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Illicit guns and drugs are a problem in the Caribbean. This legislation is offering help

Jacqueline Charles, Miami Herald on

Published in News & Features

U.S. Sens. Marco Rubio of Florida and Tim Kaine of Virginia are putting their weight behind an initiative to reduce illicit arms trafficking and strengthen security and stability in the Caribbean basin, where an uptick in guns and migration trafficking are endangering small island communities and raising national security concerns for the United States.

The proposed Caribbean Basin Security Initiative Authorization Act, which passed the House of Representatives last April, has found support from Rubio, a Republican, and Kaine, a Democrat, in the Senate. The two are sponsoring the bipartisan and bicameral legislation.

The bill would authorize appropriations of $74.8 million each year in foreign assistance. The funds would go to promoting the rule of law in the Caribbean; reducing trafficking in narcotics, weapons, bulk cash, and other contraband,and reducing corruption and the influence of authoritarian regimes such as China and Russia. Money also is to be used to “counter malign influence from authoritarian regimes, including China, Iran, Cuba, and Russia,” according to the bill.

The proposed legislation also says that money is to be used to strengthen the ability of beneficiary countries to prepare for and respond to natural disasters, and to increase regional coordination and collaboration between beneficiary countries and Haiti.

Rubio, in promoting the bill, specifically cited the destabilizing gang violence in Haiti, which he says demonstrates the serious threat that corruption and drug trafficking poses to Caribbean countries.

“At a time in which our region faces enormous challenges and hardships, it’s important the United States government assist our democratic allies to counter drug trafficking, prevent gang-related violence, and conduct criminal investigations,” Rubio said in a statement.


Kaine said promoting stability and cooperation in the Caribbean strengthens the United States’ own national security, and counters the Chinese Communist Party’s growing influence in the Western Hemisphere.

“Making these resources available to help counter drug trafficking, corruption, and the destabilizing impacts of climate change is a commonsense step, and I urge my colleagues to join us in working to make the Western Hemisphere safer and more prosperous for all,” he said.

Through its Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement, the United States already currently provides some assistance with security to nations such as Haiti where it’s training a new SWAT team and helping to strengthen the Haiti National Police. However, those efforts often fall short, as highlighted by a newly published Government Accountability Office report on the U.S. government’s efforts to help Haiti rebuild after its devastating 2010 earthquake.

U.S. activities to help the Haiti National Police achieved mixed results, auditors found. One example they highlighted focused on drug trafficking busts. The report said that counternarcotics agents only “disrupted one significant drug trafficking organization in Haiti, falling short of the target of disrupting at least three such organizations by September 2018.”


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