Wednesday, 19 March 2014

Maritime policing crucial in region

THE Caribbean basin is a hot seat for international trade shipping, yet poor maritime policing makes it a vulnerable through-target for illicit transiting of drugs, service firearms and other illegal cargo.

According to Serena Joseph-Harris, former Co-President of the European Union Latin American Caribbean Co-ordination and Co-operation Mechanism on Drugs (EU-LAC), the immediate challenge for regional governments is to find the resources to secure territorial waters from the [transiting] cargo and to ensure that their ports and other points of entry become as impenetrable as they ought to be.

Commander Errington Shurland, Deputy Chief of Staff of the
Barbados Defence Force, along with Serena Joseph- Harris, former
Co-President of EU-LAC, leading off the discussions surrounding
the threat in the Caribbean from transnational criminal cartels.
Joseph-Harris was the opening speaker at a focus day session, which preluded the two-day Caribbean Basin Coastal Surveillance and Maritime Security Summit held last week.

Addressing the need for enhanced North-South dialogue to improve domestic security within the Caribbean Basin, the Trinidadian speaker argued that adopting purely national responses to the war on drugs was inadequate because such responses served to displace the problem from one country to another.

The former co-president of EU-LAC said that the entity continued to reinforce the need for ongoing dialogue on drugs, a topic which she noted was being rehashed on a frequent basis by a number of political debates in relation to an international drug policy and the reason why it should be continuously reviewed.

“International drug policy has now become an international debate,” she stated, pointing to countries such as Colombia and Mexico which have placed legalisation as one of the cards on the table for consideration, in an effort to find ways to curb the violence associated with drug trafficking.

In the USA there have been strong arguments for the legalisation of medicinal marijuana, while the debate among some CARICOM governments has surrounded its legalisation primarily for the potential economic growth which could result.

Joseph-Harris pointed to current bi-regional discussions taking place between the Caribbean Basin, the EU and Latin America, stating that the main aspects of those discussions involved: that Colombia was the main source of cocaine found in Europe; that EU member states were among the second largest in the cocaine market; that the UK was the single largest cocaine market within the EU followed closely by Spain, Italy, Germany and France, with Spain being the most common entry point into Europe; and that (of particular interest to the region) apart from main terrorists groups operating out of Colombia, these groups were also dispersed among the Dominican community in Spain, the Jamaican community in the UK, middle-men in the Dutch Caribbean, as well as Mexicans, South Americans and West Africans operating out of an array of jurisdictions within the EU and North Africa.

She said that these illegal operations were being fuelled by licit and commercial transiting of cargo and that the Caribbean nexus lied at the heart of the primary world shipping trade in the Atlantic area.

“The Caribbean enjoys a high level of shipping activity and corresponding low levels of maritime policing, our region facilitates the shipping of manufactured goods, high-valued primary products such as petroleum, natural gas and copper, to name few,” said Joseph-Harris, who also commented on the Panama Canal, which she referred to as a key choke-point in the region for international trade and which had already reached near-capacity levels.

These were all crucial factors to consider in terms of international drug trafficking and the speaker called for vigorous dialogue at the bi-regional, hemispheric, regional, sub-regional and at national levels. (RS)

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