Press Availability
William R. Brownfield
Assistant Secretary, Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs
Lisbon, Portugal
May 17, 2011


Moderator: Welcome and thank you. I’m delighted to introduce Françoise Le Bail the Director-General of the DG Justice at the European Commission and Ambassador William R. Brownfield the Assistant Secretary for International Narcotics and Law Enforcement at the U.S. Department of State. We will have a brief statement from each of our principals and then we will open up for questions.

Please Miss Le Bail I invite you to begin, please.

Director General Le Bail: Very good. I mean, today is a very important conference which follows on the G8+ meeting which took place in Paris and this conference is going to address the cooperation between the EU and the U.S. on fighting organized threat and organized crime in drug trafficking. It’s very important issue for us and that was very clear from what we’ve heard this morning because there is no way a country or even a group of countries can fight the drug traffic by itself. It was very interesting to hear the transformation of the trade, of the traffic if you want, from being purely Latin American and moving to the U.S. from then changing and going to Europe through Africa. So no country or group of countries can do that by itself. I think the second conclusion we can draw from this morning discussion is that this traffic is much more sophisticated than it used to be. We´re no longer in a mafia-type traffic which was in a way the basis, but these are people who are highly sophisticated which are using all the sophisticated tools to develop their traffic and therefore the answer has to be there. And I think this, of course, dictates for a strong EU/U.S. cooperation which already exists but we would like very much to develop. And when we are talking about this cooperation it does mean cooperation to combat trafficking but it also means cooperation to help these countries which are vulnerable, which are the, of course, an easy target for traffickers and this means helping these countries to develop, helping these countries as well to strengthen the rule of law and help these countries to have solid public structure in order to, if more efficiently, fight against traffic. So, all this the European Commission is prepared to do, European Commission is already participating to this cooperation and we will be very happy to strengthen it and we will be very happy in particular to strengthen our cooperation with our U.S. counterparts.

Ambassador Brownfield: Thank you Mme. Director-General. Ladies and Gentlemen of the media my apologies for this slight delay in arrival. One of the difficulties you have no doubt learned over the years when having a large number of public figures assembled in one location is we all have a great deal to say.

I agree with the Director-General on this as on all issues as is always the case. I would merely add two basic themes that we bring to this conference and for the remainder of this week. The first, Ladies and Gentlemen, is that the way we have addressed these threats in the preceding thirty years, which is basically a North-South axis between South America and North America, and in Europe an East-West axis connecting Europe to Central Asia for a different threat is changing. We are in transition. We can no longer treat these as two separate entities rather this is a matter that affects four continents in two hemispheres and requires cooperation among regions and governments that have not traditionally cooperated in the past. And our challenge over the next two, three or four years is to transition to that sort of cooperation. And this leads me to my second general theme which goes beyond this symposium. This week, in fact beginning this evening, I will take a large U.S. Government delegation to West Africa. It will include our Assistant Attorney General, the number three in our Justice Department, the Head of our DEA, the Deputy Head of our Customs and Border Patrol Agency and other representatives of the U.S. Law Enforcement and the Department of Defense. Our purpose is to open a dialogue and to begin discussions as to how we can better coordinate and better organize our efforts in West Africa. It is not our intention to supplant, adjust, modify in any way, shape or form the excellent work that is already being done by a number of governments and several international or multilateral institutions such as the European Union, UNODC, the African Union and other countries around the transatlantic community. Our objective is to start where we are and see what we can do better with more resources in the future. And I close, Ladies and Gentlemen, by suggesting that how well we accomplish that mission will have a great deal of impact on your daily lives. If we fail, your lives ten years from now may be very different from how they will be if we succeed.

And with that I throw the floor open to whoever is designated to speak.

Moderator: I would request that you identify yourself, your media outlet and who you would like to address your question to.

So, open up for questions. Please.

Journalist: I would like to ask the Ambassador. My name is Barry Hatton, I’m from the Associated Press here in Lisbon. I just turn to the link between terrorism and international crime networks specifically drugs. The Head of the UNODC said last week that he suspected there were links between Al-Qaeda affiliates in North Africa and these drug rings but he said he had no evidence. João Cravinho, Secretary of State, said this morning in his keynote speech that Al-Qaeda affiliates in North Africa and Sahel were burgeoning. President Obama said in this message that terrorists are increasingly turn to crime and criminal networks for funding. Please give us an idea on actual evidence you have for this happening or where is it happening. Is it in specific countries?

Ambassador Brownfield: In fact, I will be very concrete and offer you two examples that I find so evident and obvious that it requires nothing more than my mentioning the names. I submit to you that two of the very largest narcotic trafficking organizations in the world today are named the Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia, the FARC, and the Taliban of Afghanistan. The Taliban could be the largest heroin trafficking organization in the world and the FARC is if not the largest one of the largest cocaine trafficking organizations in the world. They are vertically integrated, they are involved from the moment of cultivation, through the process of production, to the transit and delivery and, eventually, the management of the financial earnings from this trade and this traffic. I do not mean to suggest to you that the FARC and the Taliban exist solely for the purpose of trafficking in illicit drugs. They do not. In fact, that is what makes this an even more troubling combination. They have their own ideological or religious agenda that has not changed but by virtue of them now being co-mingled with what is an inherently criminal not to mention violent, repulsive and repugnant approach to accomplishing their political as well as economic objectives we are dealing with and confronting a double threat, if not a triple threat. I do not offer any more evidence than others have offered in terms of Al-Qaeda. I personally believe that having named two of the better known organizations that are found on the prescribed list of foreign terrorist organizations by both the European Union and the United States of America as well as a number of other countries. We have clearly laid out the case that drug trafficking is becoming intermingled with organizations that are dedicated to either terrorism or more political, ideological or religious agendas.

Journalist: Is that the case in Africa too? In West Africa? North Africa?

Ambassador Brownfield: I would suggest to you that our calculations and obviously trafficking organizations do not report to governments so our statistics are by their very nature somewhat soft but by our calculation an absolute majority of the cocaine now produced in South America is crossing the Atlantic ocean, some by the way turns around and comes back to North America, most of it obviously moves north from West Africa up towards European markets. And we operate on the assumption that a substantial percentage of that total cocaine is managed by the FARC. So, my answer would be yes. The majority of that is processing through Africa and there are obviously connections in the networks that are managed by the trafficking organizations which very definitely includes the FARC, that are processing their product north from Africa into Europe. I take less of a position in terms of what is happening from the Taliban moving to market. I do believe they are using a different system and a different structure. But I would suggest to you I have never known in my thirty years in this diplomatic business an organization that does not have some link, some direct representative at every major stage in its distribution network. It may be a small number of human beings but I would be stunned to learn that the Taliban has no forward presence in their distribution network as their product goes to market.

Journalist: Al-Qaeda affiliates… sorry, just to specify…

Just to bring back Al-Qaeda affiliates in North Africa. Is there any suggestion, any sign they may be involved in this drug running?

Ambassador Brownfield: I have not made that assertion. I would not question anyone else who does.

Journalist: My name is (inaudible) working for the Portuguese News Agency here in Lisbon. I just want to ask you does this link exist as well in Guinea-Bissau? The U.S. named Bissau’s drug kingpins in 2010. They accused, for example, Bubo Na Tchuto who is now Head of the Guinea-Bissau Armada, and Ibrahima Papa Camará, who is also a high ranking officer commander of playing a key role in international drug traffic. The U.S. said… They were even sanctioned by the U.S. Treasury Department. It was really important to name them but what has happened from then to now? What investigation has been undertaken to prove that or to bring them to justice, may be? I don’t know. What can you tell me about that?

Ambassador Brownfield: First, my purpose in participating in this symposium and co-sponsoring this symposium is not to bring specific charges or pressure to bear against individual governments. On the contrary, our purpose in assembling here in Lisbon this week is to search for means by which we can cooperate and work together and find new and additional means for more coordination and more cooperation between all of the countries and the institutions involved in this transatlantic threat. Our kingpin designation process is a process by which we, on receipt of a sufficient amount of evidence, of individuals that we believe, we the United States Government collectively, believe are engaged in or are profiting from narcotic trafficking organizations. Those individuals are named in an order that is approved by the President of the United States coordinated by the department of Treasury and supported by the Departments of State and the Department of Justice of the United States Government. We placed a fairly small number of individuals on this list. It is quite possible that we are talking only about the individual and not about the government or the country where he or she operates. You will find if you search in the history of this Act at times we have named individuals in countries that actually are friends and allies in our efforts. The objective is to limit the ability of those individuals and their network to do business. Once designated on the Kingpin Act we are able to control any financial activities through certainly the U.S. financial system of that individual or members of his or her family. It does not constitute under our law an indictment sufficient for prosecuting an individual in a U.S. Court. In fact, in most cases the evidence is sufficient to do both but they are separate processes. One process is a criminal prosecution which obviously can occur only if the individual is brought into a U.S. jurisdiction; the second process is a process to apply sanctions that fall short of criminal prosecution against individuals based upon very similar evidence. In terms of the fundamental question, where are we today in Guinea-Bissau, may I tell you we are beginning this process and I look forward to having more information and the ability to have a better discussion on this and other points after our visit to West Africa.

Journalist: Just one short question. I’m sorry, you’ve just said Mr. Ambassador you are travelling to West Africa. You’re going to Liberia and Ghana but is the U.S. planning, for example, to open a diplomatic representation in Bissau? I’m sorry but…

Ambassador Brownfield: I will. First I will tell you we are going only to two countries for one very simple reason. In order for me to assemble this group of fourteen worthy men and women of the United States Government I was able to get them together for a maximum of four days and we had to pick two countries that we could have maximum impact in and Ghana and Liberia were selected on that basis and no other basis whatsoever. Second, what our long term intention is in terms of establishing a permanent diplomatic presence in Guinea-Bissau eventually will be decided by the President of the United States with the guidance and recommendation of the Secretary of State of the United States of America. Driven mostly by my very good friend Ambassador Johnnie Carson, the Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs. My answer to your question right now is this visit will begin the process by which we make that determination. That said, the fact that we do not have a permanent diplomatic presence does not mean we have no ability to be cooperative and to contribute to a better solution in Guinea-Bissau. I, in fact, have just recently approved the designation of a Justice Department official from the United States Government to work permanently in Guinea-Bissau. How will he do it? In fact, he will depend mightily upon our very good friends the Government of Portugal and their Embassy to provide him the necessary support from time to time. An office, a telephone and the means by which he can receive mail or other communication. It is possible, Ladies and Gentlemen, for different governments to cooperate in a common purpose. And I predict you will see more of that in the future not less.

Journalist: My name is Valentina from Diário de Notícias in Lisbon, and what I want to ask is that according to the last Europol report on organized crime, Portugal is one of the gates for drugs from Colombia to enter in Europe. As I believe you know we are now in an economical crisis very, very bad and I want to ask if you believe that this situation of crisis could turn Portugal more vulnerable to this kind of trafficking and all of that

Ambassador Brownfield: I divert to the Director General. She has had a very light day so far.

Director General Le Bail: Well as you know there is a plan which has been adopted now to help Portugal and in devising this plan and the measures which have been taken by, which have to be taken by Portugal; it is clear that we are not attempting to reduce the ability of Portugal to fight against crime. And if you have a look at this plan you will see in particular that there are a number of measures which have been listed and requested to Portugal to enforce the judicial system. And I think all this should go together and not diminish the capacity of Portugal to fight against crime.

Ambassador Brownfield: May I merely add one point?

Director General Le Bail: Yes, yes.

Ambassador Brownfield: Portugal is… I would suggest that Portugal is, in a sense, a victim of its geography. Portugal is at a key crossing point. Whether your product is moving east-west across the Atlantic or whether your product is moving north-south from Africa to Europe, Portugal sits in a key strategic location. And I would suggest to you it really would not mater a great deal whether Portugal’s financial and economic situation were the best in its entire national history or the worse it has ever endured. The geography would not change. We would be addressing most of these same issues and problems and we would still be holding this symposium here in Lisbon on this day and for this week. And I do not say this is good news or this is bad news, I say it is reality and I hope what we will all agree is how do we address this reality in a way that most represents the interests of the Portuguese people, the nation of Portugal, the European Union of which it forms a part, Europe of which the European Union is the largest part and other partners in Africa, Latin America and North America. That would be my hope but…

Journalist: How Portugal could reinforce his defenses against this kind of traffic?

Director General Le Bail: I mean, again, one of the conclusions of the discussion this morning that no country can fight this kind of traffic by itself. And I think the EU is helping to combat this traffic in Portugal as being part of the EU. All this takes place within the framework of the European Pact to combat international drug trafficking which has been adopted in June last year. I suppose Lisbon is very much a part of this. As you know as well the EU Drug Agency is based in Lisbon. You have highly competent people in this very matter. Of course what they do is to collect information on the traffic but of course we work, for example, us as the Department for Justice but also our colleagues from Home Affairs, we work very closely with them. So, it’s really in a European framework if you want that Portugal is best equipped to fight against this.

Journalist: And our borders are…

Moderator: I’m sorry we have about two more minutes… I don’t know if you have a question. No? Then why don’t you wrap it up

Journalist: Our borders are sufficiently protected (inaudible) in the seas?

Well, you know there’s a fight against drug trafficking is never enough I mean because it continues. But I mean we need to adjust to be mobile, we need to learn from experiences which have taken place for example in Latin America. We need, in general, to try to make sure that the borders in Europe are better protected. But there is a strong collaboration which takes place in Europe and again Portugal is part of this.

Moderator: I’m sorry we actually have to use this room so I thank you Mme. Director-General, thank you Ambassador Brownfield.