Tuesday, September 22, 2009

United States urged to curb trafficking of weapons to the Caribbean

Press Release, Office of the Prime Minister of St. Kitts and Nevis: United States urged to curb trafficking of weapons to the Caribbean

BASSETERRE, ST. KITTS, SEPTEMBER 21ST 2009 (CUOPM) – As St. Kitts and Nevis and other Caribbean states tackle the problem of crime, a former Antigua and Barbuda diplomat has warned that unless the United States takes the lead to put measures in place to curb the trafficking of weapons and drugs through the region, the situation will worsen.

According to CMC, Sir Ronald Saunders, who twice served as the Caribbean nation’s High Commissioner to London, said the issue of drugs, arms and crime is “the gravest problem” facing the countries of the Caribbean and Latin America - with the exception of Cuba. He said while in the past the US, Canada and European government have concentrated on cutting the supply through eradication and interdiction with limited success, “it is clearly the time to rethink this strategy.”

The former diplomat said that in doing so, the authorities in those countries must do so in full collaboration with both the producing and transit countries, both of whom “are as much the victims of the trade” as the countries in which the huge markets reside.

“Almost every country has the same problem and many of the smuggled weapons, when captured are traceable to the United States. This suggests that the absence of a vigorous policy to curb arms sales is unintentionally contributing to crime in Central America and the Caribbean,” Sir Ronald told a recent gathering of high-ranking military officers at the Royal College of Defence Studies in London.

He said countries of the region are overwhelmed by the crime that has developed as a consequence of drug trafficking. “In many cases, their police forces are out-gunned by the weapons available to drug gangs and they lack the numbers, the equipment and other resources to combat the problem,” Sir Ronald told the officers from Europe, Latin America, Africa, Asia and the Middle East.

“In conditions of economic decline and increased unemployment, drug trafficking and its attendant other crimes escalate, as they are now doing throughout the region,” said the former chairman of the Caribbean Financial Action Task Force against drug trafficking and money laundering.

“The US government could make an enormous contribution to resolving this huge problem by passing legislation and implementing machinery to control arms smuggling; by reviewing the practice of deporting convicted felons to their countries of origin; and by adopting measures to stop legal sale of assault weapons.”

The former Antigua and Barbuda envoy said in addition Washington should take a lead in organising collaborative arrangements with Europe and Latin America and the Caribbean to establish a comprehensive anti-narcotic programme that addresses both supply and demand.

“If this is not done, the problem of drug-trafficking and its attendant high crime will continue to plague Central America and the Caribbean with a terrible destabilising effect on the small economies that are least able to cope,” Sir Ronald warned in the CMC report.

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