)

Africa

Suicide bombers attacked a northern Cameroon town on Sunday morning, killing at least seven people and severely wounding 18, a local official said. (AP http://yhoo.it/1OoJJ1i)

Unidentified attackers ambushed a police post in the central Mopti region of Mali on Saturday, killing two police officers standing guard, an army spokesman said. (Reuters http://bit.ly/1Y0YN9F)

Democratic Republic of Congo’s leading opposition party said on Sunday it was breaking off talks with representatives of President Joseph Kabila, leaving the two sides deadlocked ahead of next year’s presidential election. (Reuters http://yhoo.it/1Y0Yvzu)

South Sudan’s rebels and government say they will both send senior officials to a special meeting on the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly on September 29. (VOA http://bit.ly/1gkn4Wd)

A South African school principal, bludgeoned to death 25 years ago for refusing to take part in a witchcraft-related ritual, was beatified by the Roman Catholic Church on Sunday, moving him a step closer to sainthood. (Reuters http://bit.ly/1OoJGmf)

Mozambique’s opposition leader Afonso Dhlakama escaped unhurt after his convoy was hit by gunfire as he returned from a rally in the central Manica province, police said Sunday. (AFP http://yhoo.it/1gkn6x5)

West Africa’s ECOWAS regional bloc on Saturday extended a security force in Guinea-Bissau into 2016 to help protect state institutions amid a political crisis that has left the country without a government. (AFP http://yhoo.it/1Y0Vhfx)

MENA

Clashes broke out Sunday morning between Israeli police and Palestinians at the Al Aqsa mosque compound, leaving more than 20 Palestinians injured and damaging the windows and carpet of the mosque, according to police and Palestinian officials. (LAT http://lat.ms/1KkzCJd)

Russian forces are expanding the tarmac of a major airport in Syria’s coastal province of Latakia, a stronghold of President Bashar Assad and his minority sect, a prominent Syrian monitoring group said Sunday. (AP http://yhoo.it/1Y0Y5Jz)

Yemen’s exiled government said it would not attend planned UN-brokered peace talks unless Shiite rebels first agree to withdraw from territory they have captured in accordance with a UN resolution. (AFP http://yhoo.it/1Y0Yz2j)

A U.N. special envoy says Libya’s rival governments have reached a “consensus” on the main elements of a political agreement. (AP http://yhoo.it/1K7Nvai)

Asia

Indian police said on Sunday they were hunting for the owner of illegally stored explosives which accidentally detonated in the center of a crowded town, killing at least 88 people. (Reuters http://yhoo.it/1Y0YQSV)

A powerful bomb went off in central Pakistan Sunday evening, killing at least 10 people and injuring around 60 others, police and witnesses said. (VOA http://bit.ly/1KkzGZs)

The Americas

Chileans took to the streets Sunday to honor the victims of Augusto Pinochet’s 1973-1990 regime and to demand the closure of a special “luxury” prison for ex-dictatorship officials. (AFP http://yhoo.it/1Y0Y8Fg)

An opposition group that has led recent anti-government protests in Honduras says it rejects creation of a national commission using foreign judges and prosecutors to investigate corruption. It says only an international commission is acceptable. (AP http://yhoo.it/1K7NCT7)

The United States is expressing outrage at the jailing of Venezuelan opposition leader Leopoldo Lopez. (VOA http://bit.ly/1K7NyTk)

A rapidly spreading wildfire has destroyed hundreds of structures as it roars through the northern California towns of Middletown and Cobb, chasing thousands of residents from their homes in and around those communities, fire officials said on Sunday. (Reuters http://yhoo.it/1K7NvXL)

…and the rest

Record temperatures and changes to climate patterns in the world’s oceans are among signs that a global warming pause is coming to an end, Britain’s Met Office said in a report on Monday. (Reuters http://yhoo.it/1gknD24)

Thirty-four refugees, almost half of them babies and children, drowned when their boat sank off a Greek island on Sunday, almost certainly the largest death toll in those waters since the migrant crisis began, the coastguard said. (Reuters http://yhoo.it/1gkn3S8)

Munich mayor Dieter Reiter vowed he would not give up in the face of the daunting challenge posed by a record influx of refugees, but made a plea on Sunday to give his city a chance to catch its breath. (AFP http://yhoo.it/1Y0Y5sX)

Germany reintroduced border controls on Sunday after admitting it could no longer cope with a record influx of migrants and refugees, raising the stakes ahead of a key EU meeting on sharing the burden of the crisis across the bloc. (AFP http://yhoo.it/1gknFHa)

Austrian authorities said they were expecting another wave of migrants and refugees coming over the border from Hungary on Sunday, after a brief lull in arrivals gave them a chance to re-stock reception centers. (Reuters http://yhoo.it/1OoJIuh)

Opinion/Blogs

5 Hillary Clinton emails you actually should read (Devex http://bit.ly/1Y11hF1)

We Must Stop Xenophobic Attacks On Refugees to Avoid More Conflicts, War (Nation http://bit.ly/1OoHX0c)

Kenya: Who and How ICC Witnesses Were Bribed (The Star http://bit.ly/1KkpLTD)

Analysis: Singaporeans fall back on tried and tested party (AP http://yhoo.it/1Y0Ywnd)

South Sudan: Why a Political Crackdown Accompanies a Peace Agreement (Reinventing Peace http://bit.ly/1Y113Ob)

Development must target the millions of children affected by humanitarian crises (Guardian http://bit.ly/1M5vjkv)

Why Australia is Accepting so Few Syrian Refugees (UN Dispatch http://bit.ly/1FGtDcp)

Are developing country institutions a help or a hindrance to post-2015 financing? (Devex http://bit.ly/1K7PV8R)

The Powerful Photos That Rocked Getty Images’ First Instagram Grant (Goats and Soda http://n.pr/1K7OJST)

Who are Uighurs? A look at group from restive China region (AP http://yhoo.it/1Ny3moz)

Discussion

comments…

Midday press briefing from 11/09/2015