A key report on the global fight against narcotic trafficking and money laundering has been released by the United States (US) Department of State. Entitled the “International Narcotics Control Strategy Report (INCSR)”, it shows that Guyana has a long road ahead in combating the drug scourge.
According to the report, which was released recently, Guyana is still a transit point for cocaine destined for the United States, Canada, the Caribbean, Europe, and West Africa. The report also mapped out the route for cocaine coming from Colombia, noting that it was smuggled to Venezuela, thence to Guyana via sea or air.
“Smugglers also transit land borders with Brazil, Venezuela, and Suriname. Cocaine is often concealed in legitimate commodities and smuggled via commercial maritime vessels, air transport, human couriers, “go-fast” boats or various postal methods,” the report added.
In a domestic context, the report states that “the influence of narcotics trafficking is evident in the country’s criminal justice systems and other sectors”. Traffickers, it noted, “are attracted by the country’s poorly monitored ports, remote airstrips, intricate river networks, porous land borders, and weak security sector capacity”.
Guyana, the report noted, has a drug enforcement presence at its international airports, post offices, and, to a lesser extent, at port and land-border entry points. It acknowledged the five major agencies involved in the anti-drug fight: the Guyana Police Force (GPF); Guyana Revenue Authority (GRA); the Customs Anti-Narcotics Unit (CANU); the Special Organised Crimes Unit (SOCU), and the Guyana Defence Force (GDF).
“The GDF supports law enforcement agencies with boats, aircraft, and personnel, but has limited capacity and lacks law enforcement authority. The Guyana Coast Guard (GCG), a GDF sub-component and US partner in maritime interdiction, patrols Guyana’s territorial waters and conducts humanitarian search-and-rescue missions.”
In 2012, with US funding through the Caribbean Basin Security Initiative (CBSI), the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) Container Control Programme (CCP) established “a multi-agency CCP Port Control Unit at the John Fernandes Wharf, Guyana’s most active port”.
The report acknowledges some success that initiative had, such as the April 2016 seizure of 48 kilograms (kg) of cocaine and in June, 579 kg of marijuana.
But the report paints a bleak picture of the Government’s commitment to drug rehabilitation schemes. It states that Guyana lacks a comprehensive strategy to reduce demand and adequately address drug rehabilitation.
It notes that marijuana is the most widely used drug in Guyana, followed by cocaine. But the report observes that there is only one Government body responsible for drug rehabilitation.
“The Guyana National Council for Drug Education, Rehabilitation, and Treatment, within the Ministry of Public Health, is the single Government body responsible for addressing demand reduction. Non-governmental organisations also offer rehabilitation services.”
The report acknowledged that the University of Guyana (UG) had initiated a demand reduction curriculum through funding from the Organisation of American States/Inter-American Drug Abuse Control Commission (OAS/CICAD).
Other means of rehabilitation, the report noted, was the Skills and Knowledge for Youth Employment (SKYE) project, which the US supports as part of the CBSI.
Noting that Guyana has shown an interest in furthering collaboration under the CBSI, the report said the US was looking forward to more progress on investigations, prosecutions, extraditions and security sector capacity enhancement.In addition, the report spoke of the US Government’s expectation that Guyana would continue engagement with at-risk communities, as well as enforcement of laws against money laundering and financial crimes.
The US report comes on the heels of a major drug bust by CANU where officers unearthed more than 84 kilograms of cocaine, equaling a landed US street value in excess of 550 million Guyana Dollars, hidden in several pallets of 1×6 dressed lumber being prepared for export to the United States.