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Tuesday, 31 May 2011 13:39

Feinstein, Grassley Release Senate Caucus on Int'l Narcotics Control Report on Mexico

Senators Urge Congress and Administration to use report as a blueprint for cooperation with Mexico to combat drug trafficking

Washington, DC – May 25, 2011 - U.S. Senators Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) and Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa), co-chairs of the Senate Caucus on International Narcotics Control, today released a report outlining key steps and initiatives to combat Mexico’s brutal drug trafficking organizations and reduce violence in the country.

The report, U.S. and Mexican Responses to Mexican Drug Trafficking Organizations, is endorsed by all seven Members of the Senate Caucus on International Narcotics Control and makes several recommendations for the U.S. government.  The report synthesizes information gathered through a country visit, briefings, interviews, and a review of documents from both government and non-government subject matter experts.

“The United States provides counternarcotics assistance throughout the world, but our security partnership with Mexico is unique since we share a 1,969 mile border,” said Senator Feinstein.

 

“What happens in Mexico has a deep impact on the United States and the reciprocal is also true. Today, U.S. – Mexico ties are stronger than ever, and we must take advantage of this historic moment by continuing to deepen our security partnership with Mexico,” continued Feinstein. “I urge my colleagues in Congress and members of the Obama Administration to read this report and use it as a blueprint for future cooperation with Mexico to combat drug trafficking.”

 

“The drug trade has long been associated with violence, but the recent escalation has been unprecedented. Stopping this violence will take cooperation from those of us on both sides of the border,” Senator Grassley said. "And, while more work needs to be done in this area, this report can be a guide as we move forward and work to curb the drug trade and the violence associated with it.”

Findings and recommendations of the report include:

Money Laundering

  • The report calls on the Obama Administration to do more to starve Mexico’s drug trafficking organizations of the money that fuels them.  Specifically, it urges the Obama Administration to immediately make pre-paid gift and credit cards – known as stored value – subject to cross-border reporting requirements.

Stored value is not subject to any cross-border reporting requirements.  This means that an individual crossing from the United States into Mexico with thousands of dollars on pre-paid cards is not required to declare these cards at the border.

Mérida Initiative

  • The report calls on the State Department to expedite the delivery of air assets to Mexico under the Mérida Initiative, a security assistance program that includes air assets, other equipment and training.
  • It also recommends that the State Department quickly develop performance measures for the Mérida Initiative and provide these metrics to Congress.  A multi-year timeline should be developed with targets in several areas, including equipment delivery, judicial and police reform, and state capacity to respond to drug trafficking organizations.

The U.S. government has provided vital security assistance to Mexico, including 11 helicopters – eight Bell 412 helicopters for the Mexican military and three Blackhawk helicopters for the country’s federal police.  Six more Blackhawk helicopters are still in the pipeline.

Justice Reform

  • The report concludes that in order to have long-term success in combating organized crime, much-needed judicial reforms must be implemented throughout Mexico.

According to data from the Mexican government, 1.55 percent of suspected crimes in Mexico result in convictions.  By comparison, the U.S. federal courts logged a 90.3 percent conviction rate in FY 2008.

The report recommends that judicial sector training be proactively offered by the United States through the Mérida Initiative to each Mexican state that requests it.  This should include specific training on oral trial topics, such as evidence, opening and closing statements, direct and cross examination and objections.

Southbound Inspections

  • The report asks the Departments of Justice and Homeland Security to conduct and submit to Congress an assessment of immediate infrastructure and staffing needs at the Southwest border – including important tools like License Plate Readers – and activities and resources by the Mexican Government to stand-up southbound inspections on the Mexican side of the border.

Border Tunnels

  • The report calls on Congress to pass legislation to enhance the 2007 law that criminalizes the financing, construction and use of border tunnels.  The legislation proposed in the report would increase prosecutorial options by criminalizing conspiracy to use, construct or finance a border tunnel.  The Caucus also recommends that illegal tunneling be included as an offense eligible for Title III wire interception.

Cross-Border Kidnappings

  • The Caucus’s report calls on the FBI to develop and sponsor a vetted unit with trusted Mexican counterparts who have the expertise to conduct investigations of the kidnappings of U.S. citizens.

The entire report can be found here:  U.S. and Mexican Responses to Mexican Drug Trafficking Organizations

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SEC approves whistleblower rules

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Sen. Chuck Grassley of Iowa helped to enact provisions beefing up the Securities and Exchange Commission’s treatment of whistleblowers.  Earlier, Grassley was the Senate author of the 1986 whistleblower amendments to the federal False Claims Act, which has become one of the government’s most powerful tools against fraud.  He also was key to improving the IRS’ whistleblower office.  He made the following comment on the SEC’s approval today of new rules giving whistleblowers incentives to come forward about financial fraud.

“In general, there’s a long history of retaliation against whistleblowers.  To come forward, they need protection and independence from the operation that’s potentially doing wrong.   The SEC took a step in the right direction today.  A whistleblower might prevent the next Madoff.   Twenty years ago, the Justice Department resisted whistleblowers.  Since then, whistleblowers have helped the department recover $28 billion that otherwise would have been lost to fraud.  More recently, there was a lot of skepticism about beefing up the IRS’ whistleblower incentives.  That office recently recovered $20 million for the taxpayers in the first reward under the new set-up.  Both of these programs faced some of the same criticisms facing the SEC program but the concerns were overstated.   Now, the SEC needs to break away from its past of resisting whistleblowers.  It needs to make sure whistleblowers are taken seriously and that their complaints are given the attention needed to prevent fraud.”

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Grassley Elicits Confirmation of Risk to U.S. Market Share Over Korea Trade Agreement Delay

WASHINGTON -- May 25, 2011 - In response to a question from Sen. Chuck Grassley, a top U.S. trade official confirmed today that U.S. agricultural producers are indeed at risk of losing valuable market share in Korea to the European Union because the United States has not implemented its pending Free Trade Agreement with Korea, and the European Union has implemented such an agreement.  The White House and congressional allies continue to move the goal posts on the necessary conditions for implementing pending trade agreements, to the detriment of U.S. producers.

The exchange occurred at a hearing of the Finance Committee, with jurisdiction over international trade.  Grassley is a senior member and former chairman and ranking member of the committee.

A video clip is available here.

The text of a Senate floor speech Grassley delivered today on the value of trade agreements is available here.

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