Pubdate: Sat, 01 Mar 2003
Source: Reuters (Wire)
Copyright: 2003 Reuters Limited


MIAMI (Reuters) - Jamaica, the Bahamas and the Dominican Republic are
major Caribbean transit routes for South American drugs headed for the
United States, while Haiti is a key conduit plagued by corruption,
according to the annual U.S. report on the global drug trade released
on Saturday.

South American narcotics also move to a lesser degree through Trinidad
and Tobago, the Dutch Antilles, Cuba and the tiny islands dotting the
eastern rim of the Caribbean Sea, a law enforcement nightmare with
thousands of islands.

The Caribbean is a major battlefield in America's drug war, along with
the U.S.-Mexico border. Cocaine cartels have sophisticated
distribution networks using small planes, fast boats and couriers, or
"mules," to move drugs around.

The U.S. government estimated between 10 and 15 percent of the cocaine
headed to the United States flowed through the Bahamas-Cuba-Jamaica
corridor, where traffickers use fast boats, darkness and thousands of
miles of remote shoreline to hide their activities.

Jamaica continued to be the leading transit point in the Caribbean for
South American cocaine shipments and was also the region's top
marijuana producer, the report said. The Jamaican government estimates
more than 2.2 million pounds of cocaine pass through the island each
year, with 70 percent bound for the United States and the rest to Britain.

While noting that the government of Prime Minister P.J. Patterson
unveiled a sweeping anti-crime package after it was reelected last
October, the report said corruption continued to undermine the drug

"The government of Jamaica has not prosecuted any senior government
officials for facilitating the illicit production or distribution of
such substances or the laundering of proceeds from illegal drug
transactions," it said.

A failing economy, corruption, a weak police force and faltering
democratic institutions combined to make politically troubled Haiti a
key stop for drug runners shipping cocaine to the United States,
Canada and Europe, the report said.

In 2002, U.S. agents seized more than four tons of cocaine hidden in
ships arriving in Miami from Haiti, the report said.

"Accusations continue to surface that members of the government ...
most notably the Presidential Security Unit and Palace Guard, were
actively involved in drug trafficking," it said.

The Dominican Republic, which shares the island of Hispaniola with
Haiti, is a major transit country for cocaine and heroin but the
government cooperates closely with the United States in the drug war,
the report said.

Closest to U.S. turf, the Bahamas is the least populous of the major
transit routes with just 300,000 people but among the most troublesome
with 700 islands and cays that provide hundreds of hiding places for

The Bahamas is home to about a dozen major trafficking organizations,
some of which offer money-back guarantees to Colombian and Jamaica
cartels to transport their drugs to the United States, the report said.

Cuba's decaying infrastructure, declining budgets and fuel shortages
hamper anti-drug efforts and the communist government provides
"limited, case-by-case" cooperation to the United States in the drug
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