WASHINGTON, DC—Representative Eliot L. Engel, the leading Democrat on the House Committee on Foreign Affairs, today delivered the following remarks at a meeting of the Subcommittee on the Western Hemisphere to mark up the Western Hemisphere Drug Policy Commission Act, legislation he introduced with Subcommittee Chairman Matt Salmon (R-AZ) aimed at reducing drug trafficking in the Western Hemisphere:
“Chairman Salmon, thank you very much for holding today’s markup of the Western Hemisphere Drug Policy Commission Act. And thank you for being the lead Republican sponsor of this bill. I also appreciate Ranking Member Sires’s leadership on this Subcommittee and his cosponsorship of our bill. And as a former Chairman of this Subcommittee, I want to tell you it’s always good to be back.
“This legislation would create an independent commission to evaluate U.S. policies aimed at reducing drug production and trafficking in the Western Hemisphere. The Commission will be required to submit recommendations on future U.S. drug policy to Congress, the Secretary of State, and the Director of the Office of National Drug Control Policy 12 months after its first meeting.
“A similar bill which I authored passed the House of Representatives unanimously in 2009. It didn’t pass the Senate. That’s why we’re here. I am determined to bring this bill across the finish line and to the President’s desk this time around.
“With $15.7 billion spent on counternarcotics programs in Latin America and the Caribbean between 1980 and 2012, it is important to take stock of what has worked, what has not worked, and what future U.S. drug policy should look like.
“While billions of taxpayer dollars have been spent over the years to fight the drug trade, illegal drug use in our country remains high. In particular, I am concerned by the dramatic increase in heroin use in our country. Attorney General Eric Holder recently noted that heroin overdose deaths in the United States increased by an alarming 45 percent between 2006 and 2010.
“On the supply side, nearly all cocaine consumed in the United States originates in South America, while most heroin consumed here is from Colombia and Mexico. And Central America and the Caribbean are key transit regions for drugs entering our country. I am particularly concerned that the drug trade has shifted back to the Caribbean with 16 percent of cocaine imports into the United States coming through the Caribbean last year compared to four percent in 2011.
“To tackle our nation’s horrific drug problem once and for all, we must have a better sense of what works and what does not work. Our partners in the Americas who have worked closely with us in fighting drug trafficking for years, and the citizens of our great country, who deal every day with illegal drugs on their streets, deserve no less.
“So in closing, I’d like to once again thank Chairman Salmon for holding this morning’s markup, and I urge my colleagues to support this bipartisan legislation. Thank you.”
Watch Rep. Engel's Opening Statement Here