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An insider's view of drug trafficking

Posted on Thursday, September 17, 2009

A "typical" day in the life of an intern at the Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs (INL) at the Department of State in Washington, D.C., is actually far from typical. Sure, there are commonplace duties: photocopying, note-taking, and e-mailing. But when you're at the INL, even photocopying is a matter of national security. And, of course, you're helping eradicate illegal drug trafficking across the Western Hemisphere while you're at it.

Every day on the job began with a positive attitude and concluded with personal gratification for Elaine Aguasvivas '10. She spent those days, among other things, searching newspapers for the latest updates on drug seizures and cash smuggling, securing classified information, writing memos to the Assistant Secretary, creating Microsoft Excel charts providing a country-specific budget breakdown, or attending Merida Initiative Budget Core Group meetings.

"My internship never got dull, never boring," she says. "One of the coolest projects I was responsible for was the transmittal of pending funds from the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) to INL for the enhancement of Costa Rica's communication system for more effective drug interdiction. The funds had an expiration date and I was accountable for completing this time-sensitive transfer in only four days.  I met with officials within my bureau for their review and so that the document could go forward to DEA and the transfer effectuated. It was enormously rewarding to have met the specified deadline," she reflects.

Every Thursday, Aguasvivas would attend meetings focused on INL's Mexican Post, especially in terms of the upcoming budgets and the specific breakdown of each of the programs implemented in the Western Hemisphere. "Here, questions such as ‘How many Black Hawk helicopters can we propose for fiscal year 2010?' were answered," she says. "We followed a rigorous timeline and constant updates were required. This ensured the least possible errors in the planning and process."

The education and overall experience received at the Colleges "more than prepared me for this internship," assures Aguasvivas. "HWS' rigorous academic curriculum, as well as career services, has encouraged me to put into practice the time management skills necessary for my internship."

She is particularly grateful for the support from Director of Intercultural Affairs and Professor of Spanish and Hispanic Studies Alejandra Molina; her adviser, Professor of Economics Scott McKinney; and Professor of Economics William Waller.

Despite the long hours, Aguasvivas' internship was tremendously rewarding. "Knowing that my efforts will contribute to positive change of the social landscape in the Western Hemisphere makes all sacrifices worthwhile," she explains - no small feat for an undergraduate.  The experience has piqued Aguasvivas' passion for fostering a stronger partnership between the United States and the Western Hemisphere.

"It is not an easy task to interdict the flow of drugs, arms, and illegal cash that has been transported North and South of the Southwest border," she explains, "But any and all progress made toward more stable economies and less corrupted political bodies is a victory which favors both partners."

An economics major with a double minor in Latin American studies and Spanish and Hispanic studies, Aguasvivas studied abroad in Madrid, received the Latin American Organization's "William Smith College Student Award" in 2007, served as a teaching fellow in the Spanish department, and interned at the U.S. International Trade Commission. She is a member of Women's Collective, co-founder of baseball club, treasurer of the Latin American Organization, and club mentor and competent communicator for Toastmasters International. This fall, Aguasvivas is working with Molina and Mayor of Geneva Stu Einstein on an internship project.

In the photo above Aguasvivas is with her supervisor, Francisco "Paco" Palmieri, the director of the Office of the American Program.

 


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