Illicit guns and drugs are a problem in the Caribbean. This legislation is offering help
Published in News & Features
“The HNP counternarcotics unit conducted one joint operation with the U.S. Coast Guard and the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration outside of Port-au-Prince during the activity’s final year, which did not meet the target for the unit to organize and coordinate at least four large-scale operations annually,” the report added.
The lack of cocaine seizures, in particular in Haiti, a major transshipment point for U.S.-bound cocaine from Colombia, has long raised concerns and questions about the role drug trafficking has played in the country’s ongoing chaos, which deepened after the July 7, 2021, assassination of its unpopular and controversial president, Jovenel Moïse.
Caribbean governments want more U.S. assistance
Caribbean governments have long complained that given their proximity to the U.S., the country can do more to help them stem the tide of violence and rising crime. This has especially become an issue in light of Haiti’s ongoing collapse and an increasing wave of migrants from Haiti, Cuba and Venezuela coming to U.S. shores.
While a top tourism destination, the Caribbean has also become a top smuggling destination for U.S.-made guns. Since 2020, the region has accounted for half of all firearms-export investigations by the Commerce Department’s Bureau of Industry and Security, which collaborates with other federal agencies, including Homeland Security Investigations.
Last week, the Seventh Coast Guard District and the State Department hosted Caribbean leaders and law enforcement representatives from The Bahamas, the Turks and Caicos Islands and the United Kingdom, along with federal partners, for a three-day summit in Miami to discuss regional security interests. During the inaugural Northern Caribbean Security Summit, participants agreed on the need for greater strategic coordination, training to achieve improved interoperability, and the sharing of intelligence information to counter transnational criminal organizations that traffic migrants, drugs, arms and money.
“We are at a difficult geographical crossroads between many Caribbean nations suffering serious problems: Guns from the U.S., drugs from the region, significant irregular migration, the movement of criminals on fast boats all impact on us,” Nigel Dakin, the British-appointed governor of the Turk and Caicos Islands, told the Miami Herald.
“And of course the collapse of Haiti is particularly troubling for a territory 100 nautical miles from it and with extended archipelago borders,” he said. “As a small island we are stronger together and that’s why this conference was so important to us and why we are so very grateful to our allies —the U.S. and the Bahamas.”
The British-dependent territory has been in an alliance with the U.S. Coast Guard and The Bahamas for some time to protect its maritime borders. As a result of the cooperation, a U.S. surveillance aircraft is currently based there with support from the United Kingdom and U.S. agents in the territory.
“Given the collapse of Haiti, the extraordinary uptick in migrant boats leaving their shores, this is existential for (Turks and Caicos) and the result of this conference hugely important,” Dakin told residents last week as he updated them on the country’s participation in the Miami summit.
Last year, the island saw itself leading international headlines as the number of murders doubled and the territory became the region’s deadliest country per capita, with 35 homicides. When you have a small population, roughly 45,000 residents, “a very small number of criminals can significantly influence this pro-rata number,” Dakin said.
“Many of the murders occurred over a two-month period and we moved rapidly and successfully to suppress that gang violence through a combination of reinforcing our Tactical Firearms Unit with police from The Bahamas, an excellent U.K. mentored and TCI-owned intelligence operation coming on stream plus now significant reinforcement of our Investigative cadre by U.K. detectives,” he said.
A gang leader in Turks and Caicos was shot dead by police while resisting arrest, another is in police custody and a number of their associates arrested or gone to ground. Since then matters are far calmer, the governor said.
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