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Strategic Drug Threat Developments

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HIDTA Overview

The PR/USVI HIDTA region consists of the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico and the island archipelago of the USVI, which encompasses St. Croix, St. John, St. Thomas, and several other, smaller islands. The HIDTA region was established to combat the transshipment of illicit drugs from South America through Puerto Rico and the USVI to the CONUS and to target the distribution of illicit drugs within the region.

The PR/USVI HIDTA region is located between South America and the CONUS, along established drug trafficking routes in the eastern Caribbean. It is a U.S. arrival zone for illicit drugs transported from South America, particularly cocaine destined for U.S. drug markets. Moreover, as U.S. territories, Puerto Rico and the USVI represent the southernmost point of entry into the United States for people and goods; shipping from the islands to other parts of the United States is considered to be coastwise trade, and U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) officials do not routinely inspect such cargo. Consequently, the HIDTA region is a convenient transshipment and consolidation point for drug traffickers who smuggle cocaine and SA heroin into the CONUS. Additionally, large quantities of illicit drugs transported from South America are transshipped from the PR/USVI HIDTA region to drug markets in other areas, such as Africa, Canada, and Europe.

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Drug Threat Overview

The trafficking and abuse of cocaine into and through Puerto Rico and the USVI is the greatest drug threat to the region. Most of the cocaine transported to the HIDTA is destined for drug markets in the CONUS and other areas, such as Africa, Canada, and Europe; however, sizable portions of cocaine shipments transiting the area are often set aside by traffickers for local distribution. The amount of cocaine seized by Puerto Rican law enforcement officials almost tripled from 1,544 kilograms in 2006 to 4,414 kilograms in 2007 (the latest full year for which such data are available) according to Federal-wide Drug Seizure System (FDSS) data. Powder cocaine is commonly abused in Puerto Rico and the USVI; profit potential from the drug's distribution fuels a violent competition between drug traffickers in the area.

Heroin distribution and abuse are significant threats to the HIDTA region. Traffickers transport wholesale quantities of SA heroin into Puerto Rico, almost exclusively into San Juan, by means of commercial air directly from either Colombia or Venezuela or by maritime conveyances from Colombia through the Dominican Republic--most of this heroin is further transported to drug markets in the CONUS and other markets in Africa, Canada, and Europe. Additionally, some traffickers who transport wholesale quantities of SA heroin to the CONUS break the heroin into retail lots after arriving in the CONUS. Most is left for distribution in CONUS drug markets; however, some is transported by the traffickers back to the HIDTA region for local distribution and abuse. Moreover, from 2002 through 2006 more individuals were admitted for the treatment of heroin abuse at publicly funded facilities in Puerto Rico than were admitted for the treatment of cocaine (smoked and by other routes of administration) or marijuana.

Marijuana is a serious threat, while other dangerous drugs (ODDs), primarily MDMA (3,4-methylenedioxymethamphetamine, also known as ecstasy), pharmaceutical drugs, and methamphetamine, pose a low threat to the PR/USVI HIDTA region. Marijuana is widely available in the HIDTA region; most is produced in Mexico. Mexican marijuana destined for the region is typically smuggled by Mexican traffickers through the southwestern United States into Puerto Rico and the USVI. Some marijuana available in the HIDTA region, including high-potency marijuana, is produced from cannabis cultivated in Puerto Rico and the USVI--the production of high-potency, hydroponically grown marijuana is increasing in the region. ODDs, primarily MDMA, and pharmaceutical drugs such as oxycodone and hydrocodone are also distributed and abused in the region, but to a lesser extent than cocaine, heroin, or marijuana. Methamphetamine is not produced in the HIDTA region; distribution and abuse of the drug rarely occur.

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