WASHINGTON, March 18, CMC – The United States says that the archipelagic nation of St. Vincent and the Grenadines continues to be “the source for the majority of cannabis” in the Caribbean.
“According to officials, marijuana producers have recently started labelling their product for export,” said the US Department of State in its 2012 International Narcotics Control Strategy Report.
“Police have also observed a trend of younger nationals entering the trade,” it added. “Regional trade has also increased with Trinidad and Tobago, sending drugs and guns in exchange for cannabis. Officials describe a ‘marked increase’ in remittance flows.”
The State Department said, based on information from local officials, St. Vincent and the Grenadines has over 300 acres under marijuana cultivation.
It said, during 2011, while Vincentian government officials encountered no drug laboratories, they eradicated 70 acres of marijuana, destroyed 1,696,021 plants and seized 10.2 million tonnes of cannabis, 39 kilogrammes of cocaine and 180 cocaine rocks.
The report also said that, during 2011, Vincentian authorities reported 522 drug related prosecutions, 322 convictions, and 432 persons arrested for drug offenses.
Police officials disclosed to the US that they need more vehicles, equipment, training and logistical support for their operations to be effective.
“Narcotics play a major role in the economy, causing a dependence on cannabis in large population segments,” the report said.
“The government officials have stated they cannot combat the long terms effects of the drug trade solely through enforcement,” it added, stating that while the DARE anti-drug programmes are employed in schools, there are no rehabilitation clinics.
The State Department said Vincentian officials estimate that 30 per cent of domestic drug abusers use cannabis, while two per cent use cocaine.
The report noted that the Ralph Gonsalves administration is drafting a National Drug Plan with assistance from the Washington-based hemispheric body, the Organization of American States (OAS), and has set up a new Forensic Drug Laboratory in Kingstown.
It said the Financial Intelligence Unit (FIU) works closely with the narcotics unit in the police department and that, recently, the police established a Rapid Response Unit (RRU) to target drug and firearms offences.
“A narcotics unit targets major traffickers,” said the drugs report, stating that “significant developments” during 2011 included the arrest of a trafficker with four kilogrammes of cocaine and money laundering charges against “a previously identified target.”
“The narcotics unit, the RRU and Coast Guard jointly perform maritime interdiction operations with new domain awareness gained from the use of two radar sites installed in 2010,” it said, adding that the authorities report that the radar system has improved their effectiveness.
The report noted no new drug enforcement-related legislation was passed or was pending in 2011, adding that no laws require specific record keeping on the importation of pseudoephredrine, ephedrine and pharmaceutical products containing those two chemicals.
St. Vincent and the Grenadines is a party to the three United Nations Drug Conventions.
On October 29, 2010, Kingstown joined on to the UN Convention against Transnational Organized Crime and its three protocols.
It is also a party to the Inter-American Convention Against Corruption, and has signed but not ratified the Inter-American Firearms Convention, the Inter-American Convention Against Terrorism, and the Inter-American Convention Against Transnational Organized Crime.
The Gonsalves administration has a “limited” maritime counterdrug bilateral agreement, an extradition treaty and a Mutual Legal Assistance Treaty in force with the US, according to the State Department.
Overall, as a matter of policy, the State Department said St. Vincent and the Grenadines, as elsewhere in the Eastern Caribbean, does “not encourage or facilitate the illicit production or distribution of narcotic or psychotropic drugs or other controlled substances, or the laundering of proceeds from illegal drug transactions.
“No senior government officials in the Eastern Caribbean were prosecuted in 2011 for engaging in or facilitating the illicit production or distribution of controlled drugs or laundering of proceeds from illegal drug transactions,” it said.
But the State Department report noted that the news media “routinely report on instances of corruption reaching high levels of government that are not investigated or go unpunished.
“(United States Government) analysts believe drug trafficking organizations continue to elude law enforcement agencies through bribery, influence or coercion,” it said.
The US urged the seven nations of the Eastern Caribbean – Antigua and Barbuda, Barbados, Dominica, Grenada, St. Kitts and Nevis, St. Lucia, and St. Vincent and the Grenadines – to “participate proactively” in Washington’s Caribbean Basin Security Initiative and to pay up on their commitments to sustain the Regional Security System (RSS).
Washington also encouraged the region’s governments to make full use of the RSS’s vetting programmes “to ensure the integrity of personnel in sensitive positions and promote confidence in information sharing”.
In addition, it called on Eastern Caribbean lawmakers to update criminal codes that make use of regional best practices in fighting transnational organized crime.
“The US draws special attention to the need to implement civil forfeiture provisions to turn the proceeds of crime into a weapon against traffickers,” said the report, adding that it is “encouraged by the commitment of the Government of Barbados in securing resources to complete the integrated coastal radar system and invest in both maritime and air assets to achieve a new level of domain awareness that will benefit the entire region.”