By LK Hewlett
BASSETERRE, St Kitts (WINN) -- The US State Department has labeled the Eastern Caribbean as a “transit point for drug traffickers going to the United States and Europe”.
According to the State Department’s International Narcotics Control Strategy Report (INCSR) released in March, the Eastern Caribbean hosts abundant transshipment points for illicit narcotics, primarily from Venezuela destined for North American, European and domestic Caribbean markets.
The report claims that marijuana remains the most commonly used illicit drug within the region and many of the homicides that occur in the seven countries are a result of turf wars between organized groups fighting for control of drug distribution. St Vincent, it stated, continues to be a primary source for cannabis in the Eastern Caribbean.
While the region’s drug of choice is marijuana, abuse of over-the-counter pharmaceutical drugs is on the rise, and local use of cocaine and heroin is rare.
Data provided to the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) indicate that, during the first nine months of 2016, drug seizures in the Eastern Caribbean totaled 1,103.8 kg of cocaine and 196.65 metric tons of marijuana and, in the same time period, there were 159 arrests in connection with drug trafficking.
The State Department reports that law enforcement capacity in the region is under increasing stress and, while Eastern Caribbean governments made some improvements, their criminal codes remain antiquated. The United States encourages the seven countries to continue to pass legislation to modernize their criminal codes, making use of regional best practices in fighting transnational organized crime.
The US further charged that “in some countries, leaders failed to address public concerns about official corruption”, adding to the problem.
The INSCR stated however, “As a matter of policy, the region’s governments do not encourage or facilitate the illicit production or distribution of narcotic or psychotropic drugs or other controlled substances, or the laundering of proceeds from illegal drug transactions. No senior government officials in the Eastern Caribbean were prosecuted for engaging in or facilitating the illicit production or distribution of controlled drugs or laundering of proceeds from illegal drug transactions. Nonetheless, many observers believe that drug trafficking organizations sometimes elude law enforcement through bribery, influence, or coercion.”
Republished with permission of West Indies News Network