Coping on the security front
Guyana Chronicle
May 18, 2003

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UNITED States Ambassador to Guyana, Mr. Ronald Godard, held a news conference in Georgetown on Friday, dealing mainly with the latest Consular Information Sheet which advises U.S. travellers to Guyana to, among other precautions, avoid going to Buxton which is a haven for criminals, as well as to be extremely cautious when moving around Georgetown.

The Consular Information Sheet is issued regularly by the U.S. State Department for several countries around the world.

According to the U.S. State Department's Bureau of Consular Affairs, travel warnings are issued when the State Department decides, based on all relevant information, to recommend that Americans avoid travel to a certain country.

Countries where avoidance of travel is recommended will have travel warnings as well as Consular Information Sheets, it said.

The U.S. State Department has issued similar travel advisories on Jamaica and Trinidad and Tobago.

It notes that in Jamaica, gang violence and shootings occur regularly, while in Trinidad and Tobago, violent crimes, including assault, kidnapping and murder, have involved foreign residents and tourists, including U.S. citizens.

Mr. Godard told reporters that the U.S. diplomatic mission here is very concerned about security for its personnel and the entire diplomatic community resident in Guyana, particularly since the kidnapping of the U.S. diplomat, Steve Lesniak, who was released unharmed last month following the payment of a ransom.

He said that as a result of the growing and unchecked crime situation over the past year, it has become necessary to apprise and alert U.S. citizens travelling to Guyana on the realities as they are here.

According to the Ambassador, who is also Dean of the diplomatic community in Guyana, the diplomatic missions here have had to review their security arrangements and implement new measures to boost their security capacity.

The upsurge in crime and the increase in kidnappings have been of primary concern to the majority of Guyanese and the Government has maintained that the anti-crime fight has been given top priority.

Most people would understand the concerns of the diplomatic community but as Ambassador Godard conceded, there are limitations facing the Government.

The U.S. and other Western Governments have been providing invaluable assistance to the law enforcement agencies to help improve their operational capacity but more help is clearly needed in a country that does not have the resources to meet its multiplicity of competing priorities.

In this regard, we welcome Ambassador Godard's announcement Friday that the U.S. Government would be providing more help to boost the security capabilities of the local law enforcement agencies.

He said 10 members will be participating in a training course on hostage taking that would be conducted by U.S. security personnel in Trinidad next month.

Training will also be conducted in anti-narcotics techniques for customs and other relevant agencies with the intention of providing adequate equipment, he added.

Guyana needs more of this kind of tangible assistance if it is to score successes in the anti-crime fight and help to address the kinds of concerns the U.S. Ambassador has raised.

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