Pubdate: Sat, 14 Mar 1998
Source: Miami Herald (FL)
Author: Guy Ellis Associated Press
Contact:  http://www.herald.com/

ST. LUCIA PREMIER BLAMES VIOLENCE ON DRUG RUNNERS

CASTRIES, St. Lucia -- ``A small group of vicious and dangerous criminals''
is responsible for a recent spate of shootings that threaten the peace of
this small Caribbean nation, the prime minister said Friday.

In a television and radio address, Prime Minister Kenny Anthony said the
drug traffickers were fighting among themselves and spreading fear among
the public with their violence. Anthony vowed that police would crack down.

On March 4, a man long reputed to be a local druglord was gunned down in
public. Other shootings have followed that incident, including an exchange
of gunfire between police and a carload of armed men in the town of Gros
Islet 10 miles (16 kilometers) north of the capital.

In another confrontation, police disarmed two men who were carrying
automatic weapons and wearing bullet-proof vests in public.

Such violence has not been common on this scenic island of 150,000 people,
and Anthony noted that the drug-related clashes have made many people
fearful.

He announced new measures to combat the crime, including the addition of
100 new police officers and the purchase of new vehicles. He also said the
country's bail laws would be reviewed with the aim of making it more
difficult for persons charged with illegal firearm offenses to be released
on bail.

``Recent events have sent the chilling message that as long as these drug
criminals remain free within our community, we will always be exposed to
these kinds of crime,'' said Anthony.

Copyright  1998 The Miami Herald