Jun 19, 2016 News
– says outgoing US Deputy Chief
US drug enforcement officials working with local authorities are beginning to have a better
understanding of who the players are.
The country can expect some arrests of big fishes with extraditions likely, says outgoing US Deputy Chief of Mission, Bryan Hunt.
Hunt is the embassy official who has been outspoken during his three-year tenure. He was questioned about the presence of a Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) office here.
The office, stationed at the US Embassy, has been responsible for a string of drug busts at the Cheddi Jagan International Airport as well as in the US.
According to Hunt, there can be no question that busts are significant ones as intelligence is being developed about how the network operates in Guyana.
There is no doubt that there has been a rapid decline, in especially areas of the drug mules.
The official noted that in recent years, the US had started to recognize that Guyana was becoming an important cog in the wheel of the international drug trade as a preferred transit point.
While not taking direct credit for the DEA office being established here back in February, Hunt disclosed that his work was laying the groundwork for the cooperation that was necessary with agencies like the Customs Anti Narcotics Unit (CANU) and Special Organised Crime Unit (SOCU).
A lot of work had started under former US Ambassador, D. Brent Hardt.
In July 2014, former President, Donald Ramotar and Brent Hardt, announced the establishment of a local DEA office to fight the drug trade. This was following the approval of the DEA office in Guyana by the US Senate.
The diplomat disclosed that when the Government changed last May as a result of early general elections, there was not much to be done to convince the new administration of the importance of a DEA office. This was because the former Leader of the Opposition and now President, David Granger, had been briefed fully on the “concept” and there was no need for a lot of “sales”, with the Government in some way “natural allies”.
According to Hunt, when monies for local DEA operations became available from the US Congress, rapid moves were made to have the office established.
Already, there have been significant seizures in both Guyana and the US.
However, the diplomat is remaining realistic about the uphill task in the drug fight, noting that it will be impossible to shut supplies off.
DEA and its local partners are beginning to have a better idea about the financing, logistics and the “facilitators” in Guyana, he said.
“We are in a better place than we were before. Hopefully we will be able to say that Guyana is no longer a preferred transit route to anywhere.”
Hunt, questioned about the success of the arrests so far, noted that currently the ones being caught are the ones who are doing the actions.
Progress, he said, are being made to identifying the “moral authors” who are supporting and directing the activities of the smaller players.
Questioned about the DEA’s confidence in CANU and its head, James Singh, Hunt said that there has been no reason to question his work.
Of course, there have been bad eggs and this will continue to happen in all law enforcement agencies and there have been successes in identifying some of the corrupt officers.
With regard to the confidence of the US in the Guyana Police Force, the embassy official admitted there have been complaints but there is good news- the current leadership and even Minister of Public Security, Khemraj Ramjattan, have vowed to clean up, with zero tolerance for illicit behavior, corruption and human rights violations.
According to Hunt, things will not get better overnight but there are changes happening that will become more evident overtime.
With regard to Guyana’s importance to the drug trade, Hunt disclosed that shipments are more to Europe and Africa than to the US. However, the incidents to the US are by no means insignificant.
DEA has been collaborating with other countries to share information to help curtail the trade.
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