The U.S. is to donate fast interdiction boats and equipment to several of the small Eastern Caribbean trade bloc islands in the coming months as part of a plan to improve the capability of governments to fight the narco trade, weapons and other smuggling, officials said at the weekend.
The Guyana-based Caricom secretariat quoted Julissa Reynoso, deputy Assistant Secretary for Central America and the Caribbean, Bureau of Western Hemisphere Affairs as saying that the money will come from $77M Washington has set aside to boost security in the 15-nation bloc of countries and the Dominican Republic.
The two sides at the weekend wrapped up two days of annual talks of the Caribbean Basin Security Initiative (CBSI) Commission which oversees security and other cooperation between the U.S. and the region.
First to receive fast interdiction boats and other equipment would be island-nations in the nine-nation Organization of Eastern Caribbean States (OECS) said Reynoso as part of a program the U.S. has dubbed as its “Secure Seas Effort.
She also said that Guyana and Suriname will also be given similar equipment next year to add to similar donations made to the Bahamas, Jamaica and the DR in recent years.
“We are proud of the accomplishments of the past year under the CBSI, she said. “We have encountered many challenges but we believe that the CBSI provides a useful and necessary framework for coordination and collaboration with our partners in the region,” Caricom quoted her as saying.
The U.S. and the region have held several high level meetings in recent years including those involving Secretary of State Hilary Clinton, Attorney General Eric Holder and former Defense Secretary Robert Gates. Holder’s relatives hail from Barbados and he used a ‘homecoming ‘visit to the island last year to meet with high level Caribbean officials.
Reynoso said the U.S. was confident that collaboration between the two has worked fairly well in recent years as there has been increased cooperation in intelligence sharing, data on fingerprints of potential trouble makers, reform in the justice sector in some countries and improved screening of passengers at airports and borders.
The region has been complaining bitterly about the lack of sustained cooperation and attention from the U.S., contending that most if not all countries cannot afford to buy equipment and run programs to fight the drug trade, narco and weapons smuggling and human smuggling among other ills.