Pubdate: Tue, 29 Nov 2005
Source: Stabroek News (Guyana)
Copyright: 2005 Stabroek News


One can find many reasons to be depressed in Guyana today, brutal crimes, 
domestic violence, the mean political culture, economic stagnation. But 
perhaps overshadowing all of this is the clear evidence that drug 
traffickers, money launderers and smugglers are playing an increasing role 
in the economy.

As is well known, drug money has surfaced in the timber industry, in 
housing development and in the general business sector. Despite avoidance 
measures fuel smuggling continues, and business 'laundries' sell goods at 
impossible prices which make it clear that full duty has not been paid on 
the items or that profit is not the main objective. It is a sad and 
chilling reality that makes one feel uneasy and even alien in one's own 
country. A new, sleazy business class is spreading its wings.

The government has proved unable to deal with the problem though it is 
obvious from foreign drug busts of shipments from Guyana that the trade is 
thriving and Guyana is increasingly being used as a transit point by the 
cartels, perhaps because of pressure elsewhere. Indeed the government has 
admitted that it lacks the resources to fight drug trafficking and money 
laundering on its own and suggestions have been made that it should seek 
outside assistance from the British and American governments, as has been 
done by Jamaica and Trinidad and Tobago.

The drug trade affects a small, developing country like Guyana in many 
ways. First, it introduces organised crime with all that that entails 
including the exertion of corrupt pressures on politicians, the police and 
the legal system. The effects of those pressures on the rule of law are 
incalculable. Secondly, it helps to create a local class of addicts with 
the further problems of crime and violence that can spawn. Some of this is 
already visible.

The government is, we believe, despite its promulgation of its National 
Drug Strategy Master Plan 2005-2009, not giving sufficient priority to 
dealing with this menace. It will be the ultimate disaster for Guyana if 
after all these years of political instability, hardship and emigration it 
moves in the direction of becoming a narco-state in which criminal 
interests hold increasing sway. The alarm bells have already tolled and if 
a halt is not called and dramatic action taken it may soon be too late.
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