Pubdate: Thu, 27 Mar 2008
Source: Stabroek News (Guyana)
Copyright: 2008 Stabroek News
Author: Miranda La Rose


A senior State Department official is to take to the US  government, 
President Bharrat Jagdeo's new proposal for  the establishment of a 
permanent branch of the US Drug  Enforcement Administration (DEA) in Guyana. .

Asked whether the US had any intention of setting up a  DEA office 
here, visiting Assistant Secretary of State  for Western Hemisphere 
Affairs, Thomas Shannon, said  yesterday at the Office of the 
President that he was  taking such a proposal back to the US with him.

Guyana had first indicated that it wanted the DEA to  set up a 
permanent presence here in 1995 when Feroze  Mohamed was home affairs 
minister. He had made a public  appeal then, following the discovery 
of a huge  gold-smuggling operation, but there had been no  response 
from the US embassy.

In 1999, following a number of large cocaine seizures  here, the 
Defence Board had reportedly been in talks  with the embassy. The 
issue appeared to have lapsed and  then came to the fore again in 
2005, when the Defence  Board formally asked the DEA to establish the 
office  and bring in additional agents because the government  lacked 
the resources to fight drug trafficking and  money laundering on its own.

According to reports, a suitable building was being  sought to house 
the DEA. Asked about this, former  deputy chief of mission at the US 
embassy Michael  Thomas had said that the DEA "looks forward" to 
setting  up an office in Guyana. However, a year later, a secure 
enough building had not yet been found and reports were  that the US 
had rejected the locations proposed by the  Guyana government.

Earlier this month, following the publication of the  annual US State 
Department Report, which criticized the  government for failing to 
implement its National Drug  Strategy Master Plan, Secretary to the 
Defence Board Dr  Roger Luncheon had said that government's efforts 
to have the DEA establish an office here were unfruitful.  "I would 
want to advise that efforts have been made by  government but those 
efforts have not been fruitful,"  Luncheon had said. The report had 
said that considering  the absence of DEA involvement here US support 
would be applied solely to the treatment of addicts and not to  the 
drug interdiction battle.

Meanwhile, Shannon acknowledged yesterday that the USA,  as a 
principal market for narcotics and a supplier of  weapons for 
narco-trafficking, has a responsibility to  step up its efforts in 
the drug fight through agencies,  such as the DEA and the Federal 
Bureau of  Investigation.

Sharing a press conference with President Jagdeo at the  Office of 
the President, Shannon said the US also had a  responsibility to step 
up the fight against organised  crime in the Caribbean, through 
information exchange  and means at its disposal.

He said his discussions with Jagdeo underscored the  need for 
improved security in the region which was  vital not only in terms of 
combatting criminality but  in creating a democratic environment with 
social  services conducive to economic and social development.

Referring to the two recent mass killings at Lusignan  and Bartica in 
which 23 men, women and children were  brutally gunned down, Jagdeo 
reiterated that the  government planned to do whatever it took for 
however  long to bring the criminals who committed those acts to  justice.

He said help was needed for vulnerable communities to  take youths 
away from the clutches of criminality and  drug dealers who were out 
to spread fear and terror in  the wider society. He said help was 
also needed for the  security forces so they could better execute their duties.

On the issue of deportees, Shannon noted that a pilot  programme for 
resettling deportees had started in Haiti  and other Caribbean 
countries including Guyana. This  programme would include the 
exchange of information by  the US and the countries receiving the deportees.

He noted that provisions were put in place for the  exchange of 
information during the Cricket World Cup  2007, in which the USA 
played a part in terms of the  advance passenger list. This was an 
issue, he said, he  was due to raise with Caricom yesterday.

Apart from security issues, Shannon also praised Guyana  for a 
well-executed programme under the US President's  Emergency Plan For 
AIDS Relief (PEPFAR). He said Guyana  ran a "superior" programme in 
the fight against  HIV/AIDS generally, but particularly in the 
reduction  of mother to child transmission of the HIV virus.

Noting that Guyana has gained the approval of the US  Millennium 
Challenge Cor-poration (MCC) Threshold  Program Funding to help 
government reduce its fiscal  deficit, he described it as an 
investment in its  people.

Jagdeo said that to gain that approval, Guyana was  required to meet 
16 eligibility criteria set by the  MCC, and fell equal to or above 
15 of the criteria. The  criterion not met, he said, was the one 
dealing with  the country's fiscal situation. He said the 
Threshold  Program funding would be used to strengthen 
fiscal  revenue agencies.
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MAP posted-by: Jay Bergstrom