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17 December 2013

Security across Americas boosted through INTERPOL training programmes

HAVANA, Cuba – Enhancing regional cooperation in the fight against drugs and organized crime was the focus of the INTERPOL Evaluation Workshop of the Capacity Building Programmes in the Americas (11-13 December) which brought together some 30 delegates from 23 countries and territories across the Americas.

The workshop was the last in a series of activities which has seen more than 300 participants from 36 countries trained since December 2011.

The three-year programme, jointly funded by the INTERPOL General Secretariat and the Government of Canada, aimed to build regional capacity and cross-institutional operational police cooperation on organized crime.

Citing Canada’s Minister of State of Foreign Affairs, Diane Ablonczy, Canada’s Ambassador to Cuba, Yves Gagnon, underlined at the event how ‘implementing a regional approach to counter the rampant drug trade in the Americas is critical to local and international security’.

INTERPOL’s Director of Capacity Building and Training, Dale Sheehan said Canada’s support had enhanced INTERPOL’s ability to assist its member countries in the Americas identify and dismantle transnational organized crime networks.

“This programme has seen police officers across the Americas further develop their skills and capacity to boost regional cooperation to support their investigations, thereby enhancing their ability to combat crime and protect citizens,” said Mr Sheehan.

Phase one of the INTERPOL Capacity Building Programme on Organized Crime for the Americas included six training sessions between 2011 to 2013. It focused on training on organized crime, including drug and arms trafficking, money laundering, and gang crime.

Building on the findings of the initial training sessions, phase two focused on workshops and operations – including Operation Icebreaker, aimed at combating chemical precursor trafficking which saw more than 360 tonnes of chemicals, 200 kilos of methamphetamine, cocaine and LSD, and USD 2 million seized; and Operation Lionfish, which targeted the maritime trafficking of drugs and illicit firearms by organized crime groups across Central America and the Caribbean.

Lionfish involved some 34 countries and territories, and resulted in the seizure of 30 tonnes of cocaine, heroin and marijuana worth some USD 822 million, 142 arrests, the seizure of 15 vessels, eight tonnes of chemical precursors, 42 guns and approximately USD 170,000 in cash.

“The results we have seen through INTERPOL-led operations such as Icebreaker and Lionfish are further proof of the successful approach of training combined with operational exercises,” added Mr Sheehan.

The programme also provided support to INTERPOL’s  Operation Infra Americas, an initiative to assist member countries track down international fugitives linked to organized crime networks who are believed to be hiding out in Central America, Colombia, Ecuador, Peru, Venezuela or the Caribbean.

Participants at the Havana workshop included investigators from specialized police agencies; law enforcement, prosecution or customs officials from partner agencies; and officers from INTERPOL National Central Bureaus throughout the region.  With the workshop held in both Spanish and English, they discussed operational experiences and best practices, and strategies to boost international cooperation.

The formal opening was also attended by Herman Portocarero, the European Union’s Ambassador to Cuba, Cornel Rueda Soto, Head of the Central unit of Criminal Intelligence of the Cuban National Police and Paul Hilaire, Permanent Secretary of the Caribbean Customs Law Enforcement Council (CCLEC).

The countries represented at the Havana workshop were: Anguilla, Antigua and Barbuda, Bahamas, Belize, Canada, British Virgin Islands, Colombia, Cuba, Curacao, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, El Salvador, Grenada, Guatemala, Guyana, Honduras, Jamaica, Nicaragua, Panama, St Lucia, St Vincent and the Grenadines, Trinidad and Tobago, and Turks and Caicos.