FEBRUARY 14, 2014 | BY KNEWS | – emphasizes greater need for inter-agency collaboration
US Ambassador Brent Hardt
US Ambassador D. Brent Hardt has emphasized a greater need for inter-agency collaboration for the fight against narco- trafficking, and has expressed continuing talks with the government to establish a Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) in Guyana.
The Ambassador said in an invited comment yesterday that since last December, he has been engaging the government over the need for a DEA office; a federal agency which aims to significantly counteract illicit drug activities.
The Ambassador also asserted that given the porous nature of the country’s borders, it is not difficult that drug cartels would find easy access into the country. These comments came in the wake of Guyana being implicated as a drug port for players in a major drug smuggling ring which was earlier this week infiltrated by anti-drug units in the United States and Italy.
“We have been speaking as recently as last December. There is no reason why we haven’t set anything up, but it is a matter of getting approval, because we have had a bit of budgetary constraints. We have the presence here in Guyana where we are covered by the DEA in Trinidad, and that’s been the situation for some time, and they work very closely with Guyanese police and other law enforcement authorities. But even though we don’t have an office, we have officers that are in the country from time to time and they are trying to build cases. That’s what the federal agency brings to the table, its ability to build cases against major traffickers and that’s what they do in all the countries they operate.”
Ambassador Hardt added that for the time being, he has tried to make an effort to lobby for the DEA office, but no decision has been made.
“It’s not an issue of Guyana government hindering that, but it’s on our side. We have to find the resources and go through a process.”
Ambassador Hardt informed members of the media fraternity that he is not the least bit surprised by the (foreign) report.
“We have been pushing very hard in Mexico and Central America, because that’s where 90 percent of the drugs have been flowing. But as we have strengthened our efforts there, there is always the risk of having what we call the bloomer effect.”
This situation the Ambassador described as drug traffickers finding other areas that are easier ports of entry. He opined that Guyana’s porous borders are a cause for concern and might prove to be an ideal port for smugglers.
“The cartels are quite happy to move there if that is going to be the path of least resistance,” he related.
“It is a big problem. When you look at Guyana’s location, Venezuela is not too far from Colombia and Colombia and Peru are the two main producers of cocaine…Guyana’s borders with Venezuela’s are hard to patrol so there is no reason why given the proximity to the drug production, that Guyana wouldn’t be a key strategic location for a drug trafficker who is looking to get drugs to Africa and up to Europe.”
Court documents out of the US relating to this week’s bust of drug traffickers linked to the notorious Gambino and Bonanno crime families and the Italian crime syndicate known as ‘Ndrangheta, specified that Guyana was identified as a port through which large amounts of cocaine are shipped.
The court document showed that a major player in the drug ring had conspired to collect large amounts of cocaine from a “Guyana connection” which would be packed and smuggled in fish.
In recent interviews, top government officials related that they were unaware of the happenings. President Donald Ramotar told reporters on Wednesday that he had instructed his Home Affairs Minister Clement Rohee to request information from the US regarding Guyana’s involvement following the international drug arrests.