By KHRISNA VIRGIL
Tribune Staff Reporter
THE Bahamas was a prominent feature in a newly published United States narcotics report that cited concerns of increased drug trafficking connections between the Bahamas and Haiti.
According to the March 2014 Bureau for International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs - International Narcotics Control Strategy Report, smugglers exploit the wide distribution of numerous islands and the high number of recreational vessels flowing through the Bahamas in 2013.
Despite a long-standing co-operation between the Bahamas and US authorities, the report noted challenges which included delays in extradition requests and a lack of Creole speakers in key Bahamian law enforcement units.
“Haitian and Haitian-Bahamian drug trafficking organisations,” the report said, “increasingly networked between Haiti and the significant Haitian diaspora in the Bahamas, continue to play a major role in the movement of cocaine.
“Investigation of these organsations is hindered by a lack of appropriately vetted and assigned Creole speakers within the Royal Bahamas Police Force (RBPF) Drug Enforcement Unit.
“Strong familial connections between the Turks and Caicos Islands and the Bahamas, coupled with direct flights between Haiti and the Turks and Caicos Islands, compel many Bahamian smugglers to travel to Haiti via the Turks and Caicos Islands with large amounts of cash for future smuggling ventures.
“There was an increase in cocaine and marijuana washing ashore on Florida’s coastline during the year, which indicates a parallel growth in the use of airdrops by traffickers.”
In addition, US officials noted that an agreement between the Bahamas and Panama based Copa Airlines in 2011 lead to an increase in cocaine seizures at the Lynden Pindling International Airport.
“Aviation routes are a cause of concern. Small, privately owned and operated planes ferry loads of cocaine from and between significant source countries in South America into the Caribbean. Law enforcement information suggests that drug trafficking organisations utilise airdrops and remote airfields to deliver large cocaine shipments to the Turks and Caicos Islands and to the Bahamas from Venezuela and Colombia.”
The report urged additional resources for drug abuse programmes in an effort to bring improvement to the rate of retention among patients at the Sandilands Rehabilitation Centre and inmates at Her Majesty’s Prison.
“Current, comprehensive drug consumption and use data is not available.
“Intake surveys and testing found that many inmates at Her Majesty’s Prison at Fox Hill, the only prison in the Bahamas, tested positive for drugs and some of these inmates maintain access to drugs during their incarceration,” the report read.