SOUTHCOM Nominee Weighs in on Drug War

Demand for cocaine in the United States is the “real problem” in the war on that illegal drug, Marine Corps Lt. Gen. John Kelly, nominee to command US Southern Command, told the Senate Armed Services Committee on July 19. The demand is “huge, it’s astronomical,” said Kelly during his confirmation hearing. He said “huge amounts” of cocaine—some 1,000 tons or so—leave South America each year and work their way via land and sea routes on the northward journey to the United States. “Only 500 or 600 tons get through, but that 500 or 600 tons [are] spread across America to every community, every city, and it costs us dearly. The human capital alone is outrageous,” explained Kelly. He estimated that cocaine use costs the United States nearly $200 billion per year in lost productivity, law enforcement, and rehabilitation. While demand “is where the problem starts,” Kelly also thinks addressing the demand is “where the solution is.” Included in SOUTHCOM’s portfolio of activities are counternarcotics efforts with partner nations in Latin America. (Kelly’s responses to advance questions)