Remarks at the Council of Americas
Assistant Secretary, Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs
ASSISTANT SECRETARY BROWNFIELD: Ladies and gentlemen, it is quite clear that we are in the month of August in Washington where many, many people have a lot of time on their hands. Nevertheless, I am delighted to see all of you here this morning. And I hope that the time that you dedicate to this conversation will not be time poorly spent.
Dr. Farnsworth, many, many thanks with some degree of seriousness and may I thank as well at the very beginning, the Council of the Americas as the principal host, CSIS, the National Defense University’s Institute for National Strategic Studies, and the Center for Hemispheric Defense Studies, without whose support, ladies and gentlemen, and co-sponsorship, we would not be here this morning. And that may or may not be a good thing, ladies and gentlemen, depending on how the next hour plays out.
Ladies and gentlemen, distinguished Ambassadors and members of the diplomatic community, distinguished members of the media, and ladies and gentlemen. I would like to begin with a story, a make-believe story. Let us call it a fable, if you will.
Once upon a time, in a land far, far away, there lived two kingdoms. One kingdom in the south we will say it was a mountain kingdom. Some will want to say there were several such kingdoms, but it is my story, so I will say it the way I wish. And in that kingdom, for reasons having to do with culture and history and tradition, to a certain extent, but also economics and the desire to make money, to a very large extent, people in that southern mountain kingdom produced a substance, let’s say several substances that, in fact, if misused, caused physical harm to people, but nevertheless, some people liked to use it.
In this fable, to the north is a large kingdom. And in that kingdom there are a many people, millions perhaps, that in fact, have an appetite, a taste for this stuff, they are willing to pay money for it and in fact are willing to make some degree of sacrifice in order to use this stuff.
And as is inevitable in a sad story and fable of this nature, as you can well imagine over time, the people who eventually took over the process by which this product was produced and then transported and sold in the northern kingdom, were criminals. And what happened, ladies and gentlemen, I would like to offer you my only three visual aids in my presentation this morning, if I may.
May I have the first map, please?
What happened? And now you can see I have given away the surprise, but most of you had already figured out where I was talking about in my story and fable. If you had asked me, ladies and gentlemen, twenty-one years ago in 1990, what is my calculation, in terms of how illicit drugs are moving from South America to North America, I would have said to you that the overwhelming majority is moving through the Caribbean, sometimes the Western Caribbean, sometimes the eastern Caribbean, sometimes by sea, sometimes by air. I would have acknowledged, small arrows, (pointing to map) that that was not the only route, but that would be the dominant route.
What happened, as you can well imagine those in both South America and North America and in the Caribbean took steps, counter-measures, made efforts to shut down this route of transportation.
So, how would things look 10 years later? I would suggest that it would have looked more like this. Notice several things. One, the big thick arrow has moved to the west and is moving up the eastern Pacific. Second, there is a new arrow that you are beginning to see in the year 2000. That is an arrow which symbolically represents the movement of the product across the Atlantic to new markets in Europe and elsewhere around the world. And please note that the other two arrows have not disappeared. I am not suggesting that no product moved 11 years ago through the Caribbean or Central America, but they were no longer the dominant routes.
And finally may I also note as well, because I do see the distinguished Defense Attaché from the Republic of Colombia in the room today, the fact that I start (the route) with my big arrow in Colombia, is not my assertion that all the product comes from Colombia, but that I am acknowledging that I do not have a map big enough to show all of the points of origin from which the product is moving.
So by 2000, we were confronting a different situation, and the response was in the year 2000 a Plan Colombia, a Colombian plan, but strongly supported by several other governments, including my own, to address, stop, reduce, and eventually eliminate the flow of the product from Colombia.
Greater efforts with a number of governments to interrupt the flow of narcotics through the eastern Pacific, and what do we see then ten years later? We see something, ladies and gentlemen, that looks very much like this.
As a result of the efforts in northern South America, in the Caribbean, and in the eastern Pacific, you now see the overwhelming majority of the flow of narcotic products through Central America on its way to the North American market. And, I might add, beginning in the year 2007, you see a squeeze at both ends of the Central American isthmus, not just the efforts of Plan Colombia and its successor plans to the south, but the beginnings of an impact of the efforts to put the squeeze on the routes to the north in Mexico under the Merida initiative.
Ladies and gentlemen, I give you this long saga, not to show you how skillful I am with maps and with PowerPoint presentations, but to give you some understanding of how we got to where we are today.
And where are we today? Let's ask ourselves the question: How serious is this threat, that is affecting, and in my opinion, threatening the very core institutions of Central America today?
First, we calculate that more than 95%, let me repeat that figure, more than 95% of all illicit drugs that enter North America from South America have transited Central America. Ninety-five percent.
What impact might that have on the region? Here is a statistic, dates from 2010, the last year that we have full statistics. In 2010, the homicide rate in Honduras was 82 per 100,000 population, in El Salvador, 65, in Guatemala, 41. To put that in some perspective for you, here in the United States, a society not known around the world for its passivism and lack of violence, our homicide rate is somewhat below five. More than 70,000 youth in the seven countries of Central America, and overwhelmingly focused on the northern three of Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador are calculated to be members of gangs. I say calculated, because, of course, the gangs do not participate in official censuses, do not register their members, and do not provide their statistics to local governments and institutions. But the calculation is about 70,000. The entire population of Central America is about one seventh of the population of the United States of America. If you play the statistical game and say what would this correlate to in the United States, it would mean about a half a million gang members on the streets of the United States cities.
Ladies and gentlemen, Central America in a very real sense is a victim. It is a victim of geography, and it can do nothing about that. It is now, always has been, and I presume until the end of the world, will be located between the large two continents of South and North America. It is the victim of the fact that there is a large demand for a particular product, an illicit product in North America, and a large capability to supply that demand in South America. It is a victim in a very real sense of progress elsewhere in the region. Progress in Colombia, under Plan Colombia, where thanks to the heroic efforts of a large number of Colombian citizens, the problems have been squeezed down substantially over the last eleven years, and the progress that we see beginning, I submit, more on that later, in Mexico, with the Mexican government's efforts to retake control of its own communities, its own streets, and its own borders. And Central America, to a very real extent, is a victim to those factors which it cannot control. It is also a victim of some internal factors, which perhaps it does share responsibility for, and more on that in a moment.
Ladies and gentlemen, several members of the media, obviously none of those who are present with us today, who are far too brilliant to make this sort of assertion, but in recent months, members of the media have discussed and suggested that we have "discovered" the crises and the problems afflicting Central America today.
We have not "discovered" them, it is not as though we have been oblivious to what was happening. I suggest to you that this is a natural and inevitable progression. We knew it was happening and we knew it was going to happen.
If I could use the metaphor of three houses located side-by-side on a street. One house erupts in flames, and the community, alas, due to resource and budgetary issues, has only one fire truck. Where does the fire truck go? It goes to the house that is burning. Well, sure enough, sparks pass over to the third house and it starts to burn as well. The fire truck goes to the third house. It knows perfectly well that the house in between is eventually going to burn, but you’ve only got one fire truck. You're watching that house in the middle, you know that at some point in time you are going to go after it, but you’ve got one truck, and you are going to focus the truck on the house that is actual burning. And it is burning today, ladies and gentlemen, and I suggest to you that what we will talk about for the remainder of this morning is where to put that fire truck, what equipment to put on that truck, how many people we can put on that truck, and how we can get maximum value out of that truck.
I address and assess this problem, in essence, as a pyramid. And here is how my thinking goes. At the top of the pyramind are those threats that are concretely and actively attacking the institution of the seven states of Central America. I identified two from a security front, and remember that I am the Assistant Secretary for International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs.
One threat are the international drug trafficking organizations and the other threat are the gangs.
I am fully aware, ladies and gentlemen, that there is a great deal of overlap between those two institutions, but all gangs do not traffic drugs, and all trafficking organizations do not use gangs as their implementing operators. So there are two of them, and they are actively attacking the institutions of the states of Central America.
The next level of my pyramid are the vulnerabilities. What do these gangs and trafficking organizations use in order to accomplish their business or other purposes? There are many. In fact, if we had 20 hours we could probably come up with a five-hundred page book. I will offer just six or seven that come immediately to mind:
One, a culture that tends to accept violence as a matter of the history over the last 35 years.
Second, prisons that operate in such a way as to actually allow the recycling of people that go into the prison system for whatever offenses or crimes they may have committed.
Third, porous borders, which is to say, borders that actually provide opportunity as opposed to obstacles for people who wish to move product along the land route, if you will, of the isthmus.
Fourth, widespread corruption. Corruption in institutions, corruption in governments, and corruption in businesses.
Fifth, weak institutions, generally. Corrupt or not, an institution can be weak. It can be weak if it is poorly educated, poorly trained, poorly paid, poorly motivated.
Sixth, disaffected youth. Hundreds of thousands of young men and women who do not see a prosperous future for themselves, and therefore are looking for alternatives.
Finally, poverty and unemployment, the two frequently go hand in hand, although, they are obviously different issues. And the fact that a community or a society that does not offer equal economic opportunity to its people, has to assume the people are going to try to take care of themselves and their families through some other means.
So that is the second level of my pyramid. The threats. The vulnerabilities that they take advantage of.
And the third and final level, therefore, would be the programs, the activities, that the governments themselves, that their international partners, that the international community writ large, governments, organizations, NGOS, can try to support, that would reduce and eventually eliminate those vulnerabilities, because once you eliminate and remove those vulnerabilities, the bad guys at the top of your pyramid, have no basis upon which to operate.
If they don't have lots of poverty and unemployment which produce disaffected youth, in a culture that accepts violence, weak institutions, a lot of corruption and porous borders, and prison systems that do not work, they will find it far, far more difficult to operate either as a gang or as a trafficking organization. So that is the concept and who endorsed that concept, ladies and gentlemen? In March of this year in the city of San Salvador, Republic of El Salvador, the President of the United States, a very wise man stood with the President of El Salvador and said, "there is a threat that is affecting Central America. It affects all of us. We need a new partnership,” which he calls the Partnership for Citizen Security in Central America.
Ladies and gentlemen, I endorse, support, applaud, and am prepared to do everything in my power to follow up on the President's commitment to move this partnership forward.
I will do so together with all other parts of my government based upon some very simple principles, and some of them are difficult principles.
For example, number one: We have limited resources to work with. On the 23rd of June, in the city of Guatemala, the Secretary of State committed $290 million from the United States Government to support this effort in the course of this year. Not $2.9 billion, not $29 billion, $290 million. I have to be honest with you, ladies and gentlemen, to get to this number, I had to offer her some old money that was still available for spending this year, a little bit of new money, and some creative thinking in terms of how we can recycle existing funds. I do not see, unless you think I am missing something, I do not see the likelihood of a vast infusion of new funds coming from that element of the United States Government that is constitutionally entitled to fund and appropriate the taxpayers' money in the United States in the foreseeable future. So, my first principle is, we have to have an approach that accepts the reality that we have limited resources.
Second principle: if you have got limited resources, how can you expand your resource base? How can you build on the number of donors that are prepared to support this effort? There are some that are already very much, and in some cases, heroically engaged in this effort. In no particular order, I would mention the governments of Canada, Colombia, Spain, the European Union and its Commission, the Inter-American Development Bank. This is a core group, that has already, along with the government that I represent, committed its resources and it efforts to address this threat.
Our challenge, principle number two, is how to build on and expand that donor base?
Principle number three, where we have fewer resources, can we, by reorganizing our effort, distributing the workload, focusing and prioritizing, sequencing in a different way, expand the impact of the limited resources that we have? This is complicated stuff, ladies and gentlemen, because a government's usual response and approach to this sort of problem is let's throw money at it. And without naming other locations in the world, be they located in Central Asia or the Middle East, but I will name none, we have a very different set of realities that we must deal with in this complicated situation. And it does requires an approach that is almost unprecedented among governments, international organizations, and even if you will permit me to suggest an opinion, NGOs.
Fourth principle, our starting point is that these are regional threats. They are not country specific. These affect the entire Central American region, therefore the solution must be regional as well. This becomes complicated as I will explain in a moment, because again, the world for the last sixty or seventy years has been set up on the basis of bilateral relationships, for the most part. If you got a problem, Government A works with Government B to solve the problem. It is rare, but not unprecedented, but rare, that Government A works with Government B, C, D, E, F, G, and H collectively and together to solve the problem at the same time.
Principle number five, the threats emanate from Central America. The leadership in the process must come from Central America. It cannot be an externally imposed solution. That does not work! It especially does not work when you are dealing with a limited resource base. Fortunately, we have an institution established by the seven governments of Central America themselves, that already exists, and that is created and designed to accomplish just exactly this coordination purpose. It is called SICA, and it represents all seven of the governments of Central America and provides, if you will, regional leadership and buy-in to what the larger international community could do.
Sixth and finally, and I’m fairly emphatic about this point, there are two partners that must be partners in this effort, for geographic reasons, for political reasons, for socio-economic reasons, for law enforcement reasons. We talk about this as the Central America Initiative. In many ways we probably should probably talk about it as the Meso-American Initiative because, ladies and gentlemen, you cannot address this issue involving the seven governments of Central America without incorporating the governments of Colombia and Mexico into the solution. Two countries that are in very different positions in terms of their historical development in addressing these problems, and by no means do you treat them as exactly the same sorts of governments in terms of their contributions. But you have to acknowledge, you cannot solve, if that is the word I wish to use, Central America’s crises without incorporating Colombia and Mexico into the solution.
And there is finally a lesson that I submit we have all learned over the last 30 or 40 years, but we had better remember it today. There is no silver bullet solution. There is no one single program, one single project, one single operation that if we do it and do it correctly it will solve the problem. No, ladies and gentlemen, it took us many, many years to get into this mess, and it is going to take years to get out of it. We have learned over time, starting, if you will, in the 1970s, that as you address these law enforcement and drug-related threats you have to have an approach that addresses all elements of the problem. From education, treatment and rehabilitation at on one end, the demand side, all the way down through interdiction, money-laundering and financial crimes, precursor chemicals, production capabilities, cultivation on the supply side. You cannot focus on only one element. If you do, the criminal organizations have proved to be masters at developing a work around and actually using your focus and priorities as the means by which they facilitate and improve their own networks and their own operations.
So what is this initiative? I’m going to give you in the very barest outlines, my view of what it is and then you will follow up undoubtedly with questions which I will attempt to answer.
We’re into pillars. The Merida Initiative was four pillars, there are seven countries in Central America, so they deserve at least five pillars. Here are the five that I suggest constitute the core of this initiative, this approach, this policy, this strategy, call it what you wish.
First, for want of a better term safe streets. What does this mean? This means that if a mother is terrified of allowing her children to go out and play outside of the home, you obviously have a community security problem. You have to solve that problem at the retail level. How can you give a community, a small society, sufficient confidence in their security that they feel comfortable playing, living, working in their own neighborhoods and in their own communities?
Second, disrupt the traffickers. I have suggested to you, one of the two core threats to the institutions and to the states of Central America are the trafficking organizations. There must be an element that attacks them directly. Whether it is interdiction, whether it is strengthened borders, whether it is eliminating or at least reducing their ability to launder money or transact financial crimes, there must be an element that attacks the organizations themselves.
Third, is strong and accountable governments. This in many ways is what we refer to, and have for thirty years, institution building. The institutions, ladies and gentlemen, are not just law enforcement, although clearly they are a key component to it. It is also corrections and prosecutors. It’s also courts. It is all of the institutions that constitute the rule of law continuum in any country, any society, and any community around the world. And in essence the objective is to make each of those institutions sufficiently strong, transparent, and accountable, that they not only can do their job, but they have the respect and support of the communities and societies that they serve.
Fourth, is strong communities. Strong communities move us into what is the traditional economic and social development sphere. This is what development agencies do. They do employment generation and business generation. They build basic public services that makes them function. They support education systems and healthcare systems that provide a community a core, and a community’s citizens a stake in the future of their own community and a desire to actually make the institutions work because they see a future for themselves and their families in that community.
The fifth pillar, I suggest to you, required by the circumstances that we deal with in terms of resources, is enhanced cooperation. Cooperation internally, by which I mean the seven governments of Central America, their own institutions and capabilities to work among themselves to address this regional threat. But also cooperation in the external sense. Cooperation among potential donors, governments, organizations, and NGOs to support the strategy, policy, initiative, and effort in Central America.
Ladies and gentlemen, I conclude with a sobering observation. We have thought for the last eleven years or so that the big initiatives we have been working on in this hemisphere Plan Colombia, for which I use January 2000 as the kick-off date, although the truth of the matter is we’ve been working fairly aggressively with the government of Colombia since 1999, and the Merida Initiative of 2007. We regard these as being complicated, but also models for how to cooperate in a multilateral way to address multilateral threats. I submit to you that Central America, despite the fact that we are dealing with states that are smaller in terms of population and geography, Central America in a very real way is more complicated than Plan Colombia, more complicated than the Merida Initiative because we have seven different governments, and societies and communities, each of whom have hundreds of years of history, hundreds of years of developing their own mindset, their own attitudes among themselves and between themselves and their neighbors. We must work in a way that links them all together in a positive way.
We will make mistakes, please make sure you got that on record. Brownfield acknowledges we will make mistakes. There will be missteps. We will learn from those mistakes and missteps. It would not surprise me at all if I were to learn some of those from you this very self same morning. I will listen carefully. I actually believe it is possible to learn from your mistakes. But one mistake we don’t need to make, we do not need to learn a lesson that we already know. We cannot, here in the United States of America, ignore what is happening in Central America today, because, ladies and gentlemen, the decision is very, very simple. If we ignore these threats, these problems, and these crises in Central America today, we will address them on our own front porches tomorrow. With that sobering thought, I thank you. Dr. Farnsworth, I turn this back over to you.
Thank you very much.
ERIC FARNSWORTH: Well, thank you, Bill. As promised, those were terrific remarks. Congratulations and thank you for taking the time to make them to us today, and as promised to the audience, certainly lively and at times provocative. So, thank you for joining us as well. We have about fifteen minutes for some follow-up questions. I want to ask the first one. As you are formulating your own questions, we have circulating, microphones for you. As you are recognized, we would ask that you would please identify yourself by name as well as your organization.
But Bill, you laid out a comprehensive strategy, which makes a lot of sense. You touched on a lot of points. It is a complicated issue. We have commitment of the highest levels of not just our government but other governments as well. But it is a strategy that is going to take time to implement. And I guess the question would be, the situation on the ground right now is pretty bad in some cases and so there may be a disconnect in terms of getting at the drug trafficking organizations and the gangs, which you identified at the top of your pyramid, who are causing trouble right now as well as allowing the possible disconnect in terms of allowing that strategy to be fully implemented and take effect so I guess the question would be, in the interim who keeps the peace? And I am referring specifically to a proposal that the outgoing President of Guatemala made about the idea of some sort of a regional security force or something like that. I’m not proposing that necessarily, but there’s some ideas out there along those lines. I would just like to get your reaction to who keeps the peace today in those circumstances?
BROWNFIELD: Eric, fair point. In the interest of time I suppose I did not bore the audience by going through point by point, country by country, program by program, what we are already doing but I do want to make it clear to you and to everyone else in the room that we are not starting from point zero. We do have programs, they are bilateral programs. Programs between the United States and El Salvador , United States and Guatemala, United States and Costa Rica, Nicaragua, Panama, and Belize. Those programs have not disappeared. They give us at least a starting point, so that the simplest answer to your question, what are we doing in essence while this larger initiative eventually takes form and begins to have an impact, we have a bilateral approach that continues, as does Spain, as does Colombia, which by the way is doing heroic service in my opinion in terms of assisting in the training of thousands of law enforcement personnel in Central America, as does Canada, as does the European Union. In other words, we are not, in essence, waiting before we get started.
Now, President Colon obviously has made some I would call them more… He has thrown out some ideas for consideration. And that is how you develop, improve, fine-tune an approach. My own view and belief is what we will have to do, our challenge both within the seven governments of Central America, as well the international community that chooses to support them, is to reach common agreement and understanding on the basic elements of the strategy. And I would suggest we are pretty close to being there. That was what the SICA summit on the 23rd of June was all about.
In about two weeks time, most of the major donors plus the SICA Executive Secretariat will meet and what we will do is try to take this strategy, this set of objectives, divide it up into more or less individual bite-size, chewable parts, and then in essence decide who is in the lead, who will have lead responsibilities for this part, and how will we sequence it? If I might paraphrase the 16th President of the United States, you can do some things all of the time, and all things some of the time, but you can’t do all the things all of the time. I know he did not actually say that, but the concept is the same.
In a sense that is what we have to address in this Central America Initiative. Where do we start? Where do we put our initial focus? What is our thinking in terms of how this would sequence out over the next one to five years? And then who is in the lead? Which country? Which element of which country? And in the lead means among the donors, but it also means within the Central America seven as well. That’s my suggestion as to where we are. If I can close with a baseball metaphor, don’t hold me responsible for not yet having all the details of a fully fleshed-out plan. We are in the first inning of a nine-inning game. We hope it’s only nine innings and doesn’t go into extra innings. And we are at this time still sorting out. We’ve got our line ups more or less, but we are still sorting out how the flow of the game is going to proceed.
QUESTION: Ambassador Brownfield, thank you very much. I have three questions; I’ll try to make them brief. Hi, I’m Sarah Hagee from the Department of Commerce, Western Hemisphere Division. I want to know if your strategy – is this partnership for citizen security is not the same thing as CARSI, the Central American Regional Security Initiative? I’ve heard a lot about that and I know something about it.
That’s a factual question, but my second point is the partnership for growth is something in El Salvador that we’ve been working on quite a bit. And a lot of the economic competitiveness or economic growth initiatives that are a part of that have a lot to do with security and crime. And my point is, and I hope you would comment on this, the need in government, in the United States, where we are coming up with the strategy for how to deal with Central America, specifically El Salvador here? Could we get the greater cooperation or the sharing of ideas between various groups that are already organized to address these challenges? I mean your group at State and other organizations. I often feel that we address problems in different stove pipes. That is an internal USG question.
QUESTION: Richard Millett, St. Louis Committee for Foreign Relations. You mentioned very briefly, the problem of the courts and the prosecutors, and I think we need to look at this a little more closely. It’s one thing to train police. But when the courts don’t work how do you expect the police to work? And when the public has no confidence in the courts, how do you expect them to work. And added to that, when governments have a demonstrated inability to protect those who actually take a stand against the cartels, or who try to dispense justice, how do you expect the courts to work? How do we deal with these kind of basic issues?
QUESTION: I’m William Steadman. I’m a retired Foreign Service Officer. U.S. domestic demand is certainly a considerable problem which you noted. I’d like to know what is being done, what can be done, and what coordination exists among various U.S. government state and local agencies to deal with domestic demand. Thank you.
BROWNFIELD: Eric, unusually, I will try to respond in the order in which the questions came forward. And I actually wrote them down so I have a vague recollection of what was posed. (laughter).
First, CARSI versus the Central America Citizens Security Partnership. You are absolutely correct there is complete inter-relation. Although the way I would differentiate is to say what the President was proposing, President Obama, in March of this year in San Salvador was a collective multilateral international community effort. That was the Citizens Security Partnership. CARSI, if you will, would be the Central American Regional Security Initiative ,would be the U.S. component from the security and law enforcement side. So my answer to your question is, CASP, if that’s what we will call the Citizens Security Partnership, is the large umbrella that covers the entire international community that is attempting to address these issues. And CARSI is the U.S. law enforcement, rule of law side in contribution to that effort.
The partnership for growth. You are correct in noting, I guess, there is some danger in a proliferation of initiatives in the partnership for growth. I am fully aware for much of this week, members of the Department of Commerce as well as the Department of State, were, and in some cases, still are, in El Salvador working this economic, business, commercial, trade, prosperity driven agenda and initiative. And there is obvious overlap between that and a Citizens' Security Partnership. As a speaker so brilliantly articulated a few minutes ago, one of the core pillars has to be building strong and resilient communities. To do that, there must be economic growth, there must be jobs, there must be business opportunity.
Now there has to be cross-communication between the two sets of people. There are now, always have been, and I suspect always will be different communities and institutions between those responsible for law enforcement, rule of law, and citizens' security on the one hand, and those responsible for economic development, economic growth, fiscal policy, budgetary policy, and business development on the other. But that does not mean that the two groups do not talk to one another, because if I might close this particular question with something so obvious it is going to seem like a cliche, you are not going to have security if you do not have economic growth, and you are not going to have economic growth if you do not have security. I think we have probably learned that lesson over the last, shall we say, 2000 or 3000 years.
Next, a very valid point about the difference between training police, which is almost a numerical issue. How many police candidates can you run through a basic course, or a more sophisticated course, to get their skill level at a point where they can do their job well? That is actually something we have become much better at, we, the international community, over the past 20 years. And, part of the rule of law continuum, but separate therefrom, the prosecutors and courts. We have learned, by the way on that front, something we also have been working on or attempting to learn from over 25 to 30 years, that in some ways, prosecutors and courts, which are words I say to avoid saying judges, are more complicated in the sense that there is a kind of a common global standard, by which police are supposed to operate. Judicial systems and legal systems are inherently sovereign and inherently different. We, for example, have a common law system in the United States of America, except for Louisiana, and that has certain traditions in terms of how our laws, our courts, our prosecutions are done. Other countries of the world, including I believe six of the seven governments and legal systems of Central America, have a code-based system. It is kind of difficult to get all of them to fit into one category.
I will offer by way of response, my own observation based upon, I guess, starting doing this in El Salvador when I was a very, very young Foreign Service officer between 1981 and 1983. It is easier actually to work with prosecutors, than it is to work with judges and courts, because when you move into the judicial front, you are truly moving into a nation's absolute, sovereign territory where there is just an instinctive resistance to any other government or institution, not just the U.S., but any other one, coming and in essence trying to tell them how to run their judicial system.
Prosecutors are a little bit easier, in that there are certain skills and talents that should in essence be applicable to a prosecutor anywhere. The process by which an individual attempts to convince an adjudication mechanism, call them a judge, call them a jury, call them Fred, I don't care what you call it, but that this individual in fact committed this crime and should be sanctioned therefore. And we have learned over the last 30 years that there are certain common themes or threads that you can bring to bear upon prosecutors almost anywhere. You are correct, however, in your underlying assumption, if that element of the rule of law continuum is not also addressed, this initiative will not succeed.
Finally, U.S. demand, and I got to tell you that you can bet that you could have asked the same question, as you well know, in the year 1965 or 1955, and in many ways, the fundamentals of that question have not changed. I suppose the simple answer to your question is we have not yet solved the problem of demand in the United States of America. I do now want to oversimplify the matter to suggest that is it only problem in the United States of America. I would suggest to you, for example, that the demand in the United States for cocaine has probably has probably dropped, I would throw out a figure, as much as 50% over the last 10 years. Cocaine production in South America has not dropped 50%. It has gone to other markets, mostly in Europe, and increasingly in South America and elsewhere in Latin America itself, which is to say that demand is elastic, both in terms of how much or how little demand there is, and where it is located. What is the cooperation between the elements of the federal, but please remember, we are a federal system, the state, municipal and local governments? I would give you almost a facetious answer. In some places, it works very well, in some places it does not work very well, or at least not as well.
I am not the right one to give you a detailed answer to that question, because, of course, I am the Assistant Secretary for International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs. The Director of the Office of National Drug Control Policy, sometimes referred to as the Drug Czar, is that position which for the past roughly 40 years has had the responsibility been linking all of these elements together into a common strategy and a common approach. And may I say, and I am offering a personal opinion, I am a great admirer of Gil Kerlikowske, the director of National Drug Control Policy. I believe he does bring, remember he does have an extensive law enforcement background, having most recently served as chief of police in Seattle and he also has an academic background, but he brings to this job a commitment that demand has to be an essential, and perhaps the most important element, to the long term solution. And if you attack the problem that way, I am optimistic that eventually you will see results in the outcome.