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#421388 - 11/09/11 01:41 PM US DEA commandos operating in Belize
Marty Offline
Amandala has been able to confirm via an official statement that was issued by Thomas M. Harrigan, Assistant Administrator and Chief of Operations of the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) on May 25, 2011, before the Senate Caucus on International Narcotics Control at a hearing on US and Central America Security Cooperation, that indeed, as is being widely reported today in international circles, a military-type faction of the DEA which was initially set up to target Afghanistan has been deployed in Belize.

A February 2007 US DEA memo from Douglas N. Biales, Chief Executive Policy and Strategic Planning Staff, Office of the Deputy Administrator, said that, “In April 2005, DEA established the Foreign-deployed Advisory Support Team (FAST) as a key tool for DEA to advance its workforce and capabilities in Afghanistan and to partner with and train the newly created Afghanistan National Interdiction Unit to identify, target, investigate, and disrupt or dismantle drug trafficking organizations.”

Harrigan said, however, when he appeared before the US Senate, that: “Due to the success of FAST in Afghanistan and the unique capabilities of the FAST teams, they have been deployed for mission support in Guatemala, Honduras, Belize, and Panama in support of DFAS [Drug Flow Attack Strategy].”

He said that in Belize and the other countries, “FAST has not only worked significant high-level investigations and interdiction operations, in coordination with host nation law enforcement, but they have also trained host nation counterparts to operate with FAST.”

A widely circulated New York Times report published Sunday, November 6, was more specific on the FAST deployment, saying that the DEA has deployed 5 commando-style squads to Haiti, Honduras, the Dominican Republic, Guatemala and Belize to battle drug cartels.

The FAST program, said the news report, began its expansion in 2008 under Bush but has been continued under the Obama administration as a global militarized arm of the DEA.

“In recent years, [FAST] has expanded far beyond the war zone into a global enforcement arm, blurring the line between the war on drugs and the war on terrorism,” said the New York Times report.

Belize Police Minister Doug Singh told Amandala that indeed there are DEA agents operating covertly in Belize, but he does not know of anyone having been deployed here under the FAST program. He surmised that perhaps FAST officers “could very well be some of the CARSI [Central American Regional Security Initiative] trainers that come in...”
Singh said that whereas he is aware of a DEA presence in Belize, he was not informed that the special FAST faction of the DEA has been operating in Belize, but, he said, that does not mean that they do not exist here.

Amandala understands that Belize police officials recently protested to US officials about a covert US DEA undercover operation attempted in northern Belize, in which they attempted to do a control drop without informing Belize security officials.

“There are DEA agents in Belize,” said Singh, adding that they are undercover and operate with the Anti Drug Unit (ADU). “They very well might be part of that [FAST] group.”

He said that the DEA generally do not operate in special outfits here in Belize to make themselves visible to the public.

“Some of the DEA are Creole-looking fellows. You’d think they are Jamaicans,” he said.

The major drug bust on the Southern Highway in Belize last November was said to have been made with the help of US DEA agents in Belize. Singh did confirm their involvement, indicating that DEA agents informed Belizean military that the drug plane (later found to have been used in the transshipment of over a hundred million dollars of Colombian cocaine) was about to land; however, said Singh, the police, alerted by locals, made it to the scene first.

A 2009 Department of Justice fact sheet, “Fighting Criminal Activity on the US Southern Border,” explained that a multi-million-dollar expansion of the FAST program was required “...to establish 2 additional teams for the Western Hemisphere and funding to deploy them for up to 6 months annually.”

It also said that the teams also operate in South America and the Caribbean, “where drugs flowing to the United States are produced or transited.”

According to Harrigan, “A small percentage of drugs are trafficked, usually through commercial aircraft by courier or cargo, directly from Central America towards the United States, skipping Mexico entirely. Once loads have been brought into Central America by initial maritime or air methods, they are often stockpiled or stored before being trafficked up the isthmus toward Guatemala and Belize for onward transport into Mexico.”

In its 2012 budget, the DEA also documents that it “has worked with Central American countries that are associated with either the clandestine manufacture of methamphetamine (destined to the U.S.) or are transit countries for the smuggling of pseudoephedrine (PSE) used to manufacture methamphetamine.”

Amandala

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#421400 - 11/09/11 02:33 PM Re: US DEA commandos operating in Belize [Re: Marty]
Marty Offline

DEA FAST Agents in region, but not Belize

Belize has been clearly linked by many international organizations as a transshipment point for drugs heading from South America to the United States. The latest article written about this major problem appeared in the New York Times on Monday. The article called “D.E.A. Squads Extends Reach of Drug War” refers to a drug plane incident in Honduras during which an elite detachment of military-trained D.E.A. special agents joined in a shootout. The program called FAST, for Foreign Deployed Advisory Support Team began in the George W. Bush administration to investigate Taliban linked drug traffickers in Afghanistan. But during the Obama administration the scope has been widened to include Central America. The New York Times article lists Belize as one of the countries involved with the paramilitary style D.E.A. FAST group. But according to Minister of Police Doug Singh, FAST is slow because it has not reached Belize.

Via Phone: Doug Singh, Minister of Police

Doug Singh

“We have actually advocated some investigation to get the record straight. We were confidently advised that no teams, no DEA commando teams etcetera, have been in operation with any unit of the police department—not with the anti drug unit, etcetera; so we are certain on that.”

Jose Sanchez

“When that drug plane landed on the southern highway, there were some unconfirmed reports that it was the DEA that initiated the contact to inform the police of the plane landing. Is that true or not?”

Via Phone: Doug Singh

“That is generally though; that is via the surveillance that is done through Florida with the radar where they would advise that there is the possibility of a plane that landed in Belize and more or less where the region is. But the first responders were the B.D.F. who were advised. And the actual first person on the scene who actually intercept someone was actually the police station at Bella Vista Village; the corporal from Bella Vista along with a special constable there. So there were no DEA per say involved in that investigation.”

Jose Sanchez

“To clarify, there are DEA agents, but not the types that are referred to in the article?”

Via Phone: Doug Singh

“Yes there are representatives of the DEA in Belize, but certainly not what is being suggested in that article that we are aware of. I will go one step further, we contacted the DEA office in Belize at the embassy and they confirmed that there has been no such operation in Belize. So I am not sure where the direction of the article. I can only go by what I’m told.”

Jose Sanchez

“If that would happen in the future, that is something that the government would be kept abreast of and you yourself would be aware of right?”

Via Phone: Doug Singh

“Well certainly we would expect to be made aware of it. If there are any joint operations it would have to happen with our consent and we would have to be involved at different levels so absolutely.”

Channel 5


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#421755 - 11/12/11 02:05 PM Re: US DEA commandos operating in Belize [Re: Marty]
Marty Offline

Did DEA Chief of Ops, Harrigan, misinform the US Senate on Belize operations?

As our newspaper reported to you in our midweek edition, there are international reports being widely circulated that teams from an elite detachment of military-trained special agents of the United States Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) have been “quietly” deployed to Belize and other countries in Central America, in support of the US’s drug control strategy in the region.

When we spoke with Belize Police Minister Doug Singh about this on Monday, he told our newspaper that he was unaware that such deployments from the DEA’s Foreign-Deployed Advisory and Support Teams (FAST) had been made to Belize.

Today, Wednesday, Singh told Amandala that he has since spoken with Daktor Holguin, the attaché for the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), who is among the US Embassy officials in Belize, and he said that there are no FAST agents in Belize, although other DEA agents do work in the country.

Singh said that Daktor told him that if there are any FAST agents in Belize, he would know because they would have to come through the Embassy in Belize.

Singh also told us that he has checked with personnel of the Anti-Drug Unit of the Police Department, as well as the Belize Defence Force, and they have said that they have not been involved in any FAST operations in Belize.

The claim that Daktor has made to Singh contrasts sharply with a formal statement made by the US DEA’s Chief of Operations, Thomas M. Harrigan, who is also the DEA’s Assistant Administrator. Harrigan testified before the Senate Caucus on International Narcotics Control United States Senate at a hearing entitled “U.S. – Central America Security Cooperation” on May 25, 2011.

In his testimony Harrigan said: “Due to the success of FAST [Foreign-Deployed Advisory and Support Teams] in Afghanistan and the unique capabilities of the FAST teams, they have been deployed for mission support in Guatemala, Honduras, Belize, and Panama in support of DFAS” — the Drug Flow Attack Strategy, the United States Government’s present strategy in Central America.

As for the disparity between the claims made by Daktor and Harrigan, Singh told us that he could not speak on that.

“As DEA Chief of Operations, Special Agent Thomas M. Harrigan is responsible for leading the worldwide drug enforcement operations of the agency’s 227 domestic and 87 foreign offices, as well as the Special Operations Division, the Aviation Division, and the Office of Diversion Control. He was appointed to this position in 2008 and is a principal advisor to the DEA Administrator on all enforcement-related matters,” said the US Department of Justice in a detailed bio of the agent.

In his article first publicizing the FAST presence in Central America, The New York Times’ Charlie Savage notes: “Because the presence of armed Americans on their soil raises sensitivities about sovereignty, some countries that have sought the assistance of the United States will not acknowledge it, and the DEA is reluctant to disclose the details of the commando teams’ deployments.”

For its part, the New York Times broadly cited “documents and interviews with law enforcement officials” and did not specifically identify the source of their information; but during our searches, Amandala was able to access the key official source that had made the same assertion, that FAST agents have been deployed to Belize.

We sourced Harrigan’s statement on the US Department of Justice’s website at this link: http://www.justice.gov/dea/speeches/110525_ca_security_cooperation.pdf, which also lists Belize among the nations to which FAST teams have been deployed.

Savage’s November 6, 2011 article titled, “D.E.A. Squads Extend Reach of Drug War,” said that support for a Honduran anti-drug operation this March, which left one Honduran officer injured and two alleged drug traffickers dead, allegedly consisted of FAST commandos, “...who joined in the shootout, according to a person familiar with the episode.”

An article published by Honduras Weekly on Monday points out that Savage quotes former Honduran Minister of Security Oscar Álvarez, as saying, “I don’t want to say it was Vietnam-style, but it was typical of war action.”

Singh has confirmed that US DEA agents had also been in connection with Belizean security forces to inform them the drug plane that was busted last November on the Southern Highway had landed in Belize. That landing yielded a historic bust valued at over $100 million. Singh has claimed, however, that whereas the DEA info was passed to the Belize Defence Force, it was Stann Creek police, tipped off by people living in the area, who got to the scene first.

Amandala


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#422084 - 11/15/11 02:47 PM Re: US DEA commandos operating in Belize [Re: Marty]
Marty Offline
Police Minister Douglas Singh denies US Commando presence in Belize

An article in the New York Times suggests that the United States Drug Enforcement Agency (D.E.A.) may have deployed drug enforcement Commando-type soldiers to Belize.

On Sunday, November 6, The N.Y. Times, in its “Americas” section, ran a story captioned “D.E.A. Squads Extend Reach of Drug War.”

The article stated:“The D.E.A. now has five commando-style squads it has been quietly deploying for the past several years to Western Hemisphere nations - including Haiti, Honduras, the Dominican Republic, Guatemala and Belize - that are battling drug cartels, according to documents and interviews with law enforcement officials.”

The commando-style squad the New York Times article referred to is a group that was formed during the administration of U.S. president George W. Bush, under a program known as FAST, for Foreign-deployed Advisory Support Team.

FAST was first deployed in war- torn Afghanistan to investigate Taliban drug smuggling operations.

In 2008, the program was expanded, and it now continues under President Barrack Obama, the Times said.

In Belize, Police Minister Douglas Singh categorically denied that there has been any deployment from the FAST program to Belize.

“There has been no FAST of D.E.A. Commando group that has worked with the Belize Police or otherwise,” Singh told The Reporter.

He added that there have been no D.E.A. operations in Belize.

But the reality is that Belize has recently been identified as a major transshipment point for Colombian cocaine on its way to the United States, and the United States has recently donated patrol boats worth $8 million to the Belize Coast Guard.

The N.Y. Times story pointed out that there are sovereignty issueswhich may arise, and some countries are unwilling to acknowledge the presence of the D.E.A. commandos on their territory.

“Because the presence of armed Americans on their soil raises sensitivities about sovereignty, some countries that have sought the assistance of the United States will not acknowledge it, and the D.E.A. is reluctant to disclose the details of the commando teams’ deployments.

“Others - like Mexico, which has accepted American help, including surveillance drones - have not wanted the commando squads,” the N.Y. Times said.

The Reporter has unofficial confirmation, however, that the Americans have some kind of military presence in Belize.

People in Orange Walk reported an incident where a charity group had received local permission to use the Orange Walk toll bridge facility to solicit donations for its cause.

The group took up a position in or near the toll bridge hut one weekend and hoisted the barrier chain to bring traffic to a halt.

The group was careful to explain that it was not charging toll, but was soliciting donations for its charitable work

While the group was soliciting donations from people in one vehicle, an American soldier drove up. He had a pistol on each hip and he ordered the occupants of the toll hut to lower the chain and leave. He told them they had no legal authority to do what they were doing.

The occupants of the hut packed up and left.

Eyewitnesses swear that the soldier was American and that he was openly carrying sidearms.

The Reporter

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