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Illicit drug trafficking from the Caribbean up — US official

BY KARYL WALKER Editor — Crime/Court Desk walkerk@jamaicaobserver.com

Wednesday, June 25, 2014    

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ASSISTANT Secretary of State for International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs for the United States, William Brownfield, says illicit drug trafficking from the Caribbean to the United Sates has increased.

Brownfield, who was addressing journalists from the Caribbean Community and the Dominican Republic via telephonic press briefing yesterday, said while there was a decrease in the demand for cocaine in his country by 40 per cent in the last seven years, the Caribbean remained one of the main transhipment points for drug trafficking.

"The Caribbean, in a sense, is a victim of its own geography," he said. "The United States government calculates that the amount of cocaine that enters the United States through the Caribbean has increased in three years from five per cent to 16 per cent. Now, while this is a tiny, tiny fraction of the 80 to 90 per cent that processes through Central America, it is a growing trend and it is a worrisome trend."

Brownfield linked the upsurge in drug trafficking in the Caribbean to the increase in homicides in the region and said the brutal murder of Trinidadian prosecutor Dana Seetahal was directly linked to the drug trade.

Seetahal was attacked by gunmen travelling in two cars who intercepted her vehicle in Trinidad's capital of Port-of-Spain. Police said she died behind the driver's seat of her sports utility vehicle.

At least 15 spent shells were found at the scene and she suffered from gunshot wounds to her head and upper body.

"To the surprise of absolutely no one we see increasing rates of crime, of violence and of homicides. On the first of May there was the brutal murder of a courageous, brave and gutsy prosecutor named Dana Seetahal in a clearly organised contract murder by a trans-national drug organisation," he said.

Brownfield said the United States government was not prepared to sit back and watch as drug-trafficking networks wreaked havoc in the region. He disclosed that some US$150 million has been spent under the Caribbean Basin Security Initiative to beat back the criminals into submission.

"We are working and prioritising regional co-operation and strengthening national institutions for law enforcement. We are working directly with police, we are working to increase information and intelligence sharing capabilities and to improve the abilities of governments in the region to engage in asset seizure and forfeiture to both increase their own resources and to take resources away from the trafficking organisations," he said.

Brownfield also pointed out that a number of other initiatives, such as the fingerprint database, an arms ballistics database, the Coast Guard and US Southern Command Maritime Law Enforcement Exercise, a regional police academy headquartered in Port of Spain, Trinidad and working with legislatures throughout the region, will be used to address the serious challenge of illicit drug trafficking.

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