Jamaica remains major source of illegal drugs to US — report

Jamaica remains the largest Caribbean source country of marijuana and a significant transit point for cocaine trafficked from South America to North America and other international markets, according to the latest International Narcotics Control Strategy Report released here by the United States State Department.

It said that traffickers also export Jamaican-grown marijuana to other Caribbean countries in return for illicit firearms and other contraband.

 “Jamaica’s geographic position in the western Caribbean and its difficult-to-patrol coastline, high volume of tourist travel, and status as a major containerized cargo trans-shipment hub contribute to its use for drug trafficking via commercial shipping, small watercraft, air freight, human couriers, and private aircraft,” the Report noted.

It said that while the United States and Jamaican governments continue to successfully utilise bilateral legal assistance and extradition treaties, as well as agreements on maritime law enforcement cooperation and sharing forfeited assets, progress is being made towards an agreement to formalise information sharing between customs agencies.

Washington said that Jamaica’s drug control efforts face significant challenges from corruption, organised crime, gang activity, resource constraints, and an inefficient criminal justice system.

Both countries are bilateral parties to both a mutual legal assistance treaty and an extradition treaty and they also have a strong extradition and mutual assistance relationship. Both treaties were successfully used in 2018.

The United States and Jamaica also utilised a reciprocal agreement to share forfeited criminal assets and a bilateral agreement on law enforcement cooperation on maritime interdiction of illicit traffickers, including boarding of suspicious vessels and embarkation of law enforcement officials on the other country’s ships.

ast year, the two countries made “some progress toward finalizing a bilateral customs mutual assistance agreement (CMAA) that will provide a legal framework for the exchange of trade information between the agencies of the two countries “which in the long term will assist in targeting the flow of drugs, guns, and other contraband through US and Jamaican ports of entry.

“The CMAA is still under review by the Jamaican government and is not expected to be signed and in effect until 2019. The Jamaican government ended in 2018 an existing non-binding memorandum of understanding previously used to share intercept information, on the basis that it did not meet the legal framework required under the Jamaican constitution.”

But Washington said that the absence of a formal agreement to share intercept information has hampered its investigations in some areas and that the two countries are “currently in negotiations to find a way forward to reaching a mutually agreeable mechanism to restore this longstanding area of cooperation between both governments”.

The Report noted that Jamaica’s efforts to bring traffickers to justice are hobbled by an under-resourced, overburdened judicial system and that repeated delays and trial postponements contribute to significant case backlogs; frustration among police, witnesses, jurors, and the public, and; impunity for many offenders.