The drug route

Stabroek News
April 6, 2000

The finding of 6940 pounds of cocaine on the MV Danielsen in October l998 below the cargo hold of the ship in false tanks had set off alarm bells that Guyana was becoming increasingly involved in the drug trade. The cocaine was found with the use of a hi-tech iron scanner borrowed from the US Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA). After a trial, the vessel was confiscated and sold and the captain sentenced to five years in prison.

Now, 200 pounds of suspected cocaine have been discovered with a cargo of rice on board the MV New Charm which came here from Suriname and a search continues for more. This development is alarming for many reasons. Firstly, it may mean that shippers of cocaine in Suriname have decided to use Guyana as a port of call en route to Europe because they believe a vessel coming from Guyana will be less vulnerable and less subject to search than one coming direct from Suriname. This is even more the case where Holland is the destination, as it was here, as Mr Bouterse is a convicted drug criminal in that country. Secondly, the fact that these vessels are also carrying a cargo of rice, even if this is totally unconnected, can impact negatively on our rice exports. Thirdly, our international reputation will become tainted as a country involved in the drug trade which can hardly be good for investment or trading. And finally, narcotics are bad news as they bring with them violence and corruption. We have quite enough problems already.

What can be done? It is not practical to assume that every vessel that comes from Suriname is suspect. But we need to protect our country and the legitimacy of our rice trade. Should we discuss the problem with the government of Suriname? Might our well respected Shipping Association have any idea of how to deal with it? Are there certain types of vessels of which one should be suspicious? The DEA is almost certainly the source of the information our Customs Anti-Narcotics Unit (CANU) is receiving. Rather than individual tips can they give a broader idea of how the trade is conducted and what signs to look for or would that be considered risky because of possible leaks?

Whatever the case, this has shown us once again how vulnerable we are as a country, because of our porous borders and weak surveillance, to penetration of one kind or another. When it comes to dealing with organised drug traffickers we need all the help we can get.