U.S. Treasury Hails Toppling of Colombian Drug Empires

By Eric Green
USINFO Staff Writer

Washington – A new U.S. Treasury Department report credits American-Colombian cooperation with destroying drug-trafficking cartels in Colombia.

The report says the United States is using economic sanctions against major Colombian drug-trafficking organizations to disrupt and dismantle the groups’ “business empires.”  The report blames these illicit groups for much of the crime, violence and corruption that threaten the country’s stability, and describes the U.S. government’s targeting of leaders of Colombia’s Cali, North Valle, and North Coast drug cartels.

Molly Millerwise, the Treasury Department’s public affairs director, told USINFO May 15 that her agency’s Office of Foreign Assets Control, in partnership with the U.S. departments of State, Justice and Homeland Security, is denying drug lords and their businesses access to the U.S. financial sector.  The disruption of the Colombian drug cartels, she said, is part of overall U.S. success in toppling the financial empires of drug cartels worldwide.

The United States, said Millerwise, “is committed to dismantling the operations of drug cartels by exposing, isolating, and incapacitating their agents and sham companies.”

In releasing the report May 4, Treasury said its Specially Designated Narcotics Traffickers program has been extremely successful in disrupting the financial operations of Colombian drug lords and stripping the cartels of their enormous “ill-gotten” profits from drug trafficking.

The report congratulates the Colombian government for following up with its own law enforcement actions against drug organizations that are targeted for economic sanctions by the United States.

The Bush administration announced April 10 that it was releasing about $55.2 million in American aid to combat illegal armed groups, narco-traffickers and criminal organizations operating in Colombia.  (See related article.)


The White House Office of National Drug Control (ONDCP) said in a May 7 statement that Treasury’s report details how the proceeds made by Colombian drug traffickers funded “corporate empires” that both disguised the vast profits of the drug lords and provided extensive networks that “facilitated international drug operations.”

But ONDCP said the U.S. sanctions program begun in 1995 is contributing dramatically to the crumbling of the drug organizations. Since the program’s inception, sanctions have blocked, seized or caused to be forfeited more than $1 billion worth of Colombian drug-trafficker assets, said ONDCP.

With their loss of wealth, said ONDCP, these “international criminals also lost much of their ability to corrupt and intimidate.  Now within reach of justice, over the last six years more than 350 major Colombian traffickers have been extradited to the United States to face trial.”

John Walters, ONDCP’s director, said the U.S. sanctions program has “played a major role in supporting the government of Colombia's efforts to bring drug traffickers to justice and replace crime and violence” with the rule of law in the Andean country.

Walters added that Treasury’s report could prove valuable to other governments and law enforcement agencies worldwide that face their own powerful and violent international drug traffickers.

The full text of the report is available on the U.S. Treasury Department’s Web site.

For more information about U.S. counterdrug efforts in Colombia, see the full text of the International Narcotics Control Strategy Report on the State Department’s Web site.

For more on U.S. policy in the region, see Andean Region.