For a few years now, Guyana was said to be a transshipment point for cocaine leaving the South American continent for Europe and North America. In fact, the other transshipment points were the various Caribbean islands that stretched from Trinidad in the south to Jamaica in the north.
All of these islands have vast unprotected borders because of their simple way of life. They all have nothing to hide and they certainly do not have military weapons that pose a threat to their neighbours.
They do have poor people who would never look at a dollar and turn their face. The money that cocaine promises is what allowed people to further widen the unprotected borders so that the drugs can land.
Guyana perhaps has the largest stretches of porous borders. Added to that there are numerous waterways and landing strips that are not even monitored. There was a time when aircraft landed and disgorged cocaine uninterrupted and undetected.
It is often not long before the cocaine finds itself in the hands of the major distributors who in turn supply the overseas markets.
People have died; drug lords have been known to kill those who attempted to thwart the movement of his cocaine for which he spent a lot of money. There were times when he could put his losses to occupational hazards by shipping even more and collecting enough money to compensate for whatever drugs were seized.
More recently, though, there has been a crackdown. Perhaps it is because the consuming countries want to see a reduction in the number of addicts; perhaps it is because of so much wasted human resource; perhaps it is because of the rising crime because addicts tend to ignore the rule of law in pursuit of their daily drug fix and dealers go beyond the law to collect their money.
Small countries like Guyana have been made to feel guilty for the rising drug demand in the developed countries of Europe and North America. Repeatedly after drug busts overseas with the drug traced to Guyana, the various international agencies would accuse the local authorities of not doing enough to stem the flow.
The local authorities, for their part, would explain that they have a problem with resources and that they would need help. The international agencies, particularly the United States, would give token assistance that would be inadequate for more than two or three operations.
We have had cause to level serious accusations against the United States. We have actually told them that they are about making demands and doing nothing to support those demands.
On one occasion the then United States ambassador to Guyana, Roland Bullen, told reporters in Guyana that assistance to a country is “success driven’. Simply put, he was saying that unless Guyana made significant inroads into apprehending drugs at source. Guyana, on the other hand, was saying that to apprehend the drugs at source it needed assistance. The situation thus became a veritable ‘Catch 22’.
Indeed, the local authorities have proven beyond doubt that with help much could be achieved. With American help they intercepted 6,000 tons of cocaine aboard a vessel named Mv Danielsen. Initially, the local authorities failed to find the cocaine aboard the vessel but the international contacts insisted that it was there. In the end the drug was found.
These days there are more busts, and all without foreign assistance. There were cases of cocaine slipping out of Guyana but getting intercepted in another country, sometimes in the Caribbean. Of course, Guyana was blamed for its lax surveillance.
Since then there have been local busts. The Customs Anti Narcotics Unit recently tracked a quantity of cocaine from Venezuela to the Corentyne and made the bust when it mattered. One week earlier it had made another bust.
The people at the airport have also detained a number of people attempting to smuggle cocaine out of the country. Traffickers are becoming desperate; they are losing supplies and to recover their losses they are making even larger shipments thus sustaining even more losses.
The end result is that we could see a new dispensation; a halt in certain constructions and above all, some meaningful assistance from the developed countries that have a desire to see the end of the drug trade.
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