US official promises more cooperation and dialogue with region

GEORGETOWN, Guyana, March 28, 2008 – A top United States (US) official has acknowledged that his country and the Caribbean need to come up with a better way to work together to deal with the narcotics and weapons problem facing both countries.

US Assistant Secretary of State for Western Hemisphere Affairs, Ambassador Thomas Shannon who is visiting a number of Caribbean countries this week, made the point after talks with President Bharrat Jagdeo on Wednesday.

Alluding to the 2007 Cricket World Cup period when information was shared between Caribbean countries and other nations, Shannon suggested that cooperation needs to be continued.
“We did talk about the importance of improving our ability to share information and not just between Guyana and the US, but more broadly, and we took as the starting point the kind of cooperation that developed during the World Cup Cricket, especially in exchange of passenger lists and arrests that allowed the region to understand exactly who was travelling through the Caribbean,” Shannon noted.

“The broader solution to the law enforcement problem and the security problem in the region is not just a US-Caribbean problem. It is also a problem that links to all the countries. Our sources of drugs that are transferred, our transit point for drugs and our recipient points, our markets points for drugs such as the US not only presents a challenge both for the US and for CARICOM, but also to other countries like Venezuela.”

Shannon emphasised that unless countries experiencing these problems find a better way to work together and share information, gaps in their law enforcement efforts could be exploited by criminals.

Security was also high on the agenda when the American diplomat visited Barbados on Thursday and held talks with Prime Minister David Thompson.

The Barbados leader said the discussions focused on providing greater technical and other assistance on security and other issues.

“I think the United States recognises…that it is in their interests to secure their borders. It is in their interests to see that the economic investments that they have made in the region as well as the safety, the security and the peace of the Caribbean region are assured,” he said, adding that both sides agree on the need to cooperate.

Ambassador Shannon indicated that the George Bush administration was looking forward to increasing dialogue and cooperation with the Caribbean.

“We recognise that trafficking in whatever form, drugs, weapons, people, is now managed and run by organised crime networks and cartels. These organised crime networks and cartels are transnational actors, they do not respect the sovereignty of states. They have enormous resources at their disposal in terms of communication, money, weapons, transportation,” he said.

“Many of the small states of the Caribbean are not adequately equipped to face this kind of concern. Our focus right now is on building our partnerships, on deepening our partnerships, on making sure we are in a position to help countries build capacity and capability to face these types of challenges.”

The American diplomat, who is being accompanied by United States Navy Commander of the US Southern Command, Admiral James Stavridis on his Caribbean visit is expected to visit Suriname today.