Thank you, Assistant Secretary [Arturo] Valenzuela. And thank you all for being part of this critical, and historic, discussion. A little more than a year has passed since President Obama called for a "new chapter of engagement" between the United States and our friends in the Caribbean. And, today, it’s an honor to stand with each of you as we answer that call – and write that new chapter – with the launch of the Caribbean-United States Security Initiative.
This new initiative is an important step forward in addressing our shared concerns, advancing our common interests, and strengthening our collective commitment to protect our citizens from crime, violence, trafficking, and terror.
The situation in Jamaica reminds us all just how important this work is. Today, we offer our condolences to the Jamaican people. And we mourn the loss of the citizens and law enforcement officials who have been killed in connection with recent attempts to apprehend Christopher Coke for extradition. As the Jamaican government seeks to uphold the rule of law, the United States stands in support of its efforts to ensure public safety and to combat drug trafficking and other criminal activity. And we honor our brave law enforcement partners for their service, sacrifice, and commitment to the cause of justice.
As we continue to monitor events in Jamaica, let me assure each of you that this effort is a top priority, not only for the Department of Justice, but also for the Departments of State, Homeland Security and Defense. And we are all proud to call you our partners.
I am especially proud. As you may know, my father and all four of my grandparents were born and raised in Barbados. Although I grew up in New York City, I was brought up in a Bajan home, with West Indies traditions and values. And so, while I am a proud American who was born in the United States, in many respects, I was a child of the Caribbean and am proud of that part of my heritage as well.
Last May, I had the opportunity to return to Barbados to help build on the President’s promise of partnership, which he had made a month earlier at the opening of the Fifth Summit of the Americas. He called for an era in which our partnership would be equal, not imbalanced; and forward-looking, not imprisoned by the past.
During that summit, the President closed with words that, to me, rang especially true. "Our nations…and our people," he said, "reflect the extraordinary diversity of human beings, and our shared values reflect a common humanity – the universal desire to leave our children a world that is more prosperous and peaceful than the one that we inherited."
Today, with the launch of the Caribbean-United States Security Initiative, we renew our commitment to delivering on that promise to future generations. And we strengthen our resolve to work together. We share, after all, so many priorities – securing our borders, eliminating gangs and violence, curbing drug trafficking, reducing recidivism, fighting terrorism and much more. As my nation’s chief law enforcement officer, I recognize that each of these threats not only burdens the United States and your individual law enforcement communities, but also places citizens throughout the Caribbean at risk.
These threats are not isolated. Drug trafficking and organized crime, for example, are problems across our hemisphere – from the United States, Canada and Mexico to Central America, South America, and, of course, the Caribbean. And none of us, alone, can ward off the violence. Criminals know no borders. They respect no flag. They embrace no rule of law but their own.
They do, however, embrace the latest technology, which has provided sophisticated new tools to engage in cybercrime, money laundering, and illicit trafficking. And the scope of these crimes is alarming. In fact, Mexican and Colombian drug trafficking organizations generate, remove, and launder between $18 billion and $39 billion in wholesale drug proceeds in the United States annually. No matter what your vantage point in examining these problems, one truth is perfectly clear: our nations’ security interests are intertwined – and they always will be.
What tools, then, do we need to address today’s threats? From my perspective, and from the perspective of the Department I lead, our most powerful tool is our partnership. If we fail to work together, we simply cannot ensure effective and lasting regional security. But failure is not an option. And, judging by your presence and engagement today, it’s not a possible outcome.
Over the last year, we’ve shown that our nations want to work together. Today, we’re signaling that we are ready to act. And we are poised to build on the record of successful collaboration that’s been established in recent months. For example, we’ve seen prosecutors and law enforcement officers in Colombia work with prosecutors and law enforcement officers in the Department of Justice to successfully foster the rule of law in that country. We’re also starting to see measurable progress from our partnership with Mexico and the countries of Central America – again, the result of critical prosecutor-to-prosecutor and investigator-to-investigator partnerships.
The only problem is that, in some cases, these partnerships are working so well that criminals are turning to new regions and routes for their illicit business, particularly the Caribbean. But together – starting now – we will push back. And we will push back hard. It’s no secret that the security of our citizens depends on the security of our neighbors’ citizens. We are in this together. And, in that collaborative spirit, we will succeed.
How, exactly, do we move forward as partners in this Security Initiative? First, we must begin to establish a framework of critical laws and procedures that all countries should not only agree upon but also embrace. This includes, among other things, the UN Transnational Organized Crime Convention, the UN Convention Against Corruption, the Vienna Convention on Narcotics, the Council of Europe Cybercrime Convention and the UN’s legal instruments against terrorism.
Second, with these laws, procedures, and frameworks as our guide, we must work together to investigate and prosecute transnational crime – and that includes use of the bilateral mutual legal assistance and extradition treaties that are already in place. We must share intelligence and criminal information – police department to police department, prosecutor to prosecutor, forensic office to forensic office
Working together with the Justice Department’s Criminal Division and U.S. Attorneys’ Offices – as well as with the Drug Enforcement Administration, FBI, U.S. Marshals Service, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, and the Department of Homeland Security’s U.S. Customs and Border Protection and U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement – we will aggressively investigate and prosecute criminal activity. And, as we fight crime, we must – and we will – respect the human rights of all persons.
Finally, we must work together to build justice systems that comport with the rule of law. That means ensuring that all of the nations represented here today have the capacity to investigate and prosecute complex crimes; that our legal systems are fair, efficient and transparent; that we protect our witnesses, judges and courthouses; that we secure the safety of victims; and that our citizens have faith in our ability to carry out justice.
The Department of Justice is committed to working with every one of your great nations. With your support and collaboration, I am certain we can enhance the entire criminal justice process – from prevention, investigation and prosecution to incarceration and, where possible, to rehabilitation. We are ready to provide our federal experts as resident advisors to work with your agencies. And while we are committed to helping you address the pressing needs and challenges, we are also eager to focus on long-term solutions, now.
I want to stress again that our historic partnership, forged over this past year and brought to the next level today, is a top priority for the Department of Justice and for this Administration. As I mentioned, I was raised with the values of the Caribbean – values of education, hard work and respect – that all our nations share.
I have every expectation that our common beliefs, as well as our common interests, will inspire every nation represented here to invest the energy and resources necessary to strengthen our partnership, to spur this new initiative forward, and – ultimately – to bring greater security to people across the Caribbean and the United States.
I am grateful for your time and tireless efforts over the past year. And I look forward to all that we will accomplish, together, in the critical days ahead.