It is a pleasure to be here this morning in my home state with our domestic and international partners in the drug war, including Attorney General Daniel Cabeza de Vaca of Mexico. From its inception, the NMCI has been a venue for cooperation and sharing information. Such collaboration among federal, state, and local authorities has led to several successes here in America against illegal drugs. And without international cooperation we cannot hope to meet the rising threat posed by the international drug trade in methamphetamine.
Let me first turn to our domestic efforts. We have long been working with our state and local partners to investigate methamphetamine producers and traffickers. Last year, in order to improve that cooperation, Administrator Karen Tandy redirected DEA’s Mobile Enforcement Teams – or METs – to focus on methamphetamine. A recent case here in Texas is an outstanding example of what can be accomplished when domestic law enforcement at all levels works as a team.
Operation “700 Ranch Round Up” targeted meth traffickers based in north Texas and south central Oklahoma. This investigation was led by the DEA Dallas Field Division MET. It worked in a partnership with state, local, and tribal law enforcement that culminated in the arrest of over 100 defendants this past March. The hard work of all the officers and agents involved has made their communities a safer place.
We now have additional tools for targeting meth traffickers, with the passage of the Combat Methamphetamine Act, which President Bush signed into law in March. The Combat Meth Act provides a national standard for the regulation of meth precursors and makes other important contributions to the war against drugs. As you may know, state legislators led the way in enacting laws regulating sales of meth precursors such as pseudoephedrine. States enforcing such regulations on precursor chemicals have seen dramatic reductions in small toxic labs.
You can take pride in your success in reducing domestic small toxic and super labs. But now we have seen a corresponding increase in the trafficking of meth into our country. While we would still have a meth crisis without the smuggled drugs, it is the case that Mexican labs have impacted the U.S. with their product and replaced the meth once provided by domestic labs. Now, approximately 80 percent of all meth purchased in the U.S. originates from Mexican labs, whether in Mexico or in the U.S.
Accordingly, we are refocusing our investigative resources on large meth trafficking organizations. DEA’s clandestine laboratory enforcement teams will now concentrate their investigative efforts on meth transportation and distribution cells in the U.S. and Mexico.
Our two countries have been working together to develop a strategy to address this collective problem. I am pleased to announce, along with Attorney General Cabeza de Vaca, several joint initiatives between the United States and Mexico. These initiatives represent a policy of true mutual cooperation that will put meth use and all its horrors firmly on the road to extinction.
If we work together, sharing resources and intelligence, the law enforcement agencies of our two countries can better attack the problem at every stage in the production and distribution chain. We will work with our Mexican counterparts to trace precursor chemicals destined for our region of the world, uncover and dismantle lab sites fueled by these chemicals, and track the meth distribution trail into our country, from seller to buyer. We will attack these criminals in their labs, on their trafficking routes, and in their markets.
We fully acknowledge that without the strong American demand for these toxic substances, there would be no financial incentive for Mexican organizations to continue to produce meth. These trafficking organizations combine the sophistication of a contemporary corporation with the brutality of a street gang. We will need to match them by our commitment to law-abiding and free societies and by doing a better job educating Americans about the dangers of meth.
I know that many of the domestic law enforcement officers here today are veterans in combating meth. You recognize the unique problems associated with meth, how it is produced and distributed. So you can appreciate the obstacles for Mexican law enforcement as they confront this problem in all its dimensions for the first time.
I have been impressed by the strong progress that the government of Mexico has made in recent years. For example, Mexico recently reduced the annual importation quota of pseudoephedrine products from 150 metric tons to 70 metric tons.
To build on previous accomplishments and meet these challenges, Mexico and the U.S. have developed a series of cooperative measures incorporating law enforcement, intelligence sharing, and joint training.
Both governments will establish specialized meth enforcement teams on their respective sides of the border. These DEA enforcement and intelligence teams along the border will focus on meth traffickers and organizations that transport and distribute meth as a final product.
On the Mexican side, similar teams will focus on investigating organizations that are involved in the manufacture and distribution of meth. They will also focus on trafficking in meth precursor chemicals.
The trafficking and distribution chain runs through seaports as well as across the land. The DEA, in a coordinated effort with the Customs and Border Protection Service, will take measures to detect meth and meth precursor chemicals in cargo arriving at seaports in our country. The Mexican authorities will take similar actions in their country.
These and other anti-meth initiatives will be driven by a more coordinated intelligence effort as well. The DEA and the Mexican Cenapi will share intelligence and continue to develop stronger working relationships. Such collaborative efforts will focus on investigating large-scale meth trafficking organizations that are operating in Mexico and the United States.
The Department of Justice provides methamphetamine training for law enforcement officers from Mexico and across the globe. Between now and the end of this year, we will train 1000 Mexican police. We look forward to the Fall 2006 groundbreaking of DEA’s new, state-of-the-art clandestine lab training facility at its Academy in Quantico, Virginia.
To immediately support the Mexican effort to seize and dismantle meth labs, the U.S. is donating six clandestine lab trucks and trailers for use by the Mexican teams. The lab trucks will transport equipment and personnel to clandestine laboratory sites in order to sample evidence, and dismantle and dispose of laboratory equipment, chemicals, and toxic waste. So, there is much effort underway, and plans for more, as it should be. The U.S. and Mexico share common goals. We want to be safe from terrorism, violent crime, gangs, and the dangers posed by drugs. Whatever our differences in language, culture, and, at times, opinion, we are united partners in our desire to drive the drug traffickers out of business and into jail, on both sides of our border.
I thank you all for your good work in the war on drugs, which is for me a major departmental priority. Only with your best efforts and those of the Mexican government can we hope to succeed. Based on this conference, I have every confidence we shall.