Caribbean: Region a Transit Stop for Drugs!

Caribbean: Region a Transit Stop for Drugs!
Posted by FoM on January 29, 1999 at 20:28:03 PT

PORT OF SPAIN Despite the aggressive war on illegal drugs launched by the governments of the Caribbean islands, large quantities of Cocaine and Marijuana continue to wend their way from the South American mainland through the region and on to the lucrative North American market. 
For instance, the Basdeo Panday administration in the twin- island republic of Trinidad and Tobago had, four years ago, made drug interdiction a main plank of its governmental agenda, and current attempts to keep the hangman busy are being attributed to its war on drug trafficking. But the government seems to be fighting a losing battle. Attorney-General Ramesh Maharaj has disclosed that, despite major drug busts in recent years, as much as 2,000 kgs of cocaine pass through the country on a monthly basis. In St. Lucia, during the first half of 1998, the police made 43 arrests for possession of cocaine and 270 for marijuana. They seized 40 kgs of cocaine and 143 kgs of marijuana and destroyed more than 26,000 marijuana plants. In Antigua, the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) has reported that over a one-year period, 145 arrests for drug offenses were made and the authorities seized 110 kgs of cocaine, 217 kgs of marijuana and 142 pieces of crack. In the northern Caribbean island of Jamaica, between January and September last year, narcotics police seized nine boats suspected to have been used to transport illegal drugs. They also seized more than 27,000 kgs of marijuana, 545 kgs of cocaine and made 4,800 arrests in connection with drug trafficking. Most of the drugs passing through the region are destined for North America, the United States in particular, despite the existence of a range of collaborative efforts including a controversial "Ship Rider Agreement" signed three years ago and which gives U.S. officials permission to board ocean vessels in Caribbean countries' waters to check for drugs. The prolific trade also persists despite high-profile visits to the region by international leaders like Pres. Clinton in 1997 and Secretary of State Madeleine Albright last year. "Our goal is to construct a web of legal arrangements and law enforcement actions that will discourage international criminals from acting, and leaving no place to hide if they do," Albright said after April talks with Caribbean foreign ministers in Port of Spain. Less than a year later, the trade continues to flourish. It is now estimated that up to 40 percent of the drugs that reach the United States make their way through the Caribbean. "Drugs passing through our territories on the way to Europe and North America are a very serious problem that threatens to undermine the very democratic foundations of our societies," Trinidad's Maharaj told a meeting of Caribbean magistrates this week. Maharaj should know what he is talking about. No arrests have yet been made in connection with the escape of convicted Trinidadian drug trafficker Deochand Ramdhanie last year. Ramdhanie, who escaped on his way to court, was widely believed to have received police assistance, though he was eventually caught in a remote Venezuelan town with the help of FBI agents. The south Trinidad drug trader is believed to have ties with the Cali cartel of Colombia and it is suspected that he has already been replaced by other locals involved in the lucrative trade. Drug kingpin Dole Chadee is currently awaiting word on his imminent hanging. He was sentenced to death for the brutal murder of an entire family following a deal that went sour. "The Caribbean has been pushed to the forefront of the battle against drugs by virtue of our geographical location between major drug-producing countries in South America and the consuming countries in North America and Europe," Maharaj says. But Trinidad and Tobago has itself become quite a consumer of illicit drugs. Drug rehabilitation centers are incapable of handling the growing demand and violent crimes are increasingly being blamed on drug addicts. Sudden building booms in previously depressed areas also provide evidence of new-found wealth made possible by the drug trade. A number of cut-rate supermarkets and new entrants on the foreign-used car market are also providing proof that the laundering of drug money has become a significant factor within the domestic economy. "Money laundering," Maharaj says, "has a significant negative impact on the macro-economy." But some see postive impacts from the drug trade and its accompanying influx of cash. The booming motor vehicle market and heightened residential construction activity have created jobs and pumped millions of dollars into poor, rural communities. Chadee, for example, remains a folk hero of sorts in the rural district of Piparo, which was damaged by the eruption of a long-dormant mud volcano two years ago. Some regional commentators have not responded kindly to what appears to have been a failure by the Clinton administration to make good on promises to link the economic development of the region to its work against drug traffickers. During his historic summit with Caribbean leaders in Barbados almost two years ago, Clinton said trade privileges for Caribbean exporters could create a climate in which there would be less of a reliance on the drug trade. Proposed fast-track action on NAFTA (North American Free Trade Agreement) parity for Caribbean exports is yet to materialize and Caribbean leaders have recently been angered by sustained U.S. pressure on the issue of preferential access for regional bananas into the European Union market. Former Dominican prime minister Eugenia Charles once said in a state of pique that if the United States did not want the Caribbean to grow bananas, it must decide whether it wants farmers to grow marijuana instead. The drug trade, for the moment, appears to be the much more attractive option. 
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Comment #1 posted by ANON on August 04, 2000 at 08:43:13 PT:
The meddlesome US govt.
The US government should stay the fuck away from Trinidad.
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