U.S. assistance to Jamaica to fight organized crime
By Tony Best
U.S. assistance to Jamaica to fight organized crime is in both countries’ interest and the Caribbean region’s as well, but there is more to be done.
With violent crime, especially homicides taking a heavy toll on the quality of life across the Caribbean and on the region’s economic and social development, it didn’t take rocket science to understand why Caricom leaders decided at last week’s summit in Suriname to keep security issues on their “high priority” list.
It also didn’t come as a surprise when the United States decided to say ‘yes’ to a recent appeal by Jamaica’s new Prime Minister, Portia Simpson-Miller, to send some U.S. federal prosecutors to the island-nation to help in the battle against organized crime. Jamaica with one of the world’s highest murder rates needs all the help it can get from to stem the tide of illegal drugs and firearms into the nation.
The step taken by U.S. President Barrack Obama, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Attorney-General Eric Holder to extend a helping hand to Jamaican law enforcement authorities so they can haul crime lords before the nation’s courts while going after their ill-gotten gains, their assets, should be applauded. The double whammy, if you will, should eventually take scores of criminals off the streets and put them where they belong and that is behind bars. Any attack on their assets would hit them where it hurts and that is in the pocket and diminish their ability to finance the operations of their criminal organizations.
The assistance to Jamaica is part of the Obama Administration’s Caribbean Basin Security Initiative which was developed and approved by Washington and its Caribbean neighbors. So far, the pact has resulted in almost $140 million being shared by the various countries, most it going to the nations with the greatest need, Jamaica, Trinidad and Tobago, Guyana, the Bahamas, Barbados and the members of the Organization of Eastern Caribbean States, OECS.
Julissa Reynoso, the U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for the Western Hemisphere, who led a delegation of Washington official for last week’s discussions in Kingston with Jamaica’s ministries of national security, Education, Finance and Industry, Invest and Commerce didn’t put a timetable for this latest move by Washington, indicating that it make take several months before it can get off the ground in earnest. Like its neighbors Jamaica needs quick and systematic assistance to apprehend and punish gang leaders. But the aid shouldn’t be limited to prosecutions and jails. As in the case of other countries it needs help with its educational system and its economy, especially with its burden of debt and opportunities for investment. A holistic development plan is needed for the region to create more opportunities for the youth and adults so they can live in improved and peaceful surroundings without fearing becoming victims of crime or having to resort to illegal activity to do so.
The inextricable link between poverty, inadequate education, people’s frustration caused by a lack of jobs, poor housing and galloping but unfilled aspiration wouldn’t simply disappear by sending criminals to prison. That’s why the plan to focus on “at-risk” youth in Jamaica is admirable.
At their summit in Paramaribo, Caricom leaders seemingly went out of their way to send a message to the U.S., Canada, Britain and other aid donors that their countries want foreign help. Their reference to “extra-regional cooperation and initiatives” was an obvious signal.
Fighting crime is a costly but vital necessity and the United States has a responsibility to aid the countries because of geographic proximity to America’s shores, the wide open shores of the Caribbean, the role drug use and abuse in the 50 states, and the importance of good neighborliness.
President Obama has responded to the cries for help in ways which the previous Administration didn’t consider and that’s a feather in his cap, if you will.
Coming after the public disagreement between Jamaica’s Bruce Golding Administration and Washington over the extradition of crime boss Christopher “Dudus” Coke to the United States, Simpson-Miller’s appeal for assistance and the positive response by the U.S. augur well for the future.
For as Reynoso said Washington “we have had a good relationship with Jamaican authorities, at least as I remember it” and that included “a very fruitful and constructive relationship with Prime Minister Golding’s government.”