Chris Bryant: We can't afford to let up in the fight against drug-traffickers

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The Independent Online

Last week the Royal Navy frigate HMS Iron Duke intercepted a fishing boat off the coast of South America and seized cocaine worth an estimated £240m, Britain's largest cocaine seizure to date.

I know there are some who oppose every element of our ongoing efforts to tackle drugs. They say trying to disrupt the traffic through Colombia, Venezuela and Peru is misguided and the way we do things, especially in Colombia, is wrong. They think Britain should not be involved.

I can't agree.

I know from my constituency in South Wales that drugs – even so-called recreational drugs like cocaine – destroy lives.

In the year I was elected, 2001, seven young people died because of drugs in just one weekend. Drugs bring crime and violence to otherwise peaceful communities. It makes people feel helpless and afraid in their own home towns.

But let's not kid ourselves. Consumers in Britain help create the demand, are part of the problem and we have a duty to help.

The drugs trade in Latin America is a big and violent business. Cartels battle for local control and ordinary members of the public are mown down in the crossfire. That is why we must continue to working with Latin American Governments to tackle the corruption and stop the violence. That is why I am visiting Latin America this week to see for myself the work that we do.

The struggle against traffickers is tough. But it has to be fought and it has to be fought within the law and not outside it.

That is why we never commission or condone enforcement action that we would not tolerate in Britain. I insist that those with whom we work never respond in kind to the sort of human rights abuses that drugs traffickers mete out to the communities they trample over.

The drug traffic in Latin America is a vast law enforcement challenge. But smart law enforcement work with the co-operation of governments in producer and transit countries – but with an eagle eye on human rights – can make a significant impact on the trade and reduce the harm drugs do to some of Britain's most vulnerable communities.

Chris Bryant MP is Foreign Office Minister

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