By Khrisna Russell
Deputy Chief Reporter
DRUG seizures conducted as part of collaborative efforts to combat trafficking in The Bahamas and the Turks and Caicos have already outpaced those of 2018.
According to United States Deputy Assistant Secretary for the Western Hemisphere Cynthia Kierscht on Friday, major gains were achieved as the US and its Caribbean partners worked together towards shared security in the region.
The remarks were made during Ms Kierscht’s readout of the 8th Caribbean-U.S. Security Cooperation Dialogue during a telephonic briefing.
“So far in fiscal year 2019, our drug interdiction efforts in the Bahamas and Turks and Caicos have already exceeded by 150 percent the amount of illegal drugs seized in all of fiscal year 2018,” she said on Friday.
Similar efforts have also been made in the Dominican Republic. Regarded as the largest Caribbean transit point for cocaine, the Caribbean Basin Security Initiative has yielded a 250 percent increase in cocaine interdictions from 2017 to 2018.
And in Jamaica, she told listeners, efforts resulted in the extradition of 18 lottery scammers from there who preyed on the elderly, “so that they will face justice for their crimes”.
In April, a report focusing on drugs and chemical control containing a memorandum from President Donald Trump to US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo listed the Bahamas among those considered major illicit drug transit or drug producing countries for the 2019 fiscal year.
It said the Bahamas remained a significant transshipment point for illicit drugs bound for the US and other countries.
“Traffickers blend in among numerous pleasure craft moving between Florida and the Bahamas. Trafficking also occurs through commercial freighters and commercial and private planes,” the report said. “Trafficking enables and strengthens transnational criminal organisations and gang activity.”
It also said: “In 2018, these operations resulted in numerous arrests and the seizure of cocaine and marijuana.
“Demand for cocaine within the country remains low, though a small domestic market does exist. Use of marijuana, including among adolescents, remains a concern.”
It mentioned that the government was reviewing a 2018 CARICOM Regional Commission on Marijuana report that recommended the declassification of marijuana as a dangerous drug and its reclassification as a controlled substance; however, the government has not proposed any associated policy changes.
The report further highlighted that efforts between The Bahamas and US law enforcement during the first 10 months of 2018 led to 203 arrests and the seizure of approximately 176kg of cocaine, 5.66 metric tonnes of marijuana, $1,693,809 in currency and $43,400 in assets.