– President seeks to make country “totally inhospitable for drug traffickers”
By Zena Henry
The United States Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) is establishing its first office here at the local Embassy. With much talk about the benefits of establishing the agency in the battle against drug smuggling, outgoing US Ambassador Brent Hardt in a joint statement with President Donald Ramotar, yesterday announced that the American-based DEA head office has approved, and the US Congress has given the green light, for the agency to be established locally.
Currently, Guyana works closely with the Trinidad and Tobago-based DEA office, in the sharing of intelligence and exchange of mechanisms to tackle drug-smuggling problems. President Ramotar registered his acceptance of the US agency and stated that it is a welcomed initiative.
The President is confident that the presence of the DEA office will enhance the whole process of information-sharing and collaboration.
“The very fact that we have people on the ground 24/7 will enhance the whole question of information-sharing and we will probably be working and looking at different areas where we can build strong cases against those traffickers and have much more success.”
The President was at the time recognizing that Guyana has been unable to significantly tackle the issue of drug trafficking from the root; which involves the arrest of organizers and major kingpins. It is usually, the US agency that apprehends major smugglers outside of their native countries. The President stated that DEA’s partnership and collaboration with the country’s local law enforcement and anti-drug agencies will help to build strong cases that can stand up in court.
President Ramotar reiterated also that he has advocated that narco-trafficking is an international problem that calls for global cooperation.
“I was flogging from the very beginning that this (DEA office) is one of the things that we will welcome here because I would like to make our country totally inhospitable towards those who use it to traffic drugs and those types of illegal activities.”
Ambassador Hardt had explained to Kaieteur News earlier this week that the local Embassy had been working endlessly to get the US agency here in Guyana. He had expressed also that due to budgetary constraints in the US, the Embassy was unable to significantly move forward. He however said yesterday that the DEA head office approved the opening of the office and Congress also gave the go-ahead two days ago.
He revealed that one of the goals pursued from the day he arrived in Guyana was to expand and strengthen close law enforcement cooperation, particularly in combating illicit trafficking.
“Our cooperation has been boosted significantly by the extraordinary Caribbean Basin Security Initiative (CBSI) partnership that has developed over the past few years, which has seen tremendous enhancements to Guyana’s capacity to combat illicit trafficking — most recently with the addition of three new Metal Shark vessels for the GDF.”
The Ambassador had also been pushing to bring technical expertise to look at the investigative aspect. Hardt had stated, during another engagement, that the Embassy in late 2012 had been instrumental in bringing attention to the impending implications of the Caribbean Financial Action Task Force (CFATF); ahead of the deadline for the Anti-Money Laundering Bill.
The Bill he asserted, “is actually one of the best ways to go after ‘the bigger fish’ (drug lords)…because you really need to get those who are organizing it (drug shipments) and I think money laundering laws should give you the opportunity to do that if you have an effective investigative capacity.”
President Ramotar added that one of the essences of the Anti Money Laundering Bill, fundamentally from drugs and drug smuggling is to close loopholes that allow drug traffickers to move their illicit items easily. He charged that anyone against narco–trafficking and fighting criminals involved in this area, should be happy to pass the Bill.
The DEA is a US federal law enforcement agency under the U.S. Department of Justice, tasked with combating drug smuggling and use within the United States. They are also the lead agency for that nation’s domestic enforcement of the Controlled Substances Act, sharing concurrent jurisdiction with the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) and Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). It also has sole responsibility for coordinating and pursuing U.S. drug investigations abroad.
The organization will not have the power to make arrests in Guyana since their role is to provide reinforcement for local anti-drug agencies. Former President, Bharrat Jagdeo, had contended during his tenure that there was no proper location to house the DEA office. The Ambassador stated, however, that it is normal for the DEA’s office, regardless of location, to operate out of its relevant Embassies.
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