U.S. fears Guyana becoming a narco-state
BERT WILKINSON Special to the AmNews | 8/31/2011, 5:09 p.m.
Recently released confidential cables from the U.S. mission in Guyana to the State Department in Washington have confirmed for people in the Caribbean trade bloc headquarter nation of Guyana what they knew all along-that official tolerance for money laundering and the drug trade are pushing the country to the brink of becoming a narco-state.
The fears were expressed in internal memos from then-Ambassador Roland Bullen to the secretary of state's office as far back as 2006, which were recently released by WikiLeaks, the renegade whistleblower website that has already published thousands of confidential cables from American embassies around the world.
Giving his take on his posting, Bullen, who originates from the nearby Caribbean island nation of Grenada, said the country was well on its way to becoming a narco-state. He made it known in the memos that it was tough going trying to convince the governing People's Progressive Party (PPP) to clamp down on the illicit trade.
He cited a lack of resources for agencies designated to fight the trade, widespread corruption at all societal levels, porous borders, corrupt and ineffective law enforcement agencies, vast swaths of unpoliced territory and easy access to North America, Europe and the Caribbean as factors that made the former British colony an ideal place for international traffickers.
"In other words, these narco-criminals see Guyana as a country where they can operate with impunity," Bullen wrote.
He said even then that the status quo made Guyana a strong candidate for an established office of the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA), but blamed various hardline government positions for the fact that the country doesn't have one to this day.
By August 2007, Charge d'Affaires Michael Thomas had expressed similar concerns and asked for funds to set up an office, but he, too, complained about official intransigence that served to ensure all efforts were eventually scuttled. "The project is no longer viable, due to the government of Guyana's failure to identify an acceptable location for the unit and their lack of progress in addressing drug trafficking issues," Thomas said in a leaked memo.
Talks of a dedicated DEA office date all the way back to 1999, Bullen said, noting that the agency's office in neighboring Trinidad was not capable of properly serving Guyana as well, as agents there were fully occupied with local activities. "DEA has done an excellent job serving both nations, but Guyana demands greater focus and its own DEA staff to fully address the severe narco-trafficking situation on the ground."
Reacting this week, Guyanese President Bharrat Jagdeo said he disagreed with the assessment entirely, noting, "If I allow an American ambassador's view to put a damper on my feeling or my image, I wouldn't be fit to run this country. This is their opinion about what is taking place in Guyana."