US hoping for `tangible progress’ on drug prosecutions, extraditions

– State Department report

The United States is looking forward to “tangible progress” here on narcotics investigations, prosecution and extraditions, the annual report from the US State Department on the drug trade says.

According to the 2014 International Narcotics Control Strategy Report released yesterday, Washington is also hoping for security sector and port security capacity improvement, the engagement of at-risk communities and enforcement of laws against money laundering and financial crimes.

The hope for tangible progress on investigations will be seen again as veiled criticism of the effort by the authorities here who have often been berated for not snaring drug lords and prosecuting them.

Having gained notoriety for once naming now convicted drug trafficker Roger Khan, the report is looked upon as a barometer of how the US perceives the drug fight here is being prosecuted.

The report mentions amendments to the Anti-Money Laundering/Countering the Financing of Terrorism (AML/CFT) Act which are still to be passed and pointed out that there has not been progress in some parts of the infrastructure set up to fight drugs.

It contended that the influence of drug trafficking is evident in the country’s political and criminal justice systems and said that traffickers are attracted by the country’s poorly monitored ports, remote airstrips, complex river networks, easily penetrated land borders and limp security sector capacity.

Pointing out that the AML/CFT law and others including the Interception of Communications Act had been in place since 2009, the US report said that there had been no prosecutions under these laws. This charge has also been levelled by the opposition and civil society critics at the government. The US report noted that the Caribbean Financial Action Task Force has warned Guyana over the repercussions from not implementing these changes.

Ten months later the opposition and the government are still haggling over the amendments.

Washington’s report noted that the government is drafting anti-gang legislation and working on an Integrated Crime Information System to track trends in crime through a network linking the Ministry of Home Affairs to the public hospitals, prisons, and police stations. It pointed out however that police stations in remote areas continue to lack reliable telecommunication service.

The US report pointed out that Guyana signed a maritime counter-narcotics bilateral agreement with the United States in 2001 but has yet to take the necessary steps to bring the agreement into effect.

In 2012, the report said that through the Caribbean Basin Security Initiative (CBSI), the UN Office on Drugs and Crime’s (UNODC) Container Control Program (CCP) installed a multi-agency CCP Port Control Unit at the John Fernandes Wharf, one of Guyana’s most active ports. “However, the CCP unit has yet to make any successful seizures and UNODC is working with Guyanese authorities to improve the unit’s effectiveness.”

In September, 2013 the report said that U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) met with their counterparts here to advance efforts to probe and dismantle drug trafficking organizations. During their visit, DEA officials participated in a Guyana Police Force destruction of cannabis fields discovered in the interior. It said that the volume of cannabis points to the increasing trend of farm-grown marijuana for local use and international export. The establishment of a DEA office here has been a long-running source of contention between Georgetown and Washington.

As it has done in previous years, the report said that Guyana lacks a robust demand reduction strategy that adequately addresses drug rehabilitation. The Guyana National Council for Drug Education, Rehabilitation and Treatment, within the Ministry of Health, is the single government body addressing this area, the report said. It pointed out however that non-governmental organizations, such as the Salvation Army and the Phoenix Recovery Project, offer rehabilitation services.

The report said that the United States supports a wide range of efforts designed to address crime and violence affecting Guyanese citizens primarily through CBSI.

It said that CBSI-funded programmes help Guyana’s maritime operations by providing interdiction equipment including riverine patrol boats delivered in December 2013 and relevant command and control systems. In 2013, the United States also provided port and maritime training to Guyana’s Coast Guard.

“Initiatives also target law enforcement professionalization, and more effective narcotics investigations. By strengthening Guyana’s counternarcotics capabilities, the United States seeks to enhance interagency coordination and help gather better intelligence on drug trafficking routes”,  the report posited..

It said that the United States would welcome increased levels of cooperation with the Government of Guyana ”to advance mutual interests against the threat of international drug trafficking.”



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