Latin American countries and Interpol strengthen cooperation to fight organized crime
By Dialogo November 22, 2013
Officials from more than 100 countries who recently attended the 82nd General Assembly of Interpol in Cartagena, Colombia agreed to cooperate in the battle against international drug trafficking, terrorism, and cyber-crime.
The conference took place from Oct. 21-24, 2013. More than 1,000 senior staff members from 144 countries and 630 police chiefs, as well as 24 international observers, attended the event. The conference focused on current issues and future security challenges posed by organized crime, the International Criminal Police Organization (Interpol) said on its website.
The countries which attended the conference adopted resolutions to increase the number of partnerships with other nations and international law enforcement organizations in the fight against terrorism, drug trafficking, human trafficking, and the proliferation of radiological, chemical, and nuclear weapons. The countries also agreed to strengthen existing cooperation agreements, and join together to fight cybercrime, which Interpol calls one of the “greatest threats to citizens around the world.”
he countries which attended the conference also adopted a resolution to work together to fight weapons smuggling and the trafficking of human organs.
Cooperation and sharing information
Cooperation between countries is crucial in the battle against international organized crime groups, Colombian Defense Minister Juan Carlos Pinzon said on the last day of the conference.
“The exchange of information is and will remain the key success factor in the fight against transnational organized crime,” Pinzon said.
Terrorism and drug trafficking will continue to be a priority for all nations, Pinzon said. Close links between terrorists and drug traffickers means security forces must “redouble” their efforts to disrupt transnational criminal organizations, which sometimes provide funding to terrorists, Pinzon said.
International drug trafficking
Drug trafficking remains one of the top global security threats, according to a study released at the conference by the Colombian National Police.
Abo 800 tons of cocaine are produced annually worldwide, and most of the production occurs in Colombia, Peru, and Bolivia, the report said.
Drug traffickers generate profits of more than $320 billion (USD) annually, according to the report. In addition to combatting drug smuggling, security forces should try to disrupt the financial structures of transnational criminal organizations, the report advised.
The report highlighted the role of Mexican drug kingpin Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman, the leader of the Sinaloa Cartel. The cartel also engages in arms smuggling and other criminal enterprises. El Chapo has a fortune of close to $1 billion (USD), the report said.
El Chapo operates in almost every part of the world, according to the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration. El Chapo has alliances with organized crime groups in Guatemala and Ecuador, for example, and the Sinaloa Cartel smuggles cocaine, heroin, and synthetic drugs to European countries and Australia.
Drug trafficking affects almost all 190 countries which participate in Interpol. The violence inherent in drug trafficking and the social ills caused by the sale and use of drugs – such as addiction – is a global security threat, according to an Interpol report.
“Illicit drugs undermine economic and social development and foster crime, instability and insecurity,” according to the Interpol report.
Security forces use technology
Security forces in Latin America and around the world are continuing to battle traditional organized crime activities, such as drug trafficking, arms smuggling, and kidnapping, while adapting to fight new threats, a security analyst said.
“We went from the traditional agenda of drugs, arms and human trafficking, to cooperation in intelligence to fight new criminal threats,” including cyber-crime, said Germán Alberto Sahid, a security analyst at Rosario University in Colombia.
ecurity forces are using technology combat organized crime. For example, in recent months Interpol launched a program known as “e-extradition”, a technical platform that will allow faster processing of extradition requests. The program was greeted with enthusiastic support from many of the delegates to the conference.
Latin American security forces are also using technology to fight organized crime. For example, in October 2013, the Ecuadorian Navy used an unmanned aircraft to locate a boat that was suspected of smuggling drugs. The Navy transmitted the location of the boat to the Coast Guard, which intercepted the vessel, which was loaded with about 800 kilograms of cocaine.
In 2014, Interpol will be launching a new initiative to fight cyber-crime.
In September 2014, Interpol is scheduled to launch the Global Complex of Innovation in Cybersecurity in Singapore.
The complex will be equipped with the most recent technology available. It will have three main sections, one for research, one devoted to forensics, and a third which will focus on conducting analyses of emerging threats.
Interpol dos not have any estimates on the amount of money that is stolen worldwide because of cyber-crime, according to Noboru Nakatani, the director of the Cybersecurity Complex.
However, the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) estimates that the figure from this criminal activity is between US$ 300 billion(USD) and $ 1 trillion (USD).
While transnational criminal organizations are using technology to commit crimes, Interpol is countering them with their own technological tools, Nakatani said.
Latin American cooperation
Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos opened the Interpol General Assembly, which took place at the Convention Center of Cartagena, with opening remarks.
Colombia is promoting strengthening cooperation between Central American and Caribbean countries in the battle against transnational criminal organizations.
In late September 2013, Pinzon, the Colombian defense minister, visited military leaders of seven Central American and Caribbean countries to discuss how security forces throughout the region could cooperate on security matters.
Pinzon met with military officials in Panama, Honduras, El Salvador, Jamaica, the Dominican Republic and Trinidad and Tobago. Pinzon and officials from the other countries discussed the possibility of increasing opportunities for the Colombian military and National Police to fight international drug trafficking and other crimes, such as extortion and kidnapping.
Such regional cooperation is crucial in the fight against transnational criminal organizations, according to security analyst Sahid.
“States are beginning to understand that security is one issue from a broad agenda. For the first time, issues of environmental, economic, social, political, military and human security were discussed. That is important,” Sahid said. “Countries are starting to standardize the legal doctrine against threats and crimes with the same penalties and procedures. It is a breakthrough because it facilitates communication between agencies.”
"he actions taken at the summit will be routed to various countries to cooperate on intelligence and security regardless of political ideology,” Sahid said. “Governments have realized that criminal groups are beginning to threaten political, economic, and social stability.”
Cooperation and the sharing of information is also crucial in the fight against international terrorism, officials said.
“We want to prevent international terrorism from moving from one country to another,” said Interpol’s Secretary-General, Ronald Noble.
Colombia agreed with the U.S. government to improve cooperation when it comes to the extradition of suspected terrorists and drug traffickers.
Interpol is considered the third largest international organization in the world, after the United Nations and FIFA (International Federation of Association Football). Its headquarters is located in Lyon, France, and Interpol has six regional offices, in San Salvador, Buenos Aires, Abidjan, Nairobi, Harare and Colombia.
The cooperation agreements reached at the conference in Cartagena will help security forces battle international organized crime groups, Noble said.
“Now we have an even stronger framework to address the various challenges that transnational crime poses to the global community of law enforcement,” Noble concluded.
Colombian police deployed a large security operation to ensure the safety of the conference. A detachment of 2,500 police officers and explosive-detection dogs helped secure the conference.