America’s failure to eradicate illicit drugs doesn’t excuse the pathetic performance of President Jagdeo’s administration

Dear Editor,
The Guyana Chronicle has provided us with comic relief with its manufactured news story that ‘[Hillary] Clinton shares Guyana’s position on drugs trafficking,’ (March 26), by trying to draw a parallel between Ms Clinton’s charge of America’s “insatiable demand for illegal drugs fuels the drug trade,” and President Bharrat Jagdeo’s recent lambasting of America as the ‘biggest law enforcement failure” against drug trafficking.

The truth is, there is no parallel, because while President Jagdeo is blaming the United States authorities, whom he chastised for “lecturing” other poor nations for not doing enough about being conduits and transshipment points for illicit drugs, Ms Clinton is actually blaming Americans whose demand for illicit drugs is fuelling the drug trade.

Yes, it is true she also said, America’s “inability to prevent weapons from being illegally smuggled across the border to arm these criminals causes the death of police officers, soldiers and civilians,” and added, “I feel very strongly we have a co-responsibility.” But make no mistake about the fact that there is a difference between ‘inability’ and ‘unwillingness’ on the part of the relevant authorities.

The American authorities have been waging a long-running war against the importation of illicit drugs, with major drug busts resulting in seizures of properties, bank accounts, billions in cash, draconian prison sentences and hefty fines, so it can not be for a want of will that they are failing or still struggling, but maybe a want of new strategies.

The Guyana authorities, on the other hand, have managed to raise more than eyebrows; they’ve actually raised the ire of both concerned locals and foreigners with their apparent unwillingness to make good-faith efforts to tackle the drug-trafficking problem that has ensnared Guyana. Observers have even gone one step farther and strongly suspected some authority figures of being in league with drug smugglers.

I don’t need to lecture anybody about the inherent dangers of illicit drugs on the human body, but I’d be remiss if I didn’t point out that the drug trade is almost on par with the effects of terrorism, in that it attracts criminal elements who are willing to engage in smuggling dangerous weapons, setting up turfs, abductions, and carrying out assassinations and execution-style killings. And because of the amount of easy money that flows freely in this market, many upstanding society types, as well as government officials and ranking military and paramilitary types have found themselves on drug smugglers’ payroll in pay-to-play activities. Ergo, the drug trade can greatly influence national politics.

In fact, it is this very pay-to-play concept that had Guyanese everywhere scratching their heads in recent years trying to figure out why there have been no major drug busts in Guyana even as there have been several busts overseas that were traced right back to Guyana.

Moreover, many of us are still wondering how certain characters with no previous wealth have become overnight success stories building and buying luxury houses, launching businesses in new buildings, acquiring new vehicles or even having luxury vehicles specially imported. And there is no probe by the authorities into the source of their new found wealth.

But while some of us might be tempted to let this rags-to-riches experience slide because it seems no major harm is being to done to Guyanese, who may be small scale users/abusers of the drugs in Guyana, the truth is, drugs – including doctor-prescribed ones – can be addictive and detrimental to one’s health. But since illicit drugs are not controlled by doctors and pharmacists, the chances for abuse are increased and so are the chances for bodily harm. Besides bodily harm, the downward spiralling effect this abuse can have includes abusers engaging in immoral or criminal activities to get money to keep feeding the drug habit.

Of even greater concern to wider society’s safety and stability is the fact that wherever drugs are being smuggled, guns are also being smuggled, and once guns become readily and easily available, it is just a matter of time before they wind up in the hands of the wrong people.

We saw what happened in the last ten years as Guyana earned the reputation as a major transshipment point and dangerous weapons began turning up and being used in criminal activities in Guyana.

Guyana is a poor country with less than 800,000 people for it to become lulled into a false sense of socio-economic prosperity with the ongoing drug trade and its spin-off money laundering effects on new houses, new cars, new businesses and money to burn on social activities and material/cosmetic acquisitions, because with time, the true nature of the drug beast will surface. This week on CNN, Anderson Cooper did an eye-opening and scary presentation of the current drug war on America’s border with Mexico, and despite the fact that it is a billion dollar corridor, look at how many lives are being snuffed out. This is the flip side or underbelly of the drug trade that no responsible government can afford to ignore, even if it wants to think there are benefits to be had from big and easy money.

On that note, let me take issue with President Jagdeo and say right now, that though the United States may be the world’s biggest consumer of illicit drugs and arena for money laundering, it is not the biggest law enforcement failure in its fight against the scourge because of a lack of effort, but because of a lack of creativity in adopting novel approaches to the problem.

America has thrown billions of dollars in cash, human and material resources in its fight against illicit drugs both at home and abroad, and despite not wiping out the problem one has to wonder what might have been the case in America had its authorities adopted the same attitudinal approach as the Guyana authorities: live and let live!

President Jagdeo needs to be reminded that America’s failure to eradicate illicit drugs really doesn’t excuse his administration’s own pathetic performance in preventing the growth of a problem that can decimate Guyana faster than it can decimate America. And it doesn’t help his image or credibility to be asking America for the names of suspected drug smugglers in Guyana when Guyanese at home know who they are! Nor does it help his image or credibility to be asking America for resources to fight the drug trade when his administration shows no inclination to use what it already has.

The fact that the President could have rushed to buy two pre-owned copters to fight armed criminal gangs, but refuses to use the same copters to help fight drug smuggling on our borders shows he doesn’t think the drug problem is as serious as armed gangs. He may be in for a rude awakening before he demits office!
Yours faithfully,
Emile Mervin

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