Heeding Puerto Rico Governor’s Call, US Senators Urge Stronger Caribbean Security

By: Caribbean Journal Staff - September 16, 2012

Above: US Senator Charles Grassley

By the Caribbean Journal staff

In late June, Puerto Rico Governor Luis Fortuño urged US President Barack Obama and federal officials to establish a Caribbean Border Initiative in light of a worsening security situation in the Caribbean.

A pair of US Senators appear to have been listening, as Democrat Dianne Feinstein and Republican Chuck Grassley have issued a report calling for stepped-up security efforts in the region.

“The Caribbean region has come a long way since it served as the primary transit route for South American drugs entering the United States in the 1980s,” Feinstein said following the release of “Preventing a Security Crisis in the Caribbean.” “Despite impressive gains, drug trafficking, local drug consumption and the US demand for illegal drugs remain major causes of crime and violence.”

At the June hearing, which was chaired by US Rep. Michael McCaul, Fortuño said increased pressure on the US-Mexico border had pushed much of the narcotics crime towards the Caribbean.

“As enforcement efforts in Mexico and Central American inevitably move trafficking back to the Caribbean, we must better support our neighbours in the Western Hemisphere to combat the corrosive drug trade and minimize violence,” Feinstein said.

Grassley said the recent spike in the use of drug-trafficking submarines had shown “the lengths smugglers are taking to get their product to US shores through the area.”

The report issued a series of recommendations, including an assessment of which Caribbean nations require a “Sensitive Investigative Unit,” calling Jamaica a top candidate; strong support of Haiti’s counternarcotic efforts; strengthening of US anti-money laundering laws and the return of DEA helicopters used in Operation Bahamas, Turks and Caicos to the Exumas islands in the Bahamas.

It also included a call for US Immigration and Customs Enforcement to send a “full criminal history” of all deportees to authorities in the Caribbean to notify home governments of any criminals or drug traffickers.

Under current policy, Caribbean authorities do not receive a “full criminal rap sheet” from ICE on deportees, according to the report.

US Senators Charles Schumer, Tom Udall, Sheldon Whitehouse, James Risch and John Cornyn also endorsed the report. All are members of the Senate. Caucus on International Narcotics Control.

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