Caribbean becoming 'new drug route'
Leaders tell US that focus on Mexican cartels is driving smugglers to the region.
Last Modified: 18 Apr 2010 04:09 GMT
Carribean leaders told US senior officials more needs to be done to fight drug trafficking [File: EPA]

Caribbean leaders have urged the US to do more to stop the trafficking of drugs to island nations, saying support for a crackdown on cartels in Mexico has forced smugglers to find new routes through the region.

The comments came during a regional security conference in Barbados attended by the US defence secretary, Robert Gates.

During the meeting David Thompson, the prime minister of Barbados, said all Caribbean nations saw drug smuggling as "a threat to our individual, national and regional well-being".

Gates for his part acknowledged the growing problem and emphasised the need to tighten coordination between anti-drug efforts in Latin America, the Caribbean and the United States.

He said the US had set aside $70m to fund law enforcement and social programmes in Caribbean countries in 2011.

Such funding had declined under the previous Bush administration.

Less resistance

"I think that narco-trafficking is a problem for the hemisphere as a whole," Gates told the conference.

"And wherever you put pressure, the traffickers will go where there is less resistance and where there is less capability."

The US Drug Enforcement Administration estimates that three-quarters of South American cocaine going north passes through Central America, with a much smaller portion moving through the Caribbean.

But Gates said Caribbean leaders told him that the situation was getting worse due to the efforts of Plan Merida - the $1.4bn US programme started in 2007 to help Mexico fight the cartels.

"Their belief [is] that the problem has gotten worse because of the Merida initiative and Mexico's efforts," he said.

Gates said he hoped recent efforts showed "the United States is re-engaging in this region and that we will work with these countries to address these problems."

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