Mike Pence: Coast Guard cadets will be on ‘front lines’ against drug smugglers, cartels
Vice President Mike Pence told graduating cadets at the U.S. Coast Guard Academy Wednesday that they’ll serve on the front lines of President Trump’s battle against drug smugglers, illegal immigrants, criminal cartels and terrorist groups operating mainly from Latin America.
Speaking at the academy’s 137th commencement exercise in New London, Connecticut, Mr. Pence said national-security threats to Americans are increasingly “local,” originating in the Western Hemisphere.
“A tragic case in point is the ongoing collapse of Venezuela at the hands of the dictator Nicolas Maduro,” Mr. Pence said. “It’s been attracting drug cartels from organized crime groups from across the world. For many of them, the United States is the number one target to export their drugs, their weapons, even terrorists.”
Mr. Trump on Monday called on Venezuela to hold “free and fair elections” after Maduro was reelected in widely condemned balloting. The president slapped new economic sanctions on Venezuela aimed at preventing U.S. citizens from being involved in the sale of Venezuelan oil and other assets.
The vice president also said the border region connecting Brazil, Argentina and Paraguay “has long been a haven for criminal networks with close ties to terrorist groups around the world, including Hezbollah.”
“In recent years that region has grown into a major hub for money laundering, human trafficking, drug trafficking,” Mr. Pence said. “You, the men and women of the United States Coast Guard, will be on the front line to stop these threats and protect the American people. And we know you will do your duty.”
Mr. Pence highlighted the administration’s “historic investment in the armed forces,” which he said includes $12 billion for the Coast Guard to rebuild its fleet, including 25 new offshore patrol cutters.
“I promise you, this commander in chief will always have your back,” he said.
He also praised the service branch for its response to three hurricanes that hit the U.S. last summer, pointing out that about 20,000 Coast Guard members deployed in the rescue and relief efforts.
“For all that was swept away by these catastrophic storms … the loss of life and property would have been much worse if not for the courage and bravery of the men and women of the United States Coast Guard,” Mr. Pence said.
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