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Washington, D.C. – As the opioid crisis continues to plague communities across the country, U.S. Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL) raised the issue of Chinese precursor chemicals and fentanyl increasingly trafficked through Central America into the United States with Francisco Palmieri, nominee to be U.S. Ambassador to Honduras. Rubio’s efforts come as the Justice Department today announced a 43-count federal indictment against two Chinese nationals who were allegedly “operating a conspiracy that manufactured and shipped deadly fentanyl analogues and 250 other drugs to at least 25 countries and 37 states.”  
 
A video of the exchange is available here. A rough and partial transcript of the exchange is below:
 
Rubio: As I’ve said, I’ve continued to be a supporter of the Alliance for Prosperity and always look for ways to tailor it to the new threats. There’s a growing body of evidence that these drug trafficking networks that bring fentanyl and its pre-cursors from China and then traffic it to the United States through Mexico, because of Mexican government pressure against them, are increasingly relying on trafficking networks in Guatemala and in Honduras. And I’m not sure that the current status of the Alliance for Prosperity, which is largely geared towards cocaine trafficking and the like has fully stood up to confront this new threat.
 
I would both want to hear your comments on and perhaps your openness to committing to working on an adjustment to the Alliance for Prosperity, particularly with regards to Honduras, to help them with two things: first, to sort of identify, intercept and stop the fentanyl trafficking that might be using their networks to traffic it into the United States subsequently through Mexico. And second, potentially providing them like an incinerator, which Guatemala has, although my understanding is it’s not exactly working. We need to get it up and working again. The incinerator is used to destroy the pre-cursor chemicals that are used to create some of this. Is that an issue you’ve come across at your time in the desk of the Western Hemisphere and is that the sort of adjustments that we should constantly be looking for in our alliance assistance?
 
Palmieri: Thank you Senator, that’s exactly the kind of adaptive flexibility we should have in our own programs because we know these criminal organizations are constantly adapting and looking for new routes and new ways. I would welcome the opportunity, if confirmed and in Honduras, to work closely with you and the committee to ensure that we are helping the Hondurans attack those networks wherever they may be coming from to prevent the transshipment of fentanyl routes. And yes we have heard that as Mexico has made fentanyl a priority that they are beginning to look for other routes throughout our hemisphere to get fentanyl to the United States.

RUBIO: I am in favor of stronger border security. I am in favor of more personnel. I believe we have to have immigration laws and they need to be enforced. And I also believe that things like the Alliance for Prosperity are in some ways, in many ways, about border security by preventing the crisis to begin with. And I just hope that in your time there, if confirmed, that you will be and continue to be a strong advocate of how important this program is because there is a view among some that this is a charity program. It is in the national security interest of the United States to address these issues and if we can address it in Honduras—Guatemala too—but in Honduras, we have to spend less time and less effort on the back end to address it. That is why I think this sort of assistance is important for us to say at every forum. It’s not charity—it’s in our interests and it’s actually more cost-effective if it’s being done appropriately.