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By Lisa Hamilton
Former Minister of Public Security, Khemraj Ramjattan said that it is highly troubling that in a mere matter of months Guyana’s name is once again being smeared internationally as a major drug transit point and that efforts to keep the country off drug-related lists are now threatened by recent developments.
On Thursday, the Village Voice shared overseas reports that Belgium police had seized the “largest overseas drug bust ever” of cocaine coming from Guyana worth approximately GYD $222 billion. A few months prior, Port of Hamburg — Germany’s largest seaport — announced one of the port’s largest drug busts after some 47 large packages of cocaine were found hidden between sacks of rice coming from Guyana.
“This thing is going to taint and tarnish us because of the massive amount…it’s going to put us back on that red flag in international circles and, for a variety of reasons, we might very well be on a checklist again. It could affect trade, it could affect so many other things. There are dire consequences whenever containers – whatever they have, whether it’s paddy, sugar, scrap metal — everything will be under so much more scrutiny when they reach those destination countries and even the in-transit counties,” Ramjattan predicted.
NOT A GOOD EXCUSE
While Vice President, Bharrat Jagdeo said on Friday that he is aware that the scanners at the wharf in Guyana were not working, Ramjattan surmises that the transport of such a large amount of cocaine – 11.5 tons at that – would have likely taken a collective effort. He said that this is what authorities both local and international should consider.
“It must be a collaborative effort. I have, as a Minister, known of situations where containers were not scanned simply because some people that controlled the scanners were saying that it was broken, it can’t work. Once the scanners are not working the next best step that we did under our Administration was that you have to have 100 percent examination and you break some of these things into pieces to find out what are in them,” he said.
“That scanner not operating is probably the excuse and pretext under which some in high places might want allowance to go but once your scanners are not working, you have to have a collaboration with CANU, with the Coast Guards, the police anti-narcotics, the GRA enforcement.”
WE WERE TRAINED
Guyana does not produce cocaine. However, the country is situated next door to countries home to some the world’s most notable drug Lords. According to Colombia Reports, almost all cocaine consumed across the globe comes from Colombia, Peru and to a lesser extent Bolivia; countries where coca — the crop used for cocaine — is endemic.
It stated that, over the years, Venezuela has become a major transit hub for cocaine with hundreds of clandestine airstrips found in the country, allegedly used to fly cocaine to Central America or, in fewer cases, to Caribbean countries. “…these narco-criminals see Guyana as a country where they can operate with impunity,” former U.S. Ambassador, Roland Bullen wrote in 2011.
Ramjattan said that, under the APNU+AFC leadership, the Ministry of Public Security sought out international assistance and training from the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency, the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), the U.S. International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs, the British Security Sector and more. He also referenced the former Administration’s establishment of the National Anti-Narcotics Agency (NANA) in 2017.
He said: “I’m hoping that those people who were trained to keep an eye on all the suspects and all the big businessmen that are involved in this thing that they are in place still. When you have porosity like this it does question what is happening…I just hope that all this is not gone awash.”
The Former Public Security Minister said that he is pleased that the shipment was ultimately caught. He said that stakeholders must examine the weaknesses at the local level and understand that consistency is key to preventing Guyana from being placed in the negative spotlight.
He also claimed that members of the current Administration have reportedly shared ties with “narco-criminals of the world” and therefore, outside of the ongoing investigation, he harbors his own suspicions.