Pubdate: Sun, 15 Aug 2004
Source: Jamaica Gleaner, The (Jamaica)
Copyright: 2004 The Gleaner Company Limited
Author: Earl Moxam


JAMAICA'S ARMY chief has issued a sobering warning against complacency
in the face of a growing threat to the stability of the country, posed
by narco-traffickers and gun smugglers.

The country's difficulties are magnified by its geographical location,
in close proximity to Haiti and Colombia, according to Rear Admiral
Hardley Lewin, Chief of Staff of the Jamaica Defence Force.

"When you look at other countries bordering the area you see the ease
with which transnational issues can take place. Couple all of what is
taking place in the region with our local criminal enterprises and you
will see that we have many criminal enterprises who would be willing
allies of these external groups," he told The Sunday Gleaner.

Danger Doesn't End There

But the danger doesn't end there, according to Rear Admiral Lewin, who
is pointing to an underlying threat of terrorism. The terrorists, he
said, "will seek to create, not new routes and methodologies, but seek
marriages of convenience with criminal enterprises and
narco-traffickers. For the terrorist, what comes out of this marriage
will be some political gain from the terrorist activity. For the
criminal enterprise it is some economic gain. So they find good reason
to work together. Underlying all of this of course will be the money
that comes with it. Then you can see the kind of situation that
potentially exists here in Jamaica and elsewhere in the Caribbean."

With the Government of President Alvaro Uribe in Colombia closely
collaborating with the United States in squeezing Colombia's drug
traffickers, Rear Admiral Lewin said that they were looking more and
more to increase their operations in the border regions and nearby
countries, including Jamaica.

A Major Source

Similarly, he's warning that Haiti, the French-speaking half of the
nearby island of Hispaniola, with large sections of the country not
under the control of the state, has become a major source of guns,
traded for ganja supplied from Jamaica.

"There is no question that Haiti is the source of some of the guns. We
know that drugs, particularly ganja, is taken to Haiti in canoes and
they return with guns. And I would believe that there are sufficient
guns available when you have large areas of ungoverned space as you do
in Haiti at the moment," he told The Sunday Gleaner.

With the Jamaica Defence Force having primary responsibility for
securing the country's coastal waters, the Chief of Staff is reporting
some progress, working in collaboration with the Americans in
particular, in apprehending some of the smugglers.

The JDF Coast Guard will, at month end, be establishing a new base at
Black River, St. Elizabeth.

This, Rear Admiral Lewin said, would boost the presence of the JDF
along the south coast, cutting down the time it takes to respond to
the traffickers who, he said, were becoming more sophisticated, using
global positioning systems (GPS), among other methods to get in and
out of Jamaica quickly.

The Black River base will, according to the Chief of Staff, fill a big
gap in the network of operations around the island, with bases
currently located in Port Antonio, Discovery Bay, Montego Bay,
Kingston and on the Pedro cays.

Rear Admiral Lewin is warning, however, that law enforcement measures
alone will not be sufficient to stave off the destabilising influence
of the drug underworld, a theme he has sounded in previous public statements.

Take Heed

"I think we have to be very careful; and here we must take heed from
activities in other countries. And my disappointment is that I do not
believe that we as yet see the potential of what could happen if we
don't take the necessary action. We have to be careful about the
development of mini states within the Jamaican state; these areas
where you get the impression that they have their own systems of
justice, of dealing with things that Government should provide. Every
single one of us must have a clear understanding of what the
challenges are; we must have a clear understanding of the potential
further on down the road if we don't take the necessary actions," he
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MAP posted-by: Richard Lake