Regional efforts focus on ending WMD trafficking
By Dialogo May 14, 2009More than two dozen countries from around the world attended a three-day meeting from May 12 to 14 in downtown Miami to address the illicit trade of weapons of mass destruction and related materials. The meeting, co-hosted by the United States Southern Command and the U.S. Secretary of Defense, is part of the Proliferation Security Initiative (PSI), which is a global effort to stop the trafficking of WMDs, their delivery systems and related materials to and from states and non-state actors. The trafficking of WMDs is an increasingly important issue in the region. As drug traffickers look for new and innovative ways to traffic drugs, these same means may just as easily be exploited to transport WMDs. “The links between illicit trafficking and terrorism are not difficult to imagine,” said Ambassador Paul Trivelli, Civilian Deputy to the Commander and Foreign Policy Adviser at U.S. Southern Command, and former U.S. Ambassador to Nicaragua. Of particular concern is the semisubmersible, a submarine-like vessel used mostly to transport cocaine from Colombia to the United States. The makeshift subs have been seized off the coasts of Colombia, Costa Rica, Mexico and, just four months ago, as far away as Sri Lanka. The newer versions of the vessel are equipped with GPS systems and high frequency radio receivers and can make the trip from Colombia to the United States without refueling. They can travel at speeds of up to 18.5 kilometers per hour and carry a crew of between four to six people, along with a cargo of six to 16 tons -- that’s up to $200 million (USD) worth of cocaine in a single shipment. “It is only a matter of time before these semi-submersibles are used to transport more dangerous cargo,” Ambassador Trivelli said, alluding to the potential for WMDs. Some experts also believe that semi-submersibles could be used for suicide attacks. Meetings like the PSI provide a venue for nations to discuss ways to combat regional threats like the semisubmersible. At the meeting, experts from around the globe shared best practices, planned WMD-related interdiction exercises to improve operability and strengthened security relationships within the region and around the world. “We [USSOUTHCOM] are building and strengthening partnerships with US Government agencies, with our partner nations and with nongovernmental organizations and the private sector,” reiterated the former U.S. Ambassador to Nicaragua. “We all have the same goals and want the same things -- a secure, stable and prosperous home.” It had been more than three years since the United States last hosted the PSI meeting, which was attended by representatives from 20 nations. Today, more than 90 nations throughout the world support the PSI, including the following from the Western Hemisphere: the United States, Canada, Argentina, the Bahamas, Belize, Chile, El Salvador, Honduras, Panama and Paraguay.