News Americas, WASHINGTON, D.C., Fri. Mar. 9, 2012: When it comes to making the U.S’ list of major money laundering, illicit drug producing and/or drug-transit countries, several Latin American and Caribbean nations simply cannot hide.
This year, several have again slapped with the label by the U.S. State Department in its annual International Narcotics Control Strategy Report. Snagging the title of illicit drug producing and/or drug-transit countries are The Bahamas, Belize Bolivia, Colombia, Costa Rica, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, El Salvador, Guatemala, Haiti, Honduras, Jamaica, Mexico, Nicaragua, Panama, Peru, and Venezuela.
According to the U.S., the 17 made the list because they have 1,000-5,000 hectares or more of either illicit coca or cannabis that is cultivated or harvested during a year; they are a significant direct source of illicit narcotic or psychotropic drugs or other controlled substances significantly affecting the United States or through which are transported such drugs or substances. El Salvador and Belize were added to the list this year for the first time.
The International Narcotics Control Board describes El Salvador as part of the so-called “northern triangle” with Guatemala and Honduras where “national gangs are forming alliances with international criminal syndicates.” According to the most recent U.S. inter-agency assessment of cocaine flows, the amount of this illicit substance passing through El Salvador destined directly for the United States was estimated at 4 metric tons in 2009.
The most recent U.S. assessment for Belize estimates the flow of drugs destined for the United States through this Central American country on the Caribbean coast at about 10 metric tons. Belize’s vulnerability as a south-north avenue for the illegal narcotics trade is also demonstrated by recent drug and weapons seizures in Mexico along the border it shares with Belize. United States officials also report that drug control observers in Belize are increasingly concerned about the presence of drug trafficking organizations, including Los Zetas of Mexico, in the country’s border areas and in coastal ports.
Of these 17, Bolivia and Venezuela were designated by President Obama as having ―failed demonstrably during the previous 12 months to adhere to their obligations under international counter narcotics agreements and take the measures to stem the problem.
Twenty from the Latin America/Caribbean region also made the Major Money Laundering list. They are Argentina, Antigua and Barbuda, Bahamas, Belize, Bolivia, Brazil, British Virgin Islands, Cayman Islands, Colombia, Costa Rica, Curacao, Dominican Republic, Guatemala, Haiti, Mexico, Panama, Paraguay, St. Maarten and Venezuela.
A major money laundering country is defined as one “whose financial institutions engage in currency transactions involving significant amounts of proceeds from international narcotics trafficking.”