Putting the curb on drug trafficking
March 12, 2004
THE 2003 International Narcotics Control Strategy Report on Money Laundering and Financial Crimes in Guyana, released by the International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs Bureau of the U.S. State Department, points to issues that we cannot overlook.
Among other things, the report links money laundering to the trafficking of drugs, firearms and persons, and warns that international drug traffickers are eyeing Guyana as an a potential transshipment point for an increase in the global distribution of the illicit drug.
To be sure, the news isn't that alarming. Guyana has been identified as a transshipment point by international drug enforcement agencies since the early 1980s. In fact, Guyana featured in a 1988 National Geographic article that named the countries in Latin America and the Caribbean being used by traffickers to get their drugs into the United States.
Initially, the authors of the U.S. State Department report seemed a little baffled that Guyana is "a transshipment point for South American cocaine destined for North America and Europe" and a target for money laundering. Apart from not being a producer of cocaine, Guyana is not an important regional financial center, nor does it have an offshore financial sector.
And though it is a transshipment point, "there is insufficient evidence that the cocaine entering the U.S. from Guyana is in an amount sufficient to have a significant effect on the U.S."
But that's about where the comfort zone ends. The report emphasizes that the economic, political and social conditions in Guyana "make it a prime target for narcotics traffickers to expand their illicit activities," and "the transit of narcotics through Guyana has led to increasing domestic use."
The report places some amount of blame on the country's political leaders. Although acknowledging Government's anti-narcotics policy, the report says its counter-narcotics efforts are undermined "by the lack of adequate resources for law enforcement, poor coordination among law enforcement agencies, corruption, and a weak legal and judicial infrastructure."
"Although nominally committed to counter-narcotics enforcement, the Government of Guyana was distracted in the first half of 2003 by a political stalemate and a critical crime threat, some of which was reportedly linked to drug trafficking activities...Lack of political cooperation (also) prevented the implementation of needed reforms to the Guyana Police Force, including the appointment of a permanent commissioner."
A new police commissioner was finally appointed after a two-year wait on the opposition's agreement with Government on the re-formulation of the Police Service Commission.
Naturally, some aspects of the report are debatable. But as we pointed out in an editorial on December 16, 2003, and as the Narcotics Control Strategy Report points out, we have to do more to strengthen the capability of our police force to investigate and apprehend frontline drug traffickers, and the capability of our judiciary to prosecute cases and protect witnesses, the latter under some witness protection scheme.
The report indicates that the U.S. is going to help. Aware that "Guyana's contentious and inefficient political environment and lack of resources significantly hamper its ability to effectively pursue a counter-narcotics campaign," the U.S. has pledged to continue providing assistance to Guyana to strengthen the police force and CANU's counter-narcotics capabilities, through U.S.-funded training and equipment.
But Government alone cannot stop drug trafficking. Guyanese have an equal counter-narcotics responsibility. They have to come to the realization that in order to develop their themselves, their families and their country, they need to ensure that the country's human resources are not fed substances that will destroy rather than enhance their capability to move forward.