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