The United States on Sept. 9 promised to increase aid to the Caribean to help fight the burgeoning drug trade.
Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said drug gangs in the region are “morphing into an insurgency” like the one that gripped Colombia two decades ago.
“These drug cartels are now showing more and more indices of insurgency,” she told the Washington-based Council on Foreign Relations, a foreign policy think-tank.
“All of a sudden, car bombs show up, which weren’t there before,” she added.
“It’s looking more and more like Colombia looked 20 years ago, where the narco-traffickers control certain parts of the country,” Clinton continued.
She said the Obama administration is “working very hard” in assisting the region to improve its law enforcement and intelligence capabilities, and to detain and prosecute those arrested in drug trafficking.
The U.S. Secretary of State said “Plan Colombia,” which channeled billions of dollars in U.S. funds to the Colombian government to help defeat FARC rebels who financed their activities through the lucrative cocaine trade, have significantly improved conditions in Colombia.
“There were problems and there were mistakes, but it worked,” she said about the plan.
“We need to figure out what are the equivalents for Central America, Mexico and the Caribbean,” added Clinton, stating that Caribbean leaders are increasingly very concerned about the spiraling crime wave. “And that’s not easy.”
In June, she also pledged new support to Central American and Caribbean allies in combating violent drug traffickers.
Clinton, who was in Barbados for a regional meeting of foreign ministers, unveiled the Obama administration’s US$124 million Caribbean Basin Security Initiative.
The initiative is aimed at helping countries counter the illegal narcotics, arms trade and help prosecute offenders.
“We all know well that addressing transnational security challenges in the 21st Century requires a comprehensive approach,” she told the meeting.
“You are being subjected to relentless pressure from the narco-traffickers and the criminal gangs,” Clinton added.
“We want you to know that President Obama is ready to do whatever we think will work to assist you,” she continued.
U.S. officials say counter-drug efforts have pushed traffickers to use new routes through the Caribbean, as they seek to ship drugs from South America into the United States or Europe.
Battles between drug gangs and police in Mexico have killed hundreds of people in recent months, and experts fear violence could spread to other countries in the region.
Caribbean islands reportedly had one of their bloodiest years on record in 2009, as they battled drug-fueled crime.