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T&T struggling with fight against narco trade

Tuesday, March 04, 2014    

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WASHINGTON, DC, United States (CMC) — The United States says Trinidad and Tobago has been facing challenges in its efforts to curb the trafficking and use of illegal narcotics.

It said that corruption, lack of sustainability of government-funded programmes as well as gaps in legislative and organisational implementation continue to be among the issues faced by the twin-island republic.

The US Department of State, in its "2014 International Narcotics Control Strategy Report", noted that the location of the oil-rich twin-island republic, porous borders, and direct transportation routes to Europe, West Africa, Canada and the United States make it an ideal location for cocaine and marijuana trans-shipment.

Washington said that marijuana is produced in Trinidad and Tobago and is the most widely used drug domestically, but other drugs, including cocaine, heroin, solvents, pharmaceuticals, and ecstasy, are also available.

It said interdiction efforts are robust and continuing and though overall seizures in 2013 increased from 2012, the Trinidad and Tobago Government continues to struggle to coordinate and adequately fund its counternarcotics efforts.

"Rehabilitation facilities are insufficient and under-resourced to meet local demand for treatment. Lack of sustainability of government-funded programmes, particularly in the area of demand reduction, corruption, and gaps in legislative and organisational implementation remain challenges to the country's efforts to curb the trafficking and use of illegal narcotics," the report said.

Washington said that while the country continues to demonstrate a high level of commitment to drug control by fostering bilateral cooperation and intelligence sharing with countries of origin, transit and destination, "there is continuing distrust within and between units of law enforcement, the military, and the intelligence community preventing effective information sharing and collaboration.

"Strict adherence to rigid and often outdated methodologies by mid-level officials, as well as restrictive decision-making systems that do not empower functionaries, limit the ability of these critical organisations to innovate and keep pace with highly flexible criminal organisations.

"Even with increases to the national security budget in 2013, counternarcotics units continue to lack sufficient specialised equipment and personnel, and regularly request support from international donors," the report noted.

Washington said marijuana is the only known locally produced illicit drug and that production is concentrated in small farms in the heavily forested, mountainous regions.

It said local producers compete with imports from St Vincent and the Grenadines, Jamaica, Guyana, and Venezuela and that other illicit drugs — primarily cocaine, but also small amounts of heroin and ecstasy — are trafficked through the country by transnational organised crime groups operating in Trinidad and Tobago.

"There has been an increase in Jamaican nationals within Trinidad and Tobago bartering shipments of marijuana for cocaine for re-export. In addition, increased government eradication efforts have driven up the local price of marijuana, causing some traffickers to shift their focus from cocaine to marijuana," according to the report.

The report added that law enforcement entities in Port of Spain seized 110.6 kilogrammes (kg) of cocaine and 3.7 metric tonnes of marijuana between January and September, 2013.

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