Caricom and the US representatives are heading into another round of talks aimed at boosting security efforts in the Caribbean. The leaders of the region used April?s Summit of the Americas to gain a commitment from US President Barack Obama to provide aid in that regard.
All the governments involved, including the Baldwin Spencer administration, hope the Joint Working Group on Caribbean-US Regional Security Cooperation will devise a way to deepen their fight against violent crime and the trafficking of illicit drugs and firearms, among other ills.
Speaking ahead of the meeting, Dr Brent Hardt, the charge d?affaires attached to the US Embassy in Barbados, said the aim of the discussions, in essence, seeks to improve partnerships with the US Federal Bureau of Investigations, Treasury Department, Drug Enforcement Agency, and the US Southern Command.
?? and to deepen and expand these ties, President Obama is currently developing a Caribbean Basin Security Initiative in close consultations with Caribbean partners, and we?ll be meeting in Barbados next week to advance preparations for this major presidential initiative,? Dr Hardt said on Tuesday.
At the meeting, the working group will be compiling two wish lists ? one for the US and one for the Caribbean.
Key items on the list for Antigua & Barbuda and Caribbean counterparts are deportations ordered by Washington, cyber crime, gang violence, and the illegal trafficking of drugs and guns.
Drug trafficking is also a major concern of the US government because it is believed that much of the substances abused by Americans on US soil either originate or is transhipped through the Caribbean.
The US has already made it clear that it will not stop the deportations which, across the Caribbean, are partly blamed for the increasing criminal sophistication and level of violence law enforcement agencies now find themselves confronting.
In order to help Caribbean law officers better fight crime and by extension help to stem the flow of drugs into the US, Washington wants to bolster information and intelligence sharing agreements.
That assistance from the US includes training for law enforcement officers in terms of crime detection, drug and arms interdiction, providing life skills training for youth and boosting rehabilitation programmes for deportees in the Caribbean.
This series of talks follows the Summit of the Americas in Port of Spain in April when the leaders of the 15-member Caribbean Community grouping got a commitment from US President Barack Obama to address their concerns.
?Already we?ve made a commitment to establish a regional cyber forensics lab here in Antigua, and we?ve constructed a coast guard base in English Harbour that we hope to be able to dedicate as soon as the government completes the final preparatory work to make the facility operational,? Dr Hardt said.