Speech

Karen P. Tandy
Cocaine Price/Purity Press Conference
Anti-Narcotics Base CNP
Bogota, Colombia
November 8, 2007

Note: Administrator Tandy often departs from her prepared remarks.

Good Morning. We have come together — Colombia, Mexico and the United States — to announce important news for our 3 countries and this entire region. Through our joint efforts, we have seriously disrupted the illicit drug supply chain and U.S. market for cocaine and methamphetamine.

In the United States, cocaine and methamphetamine prices have increased dramatically and purity is dropping — and equally significant, this blow to the illegal drug marketplace has been sustained throughout this year since January 2007, with 37 U.S. cities reporting cocaine shortages over the past year.

According to the Drug Enforcement Administration's System to Retrieve Information on Drug Evidence (STRIDE), from January of this year through September, the price of a pure gram of cocaine increased 44% (from $95.35 to $136.93) and purity dropped 15%. The statistics about methamphetamine are even more striking—the price of a pure gram of meth soared 73% (from $141.42 to $244.53) and the purity dropped 31%. These numbers paint a picture of restricted drug flow and decreased drug availability.

It is important to note that sharp spikes and decreases in the price and purity of cocaine and methamphetamine have been observed in the past, however, prior price hikes often normalized within a few months. Unlike past price spikes — the price increases we are announcing today have continued to climb with sustained growth throughout the past year — in 9 months of reporting from January through September 2007.

This data comes from analyzing the purchase price and purity of thousands of drug exhibits that were purchased in illegal drug transactions throughout the year, across all 50 states, which were submitted to the DEA STRIDE system. STRIDE is a database of all drug exhibits sent to DEA laboratories from the DEA, FBI, Customs and Border Protection, Immigration and Customs Enforcement and the United States Coast Guard.

Why this sustained jump in cocaine and meth prices and drop in purity? There is no single answer. It is clear, however, that it stems from an unprecedented, historic alliance among our three countries, and specifically the leaders at this table. We have formed a bond through a Tripartite Agreement on information sharing and strategic operational planning that has created the equivalent of the Perfect Storm, flooding narco-traffickers with obstacles at every turn throughout this region.

We have attacked the financial underpinnings of the major cartels and their networks with unprecedented results in all three countries, reaching levels that for the first time deny traffickers revenue to support their operations rather than asset seizures that traffickers simply wrote off as the cost of doing business—

  • with Colombia more than doubling the denial of revenue to traffickers over the past year,

  • with Mexico setting a world record with the largest single seizure of drug proceeds, and

  • with DEA setting a new record for revenue denied to traffickers at almost $3.5 billion dollars over the past year — up from $1.6 billion the prior year.

Another factor – together we have designed and successfully implemented a new sophisticated, international enforcement strategy attacking the transit routes throughout this entire region:

In just 3 enforcement operations that strategy has yielded: the seizure of more than 200 tons of cocaine, 50 tons of marijuana, 400 kilos (412) of Colombian heroin, more than $400 million ($415.7) and more than 1,000 arrests.

At the same time, Colombia and Mexico simultaneously launched sustained drug enforcement and military action against the highest level traffickers —

  • From Colombia going after FARC commanders, including the extradition days ago of FARC leader Ivan Vargas to face drug trafficking charges in the United States — to the arrest of principal leaders of the Norte Valle Cartel, former AUC, and other drug lords—all part of the almost 600 extraditions under the Uribe administration.

  • Colombia and the Colombian National Police and Colombian military have been tried-and-true soldiers in this fight for decades. They weathered the violence and intimidation of the Medellin and Cali cartels, conquered them and watched them crumble. The progress we're making today could not be possible without their consistent, dedicated efforts that fragmented the drug cartels and paved the way for continued success.

On top of that, in Mexico, under President Calderón's administration, —

  • In January, Mexico made history with its first major extradition of more than 10 drug traffickers to the United States, including leaders from each of Mexico's 4 dominant drug cartels.

  • Mexico followed that with world record seizures of drugs and assets, along with the unprecedented dismantlement of "super" meth labs over the past year that collectively were capable of producing 5 tons of meth annually.

We cannot point to just one of these successes as the turning point in creating these dramatic shifts in price/purity numbers. No one arrest, no one extradition, no one seizure has turned the tide.

However, these rapid, overlapping efforts — together with DEA's international support and U.S. enforcement operations disrupting and dismantling the U.S. distribution networks—are key factors that have made the difference and created the Perfect Storm that brings us here today -- keeping countless children safe from the pain of drug abuse, and assuring stability and security to Colombia and Mexico.

Thank you.

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