On April 1, President Trump launched a historic counternarcotics operation to target drug traffickers and disrupt the flow of illicit drugs to the United States. The narco-traffickers targeted include members of the illegitimate, thuggish regime of Nicolás Maduro and the Cartel de los Soles (“Cartel of the Suns”) in Venezuela.
The president and his national-security team weren’t going to allow these traffickers to take advantage of the Wuhan-virus pandemic to profit from moving illicit drugs into the United States.
A growing share of the drugs destined for the United States from South America now transits freely in Venezuela. Adm. Craig Faller, head of US Southern Command, called the country a “paradise” for drug traffickers.
To crack down against the drug traffickers, the president sent significant military and law-enforcement assets to the Caribbean and Eastern Pacific. Southern Command now boasts 16 ships and 19 aircraft in the fight. This surge of forces increases our surveillance aircraft and patrol ships by 60 percent and 78 percent, respectively.
The enhanced operation is a “whole-of-government” effort, marshaling resources from the Departments of Defense, Justice and Homeland Security, as well as the Coast Guard, Customs and Border Protection, Immigration and Customs Enforcement and the Drug Enforcement Administration.
Since the operation began, the United States has interdicted more than 84 metric tons of cocaine and marijuana. One thousand drug-trafficking suspects have been arrested; several of them were pulled from cartel-built mini-submarines. The success of this operation has resulted in more than $3 billion in lost revenue to the cartels and to the Maduro regime.
The United States has also called upon, and received, assistance from 22 partner nations, notably including Colombia, Ecuador, Honduras and El Salvador, countries that suffer grievously from cartels and the malign influence of the Maduro regime.
In Operation ORION V, a parallel Colombian-led and US-supported operation, 50 metric tons of illicit drugs were seized and 72 labs in Colombia were destroyed. Last month, the Honduran military, armed with US intelligence, seized 800 kilograms of cocaine loaded on a private jet from Venezuela. On July 26, in Guatemala, ICE and Homeland Security Investigations seized more than 2,100 kilograms of cocaine and a Gulfstream III jet from Venezuela.
The president is resolute in his commitment to protecting the American people and the homeland from the scourge of deadly drugs. Our law-enforcement and military deployments in the Caribbean and Eastern Pacific are ongoing and will continue as long as is necessary.
The United States will also continue its maximum-pressure campaign until the corrupt Maduro regime’s illegitimate hold over Venezuela is broken. Under Maduro’s Marxist rule, Venezuela, once one of the region’s fruit baskets, has become one of the poorest countries in Latin America and the third most food insecure nation in world, behind Afghanistan and Yemen.
The average daily income of a Venezuelan is 72 cents, which isn’t enough to purchase daily food. This grinding poverty is a result of a socialist experiment in a country that is home to one of the largest oil reserves in the world — a grim irony.
To compensate for this humanitarian calamity, Maduro has been using narcotics trafficking as a financial lifeline. Drugs help prop up his illegitimate regime. But our president won’t let him succeed. He has imposed sanctions on Maduro and more than 100 complicit individuals, entities and aircraft to thwart Maduro’s efforts.
President Trump stands with Interim President Juan Guaidó and the Venezuelan people. Nearly 60 countries also recognize Guaidó, while China, Russia, Cuba and Iran notably continue to support Maduro’s repression of the Venezuelan people.
To assist the people of Venezuela, the United States has provided more than $856 million in humanitarian and development aid, including nearly $611 million in humanitarian assistance, to Venezuelans suffering inside Venezuela and across 16 neighboring countries.
Americans can rest assured that under President Trump’s leadership, our military and law-enforcement agencies will continue to intercept illegal narcotics bound for our shores. This fight will continue through the pandemic, and the administration will continue to put maximum pressure on one of the drug trade’s biggest facilitators — Maduro’s Venezuela.
Simply put, President Trump and the United States will not tolerate a drug-safe zone in our hemisphere.
Robert O’Brien is national security adviser to President Trump
Source: New York Post
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