Pubdate: Wed, 16 Dec 1998
Source: Reuters
Copyright: 1998 Reuters Limited.


GEORGE TOWN, Cayman Islands, Dec 16 (Reuters) - The destruction of roads
and bridges in Central America by Hurricane Mitch may force South American
traffickers to send more illegal drugs through the Caribbean, according to
a top regional law enforcement official.

Derek Haines, Chief Superintendent of the Caymans Drugs Task Force, said on
Tuesday washed out bridges on the Pan-American highway had slowed the flow
of drugs along that route and seen traffickers return to the sea lanes.

"I expect more drugs from South America to transit the various routes
across the Caribbean and into the U.S. in the coming months, rather than go
by land through Mexico to the U.S. border," Haines said.

Hurricane Mitch, one of the most powerful Atlantic storms this century,
struck Central America in late October, killing thousands of people and
causing catastrophic damage in Honduras and Nicaragua.

Haines made the comments after his department, along with the U.S. Coast
Guard, made the second major marijuana seizure in the past two weeks in the
western Caribbean.

The seizures followed a year-long lull in smuggling in the region as South
American drug lords found the borders of Central American nations easier to
penetrate, Haines said.

"They are now turning their attention back to the high speed boats as a
means of smuggling," he said.

Authorities have seized more than 1,500 lbs (680 kg) of high-grade
marijuana, valued at more than $5 million, in Cayman waters in the past two

The Cayman Islands, a British dependent territory in the western Caribbean,
are known as an upscale offshore financial centre and a prime scuba diving
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Checked-by: Mike Gogulski