General: Budget cuts will hamper drug seizures

LOLITA C. BALDOR Associated Press Published:

WASHINGTON (AP) -- The top U.S. commander in South America says budget cuts will dramatically slash U.S. efforts to seize illegal drug shipments at sea, reducing the number of ships at his disposal for counter-drug operations from about six to possibly zero.

The head of U.S. Southern Command, Gen. John Kelly, says that U.S. forces seized 150 to 200 tons of cocaine last year. If the automatic budget cuts stand, Kelly says, no cocaine might be seized.

Kelly says the top three areas of cocaine production are Peru, Bolivia and Colombia, and as much as 20 percent of the cocaine moving through South America ends up in the United States. Large amounts also travel across the ocean into Africa, providing funding for insurgents and drug traffickers, and then on up into Europe.