The United States’ Department of State has signed a partnership agreement with PortMiami aimed at helping to enhance port security in the Caribbean.
As enforcement pressures increase against drug traffickers in Mexico and Central America, William R. Brownfield, assistant secretary of state for international narcotics and law enforcement affairs, said on Wednesday that it is logical that criminals will try to resurrect old drug routes through the Caribbean.
He, therefore, urged regional governments to begin preparation to combat the threat.
Brownfield said his goal is to build partnerships and relationships now, so that as “the inevitable laws of market economics” come into play in 2014 to 2016 with traffickers seeking the paths of least resistance, “we’re not caught with our pants down.’’
He told reporters in Miami that the Caribbean drug trafficking routes of the 1970s and 1980s are “gray-haired in some respects,” but “they are still around, and will begin to look more attractive’’ to traffickers as law enforcement puts more of a squeeze on Central American routes.
Under the arrangement, Brownfield said PortMiami, a hub for Latin and Caribbean travel and trade, will provide training and mentoring on anti-crime and port security matters to its counterparts in the Caribbean.
He said the partnership would give ports in the Caribbean access to the technology, experience and personnel at PortMiami. The top State Department official noted that, in the 1970s and 1980s, Miami was at the center of the Caribbean drug trade.
“We have been there before, and we did learn some lessons,” he said, adding that, among the things Miami can share with its counterparts is its expertise in cargo container inspection and control programs.
When such programs work, Brownfield said, “they work for everyone,’’ eliminating long port delays that can tie up shipments for two to three days as inspectors search for drugs and other contraband.
He said PortMiami would function more efficiently if ports around the Caribbean have better procedures and better inspection techniques.
Brownfield urged Caribbean governments, that “if you want your port, tourism and cargo to flourish and grow, it’s in your interest to have a port that’s compatible” with one of the largest ports in the southeast United States.
The Miami Herald said although State Department’s Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs (INL) has signed more than 60 such partnerships with state, county and local entities in the past few years, the Miami agreement is the first inked with a port authority.