Editorial: Get ready for the heat

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We need to start by complimenting the Office of National Drug and Money Laundering Control Policy (ONDCP) for the two major drug busts that occurred recently. If there are other law enforcement agencies, such as the Royal Police Force of Antigua and Barbuda that participated in those busts, we compliment them as well. It is always good news when drugs are intercepted before they make their way onto the streets and destroy lives.
In the first operation, which occurred in early January of this year, authorities identified Deon Perkins as the person caught with $11.8 million worth of cocaine in the back of his van as he travelled down the Sir George Walter Highway. The bust netted 740.8 pounds of cocaine and made quite the stir in the manner in which it was carried out – in broad daylight, at a busy intersection and conducted by heavily armed, masked law enforcement officers.
In the second operation, just about a month later, Colin Murraine, a 31-yearold Antiguan pilot was apparently caught with 105 pound of cocaine worth almost $1.7 million. It is alleged that Murraine, who was travelling as a passenger on a private jet, was attempting to export the drugs, which were contained in two suitcases.
These are serious drug busts and they raise a lot of questions about drugs in our little bit of paradise. In the past, the United States of America and others have labeled Antigua and Barbuda as a major drug transshipment point in the Caribbean. We have always resisted that label because there was just no evidence that there was a large amount of hard drugs passing through our land. We took a strange kind of pride that we were more of a marijuana island. Hard drugs are just not our thing.
The good work of ONDCP has, however, given some evidence to the accusation. It will make no difference that the organization was effective in intercepting the drugs. What will be tallied is the quantum of drugs. A mystic equation will be applied as to how much is intercepted versus how much gets through, and we will, once again, find ourselves on the drug reports as being of a nation of bad character.
Who can forget the 2017 International Narcotics Control Strategy Report (INCSR) published by the U.S. State Department’s Bureau for International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs, which was not nice to us? On page 151 of Volume 1, the report stated that Antigua and Barbuda, along with the rest of the Eastern Caribbean, “hosts abundant transshipment points for illicit narcotics” and that “‘go-fast’ boats, fishing trawlers, and cargo ships continue to play major transit roles.” By the sounds of that ‘host’ description, you would think that this is all public knowledge and done in the open.
And just so you know what category the State Department puts us in, a major drug-transit country is defined in the INCSR as one: (A) that is a significant direct source of illicit narcotic or psychotropic drugs or other controlled substances significantly affecting the United States; or (B) through which are transported such drugs or substances.
 It seems as though our law enforcement successes in drug interdiction will do little but confirm our position on the various lists as “a major drug-transit country.” We are caught between a rock and a hard place. Just think of it. The more successful we are at drug interdiction, the more we confirm that we are “a major drug transit country.” It makes little difference that we are intercepting the drugs and not letting it transit our country.
Sometimes, developing nations just cannot win. The system is stacked against us. Now the prime minister, the attorney general, the foreign affairs minister and the minister of tourism (to name an obvious few) will all have a tough job and have to spend too much time defending our good name, once again.
We understand the public’s concern of the quantum of drugs that were intercepted because we share those concerns. We also share the concerns regarding increased violent crime on our streets that appear to be gang and drug related. These are obviously indicators that all is not well, but at the same time, our law enforcement agencies seem to be attacking the problem and the government seems to be doing its part in supporting them. We are not being naive about the potential drug problem in our nation, but at the same time we are not naive about the damage these labels can do to our tourism industry.
People do not want to visit a major drug-transit country on their vacations, so these reports are damaging and misleading. Maybe the new INCSR report should start by saying to Americans ‘you live in a major drug producing, drug using, drug exporting and drug-transiting country, so consider the Caribbean for your next vacation if you want a break.” That sounds like a good start toward putting things in perspective.

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