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Western Hemisphere

OPDAT - Western Hemisphere

El Salvador
Under the President’s Partnership for Growth Initiative, OPDAT supports El Salvador’s efforts to develop law enforcement task forces to combat transnational crime. The program provides case mentoring to specialized units, which have arrested hundreds of gang members on extortion-related offenses since the inception of the program. OPDAT also provides training in homicide investigations and prosecutions, and has developed a series of trainings designed to improve case coordination and instill best practices on money laundering and asset forfeiture. In 2016, OPDAT began providing training to judges, prosecutors, and police officers in the use of proactive investigative techniques in public corruption cases. In 2017, OPDAT's support of Operation Regional Shield, a regional effort to target transnational organized crime, led to the filing of charges against over 1,000 MS-13 members.

In 2016, OPDAT began working with Guatemala to develop plea bargaining legislation, which would allow the country to address its severe case back-log and focus limited resources on the highest impact cases. The Guatemala program also includes capacity building in illicit finance, asset forfeiture, airport-related investigations, extraditions, and mutual legal assistance through case-based mentoring.

OPDAT supports Honduras through training and case based mentoring, particularly in transnational and domestic organized crime, corruption, extortion, money laundering, and homicides. Programming has included technical assistance on asset forfeiture, tax laws enforcement, and the development of an internationally-compliant anti-money laundering and terrorist financing regime. OPDAT has mentored the Honduran investigators and prosecutors responsible for some of the largest corruption, homicide, smuggling, and asset forfeiture cases in Honduran history.

The OPDAT Panama program began in 2013 to strengthen regional counterterrorism (CT) and anti-money laundering efforts through capacity building and case-based mentoring. The program supports Panama’s compliance with international anti-money laundering and combat of terrorist finance (AML-CFT) recommendations through engagement with relevant criminal justice institutions— prosecutors, investigators, judges, the financial intelligence unit, financial regulators, and customs. OPDAT also oversees efforts to develop the Panamanian law enforcement and justice sector capacity to detect, manage, and respond to the transit of Lebanese Hizballah and other Foreign Terrorist Organizations through Panama.

OPDAT has provided support to the Colombian justice sector for more than 20 years. In 2014, OPDAT streamlined it priorities to focus on institutional strengthening and specifically, the institutional training standards and best practices; practical case handling protocols; case and courtroom management and protocols; reforms to the criminal procedure code; and standardization of legal studies curricula. For example, OPDAT and Colombia successfully collaborated to devise the Early Attention to Criminal Complaints Project (Intervención Temprana), which standardized the criminal report intake process.

In support of Mexico’s 2016 transition to an accusatorial justice system, OPDAT delivers case mentoring and capacity building programs for judges, prosecutors, and investigators focusing on courtroom management, case law, trial advocacy, litigation skills, and more. Additionally, OPDAT’s specialized training delves into investigations and prosecutions in areas such as kidnapping, money laundering, and human trafficking, and has led to major arrests and extraditions in high-profile cases. OPDAT also works closely with Mexican counterparts on the legislative frameworks needed to ensure the fair, efficient, and transparent administration of justice. OPDAT successfully collaborated with Mexico on drafting its 2014 National Criminal Procedure Code, the 2014 Law of Alternative Justice, and the 2012 Witness Protection Law.

At the request of U.S. Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor, OPDAT developed the Judicial Studies Institute (JSI) in an effort to provide formalized judicial capacity building training to Latin American countries transitioning to the accusatory system. Inaugurated in 2012, JSI is implemented with the assistance, resources, and oversight of the Department of State's Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs (INL), and in coordination with the University of Puerto Rico and Interamerican University law schools in San Juan, Puerto Rico. Through a combination of academic instruction, practical exercises, and observations of court proceedings, JSI has provided training to over 400 judges from Colombia, Costa Rica, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, El Salvador, Guatemala, Haiti, Honduras, Mexico, Panama, Peru, and Uruguay.

Regional Intellectual Property Law Enforcement Coordinator for South America
In September 2016, OPDAT deployed the first Regional Intellectual Property Law Enforcement Coordinator (IPLEC) for South America. Based in the U.S. Consulate in Sao Paulo, the IPLEC provides intellectual property rights and cybercrime prosecutorial and judicial training and technical assistance to foreign law enforcement partners across the region, with the goal of increasing the prosecution of intellectual property rights violations and the seizure of counterfeit goods.

Updated January 5, 2018

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