Closer links to US in drug fight

THE Bahamas has recommended improved co-operation between the Caribbean and the United States in the fight against the trafficking of guns and narcotics throughout the region. C A Smith, Bahamas Ambassador to the United States, made this statement as he addressed the US Senate Caucus on International Narcotics Control's hearing on "US-Caribbean Security Co-operation" on February 1. The hearing was also attended by Carl Smith, Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of National Security; Missouri Sherman-Peter, consultant to the government; and Kimberley Lam, second secretary in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Ambassador Smith thanked the chairman of the Caucus for inviting him to participate in a discussion on the fight against the global illegal drug trade. In particular, he was keen to discuss the security challenges the trade represents to the countries in the Caribbean, including the Bahamas. In his address, Ambassador Smith underscored the importance of strengthening ties and co-operation in the fight against the illicit trafficking in arms and narcotics, and recommended a more robust exchange of information and intelligence, close co-operation in surveillance and reconnaissance and continued targeted joint operations. "The region urgently needs to address trafficking in guns and gun crimes, and it is recommended that we strengthen co-operation, regional capacity and counter measures in this critical area," he said. He told the Caucus that the Bahamas is on the front line of drug control and has been for more than 40 years because of the serious trafficking problem it faces, and because of its commitment to national action and bilateral, regional and international co-operation in this area. "There is an intrinsic link between the Bahamas' current national security problems and the illicit drug trade," he said, also referring to serious challenges stemming from arms trafficking, human smuggling, illegal migration and the prospects for trafficking in persons. Regarding the country's' highest ever murder rate of 127 in 2011, Ambassador Smith said that guns have become the weapon of choice in the perpetration of these crimes, which has become a cause for grave concern. As a result, he said, the Bahamas parliament recently passed amendments to strengthen the capacity of its criminal justice system so it can deal decisively with drugs and gun crime - and soon, a wide-ranging five-year National Anti-Drug Strategy will be launched. "We are determined that drug trafficking, crime and criminality should not jeopardise the economic, social and political stability and development of our country," the ambassador said. The contribution of $1.6 million by the US government in the first fiscal year of the Caribbean Basin Security Initiative has "contributed significantly" in terms of upgrading the technology, assets and expert capacity of the police and Defence Force, he said. The state-of-the-art craft donated under Enduring Friendship and the US Coast Guard's co-operation in OPBAT are both vital, Mr Smith added. The Bahamas also looks forward to the United States' co-operation in the strategic development of bases throughout the country, especially on the southern and northern borders - the points of departure for illicit drugs destined for the United States, he said. The Bahamas was honoured to host the Caribbean Basin Security Initiative's second Caribbean-United States Security Co-operation Dialogue in Nassau on November 10, 2011, the ambassador said. There, a Plan of Action was adopted which allows all involved to concentrate efforts where they will have the most impact. "We would recommend that in this framework, further investment be made in the acquisition of maritime assets in particular, to patrol the territorial waters of Caribbean states," he said. "We would therefore recommend co-operation to further strengthen national and regional security bodies and arrangements in the region. "The region urgently needs to address trafficking in guns and gun crimes, and it is recommended that we strengthen co-operation, regional capacity and counter-measures in this critical area," the ambassador said.


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