Florida Congresswoman Pushes ONDCP to Crack Down on Drug Trade in Puerto Rico, Virgin Islands

Last week, the U.S. House passed the Financial Services and General Government Appropriations Act which brings in language from a Central Florida congresswoman to battle the drug trade in Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands.

The appropriations bill contains language proposed by U.S. Rep. Stephanie Murphy, D-Fla., and U.S. Rep. Jenniffer González-Colón, R-PR, directing the Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP) to update the Caribbean Border Counternarcotics Strategy which was last published in 2015.

“Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands—the United States’ Caribbean border—have long been exploited as both a destination and a transshipment point for illicit drugs shipped to the mainland, endangering the lives of Americans in the two territories and the continental U.S. In the report language, the House Appropriations Committee expresses concerns regarding narcotics trafficking and related violence in the two territories, home to approximately 3.3 million American citizens, and the effect such illicit activities have on U.S. States, especially communities along the eastern seaboard like Florida,” Murphy’s office noted.

“To address these threats, the House Appropriations Committee directed ONDCP in 2014 to publish a biennial Caribbean Border Counternarcotics Strategy,” the Central Florida congresswoman’s office added. “In January 2015, ONDCP published the first such strategy, articulating the U.S. framework for reducing the threats associated with drugs in Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands. However, ONDCP has not updated the document since, despite the congressional requirement that it be published every two years. By contrast, the National Southwest Border Counternarcotics Strategy was most recently updated in 2016.”

Reps. González-Colón and Murphy proposed language having the ONDCP publish an updated Caribbean Border Counternarcotics Strategy which will be includes it the National Drug Control Strategy.

“As the United States moves to secure its borders, it is imperative that we confront the threats posed by criminal and drug trafficking organizations in Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands, the only two U.S. jurisdictions geographically located within the transit zone. The Caribbean Border Counternarcotics Strategy will help us achieve just that by delineating the federal government’s framework for reducing drug-related threats in the region,” said González-Colón.

“We need a clear strategy to combat the threat from criminal networks that use Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands as a transit route to the mainland U.S. As communities in Florida and across the country continue to be devastated by drug abuse and drug-related violence, this bipartisan effort will ensure we have a coordinated approach to combat drug trafficking,” said Murphy.

For her part, González-Colón was happy to work across the aisle with the Central Florida Democrat.

“I thank Congresswoman Murphy for her support on the efforts to fight crime and achieve state and federal tools to address these threats. My priority since day one has been working on the approval and requirement of specific strategies to combat the illegal drug trafficking in Puerto Rico and guarantee the public safety of the citizens of the island. Today we add this new achievement that we trust will be approved in the Senate,” she said.

 

Reach Kevin Derby at kevin.derby@floridadaily.com.

 

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