GID concerned about rampant drug smuggling from Guyana
March 15, 2004
THE Guyana Institute for Democracy (GID) is concerned about the significant number and frequency of Guyanese being arrested in North America for smuggling cocaine, marijuana and other narcotic substances from Guyana. Within the past four months, over 35 Guyanese have been arrested and indicted in the United States for drug smuggling, conspiracy, arms possession and other related charges. Additionally, former Miss Guyana, Mia Rahaman, and former Guyanese national cycling champion, Paul Choo-wee-Nam, were arrested in Canada and Atlanta, USA, respectively, on similar charges. These cumulative arrests continue to defame Guyana and Guyanese, and cast serious aspersions about law enforcement in Guyana. This lawlessness has irreparably tarnished the Guyanese nation and Guyanese can now expect to be intensely scrutinised at U.S. ports of entry.
On March 3, 2004, Brooklyn District Attorney, Charles Hinds, and New York City Police Department (NYPD) Commissioner, Ray Kelly, jointly announced the February 20, 2004, arrest of thirteen (13) Guyanese nationals, in connection with a massive cocaine smuggling ring at John F. Kennedy (JFK) Airport, New York City. Some of the arrestees are baggage handlers, who used their positions to circumvent U.S. Customs inspections of mailbags filled with cocaine from Guyana. This criminal enterprise, of which cocaine smuggling constituted the core activity, netted estimated annual revenues of US$75 million.
The NYPD estimates the disbanded drug ring smuggled over 7,300 pounds of cocaine into the U.S. from Guyana each year.
Guyana is fast becoming a primary exporter of cocaine and marijuana and the central transshipment point in the Western Hemisphere, for illicit drugs from other South American countries like Columbia. Last May, 120 kilogrammes of marijuana were seized aboard a Guyanese military flagship, The Essequibo. The ship was in Barbados for the international Tradewinds exercise at the time. In November 2003, another 25 Guyanese were arrested by Federal agents in a drug smuggling operation in New York City. In May 2003, British Customs officials at the Port of Felixtowe in Suffolk, UK, uncovered 120 kilogrammes of cocaine in a consignment of timber from Guyana worth G$1.9 billion. To date the government claims that it cannot determine the Guyanese company from which this consignment of timber originated. Shortly after the discovery of the cocaine at the Port of Felixstowe, British and Ghanaian Customs authorities found another batch of cocaine in a consignment of rice shipped from Guyana to Ghana. It therefore strains credulity that the government of Guyana is unable to interdict the architects of these criminal enterprises.
The U.S. State Department in its March 2004 International Narcotics Control Strategy Report, declares that "Guyana is a transshipment point for South American cocaine destined for North America and Europe." The report said "Counter-narcotics efforts are undermined by "corruption" and that "allegations of corruption are widespread, and reach to high levels of government, but continue to go uninvestigated." The State Department also contended that, "the swearing-in by the Guyana Police Force of a reputed drug lord and several of his cohorts as special constables raises serious questions about the integrity of the Force."
The report is a resounding indictment of the government of Guyana. It lends serious credibility to longstanding allegations of entrenched corruption at the highest level of government. The World Bank in its June 23, 2003 country report on Guyana also concluded that corruption was entrenched in the government.
The accusation that a "reputed drug lord and several of his cohorts" were installed into the Guyana Police Force, apparently to insulate them from law enforcement, warrants immediate investigation. The Police Force falls under the jurisdiction of Guyana's Minister of Home Affairs, Ronald Gajraj, who is currently enmeshed in allegations (of a link-up with a phantom squad, claimed by a self-proclaimed informant to have been responsible for the killing of criminals, including some of the so-called freedom fighters who stabbed a young African prison officer to death and shot and permanently injured a female Afro-Guyanese prison warder when they broke out of the Georgetown Prison in Camp Street on Mashramani Day 2002,and who were alleged to have beaten, robbed, kidnapped, and/or murdered scores of civilians and executed more than two dozen policemen, the great majority of whom were Afro-Guyanese). Consequently, the Canadian government and the Bush Administration have banned Mr. Gajraj and his wife from travelling to Canada and the United States, respectively.
The free reign and security clearance accorded to those who smuggle drugs out of Guyana is indicative of ensconced and rampant corruption. The limitless and unobstructed transportation of drugs from Guyana to the U.S. clearly demonstrates a culture that places subornment above security. This characteristic may be attractive to terrorists. The State Department report noted that Guyana, which is a party to the Inter-American Convention Against Corruption, has not yet fully implemented its provisions.
GID believes that the Bush Administration as well as the international community and donor agencies must now objectively re-assess their relationship with the government of Guyana. Stern and immediate action must be taken, lest Guyana travels further down the road to a state of affairs comparable with that of Haiti.
Guyana Institute for Democracy