PPP repeats calls to US to establish DEA office here
Amid criticism of its anti-narcotics fight, the ruling People’s Progressive Party/Civic (PPP/C) on Monday reiterated its call for the US to establish a Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) office here.
The party’s General Secretary, Clement Rohee, who is also Home Affairs Minister, told a news conference at Freedom House that there was an urgent need for the establishment of the long overdue DEA office here as the Government continues to wage war against the thriving narcotics trade.
The call from the governing party comes after almost a decade after the two sides agreed to establish a DEA office here to tackle narco trafficking.
According to Rohee, the US has been able to identify and apprehend narco traders and other criminal elements because they may have access to information that is not otherwise available to local law enforcement.
“That is why we need the DEA office here as quickly as possible; I think if we get the DEA office here in Guyana then we would be in a much better position to deal collectively with these issues. Because it might be very well possible that the US might have intelligence on these persons that they are not desirous of sharing with us,” said Rohee.
Only recently, Ambassador Hardt had said that before any DEA Unit is established here, local anti-drug agents will have to be fully vetted in order to reduce the likelihood of them breaching strategies that would be enforced. He was responding to questions regarding the long-talked-about setting up of a DEA office in Guyana to stem the tide of trafficking.
Guyana is viewed as a transshipment point for cocaine going to Europe and North America, and according to the Ambassador, the establishment of the office in Guyana is not an automatic process.
“… part of a process for DEA working, they like to have a vetted unit which they are confident they can work with and share sensitive information with and really work in elevated partnership. So I think that is one of the core building blocks to getting DEA here,” Hardt told reporters following the recent signing of the Third Amendment to the Letter of Agreement on Narcotics Control and Law Enforcement between Guyana and the US.
Hardt noted that the vetting process would include ranks being screened via lie detector tests and background checks.
The Ambassador explained that there have been some delays in getting the DEA here due to budgetary issues faced in the US; however, he noted that they are currently in the process of overcoming this hurdle.
In an interview with the media earlier this year, Ambassador Hardt had explained that there was discussion on the DEA in December. He said that the delay in establishing the DEA here is because of budgetary constraints and getting approval on the US side. Nevertheless, the Ambassador had pointed out that despite the US not having a DEA presence in Guyana, the country has been covered by the DEA office in Trinidad for some time. The Ambassador noted that US DEA officials work closely with the Guyana Police Force and other law enforcement agencies.
“We have excellent relations that have been going on for some time, so even though we don’t physically have an office here, we have DEA officers who are in the country regularly, liaising and trying to build cases, cause that’s what DEA really brings to the table: its ability to build cases against major traffickers,” the Ambassador had stated.
Hardt, whose tenure in Guyana will be up soon, explained that from the time he was posted to Guyana, he has made it a priority to lobby for a DEA office here and has managed to make some headway.
The US Ambassador clarified that the non-implementation of the US DEA office here has nothing to do with any hindrance from the Government, but has to do mainly with sourcing resources and processing.
“When you see drug trends around the region, around the world, certainly, we think there is value in having a stronger DEA presence here,” Hardt stated. On the other hand, Foreign Affairs Minister Carolyn Rodrigues-Birkett had reassured of the Government’s commitment and support for the establishment of a US DEA office in Guyana. She had told the media that “we are ready on our side to do whatever we have to do to get the DEA office here.”
Drug master plan
Meanwhile, commentators have often blamed the lack of a proper drug master plan as one of the factors contributing to the drug problem. Guyana’s last drug plan expired in 2009. Asked for an update on the document, Rohee related that the plan is currently at the level of his Ministry where final changes are being made.
The Minister explained that the plan will be submitted to Cabinet for approval before it is released to the public. Rohee has previously stated that the final draft of the plan was slated for completion in March 2014.
He had noted too that consultations were held with the various stakeholders, including law enforcement units and Non-Governmental Organisations (NGOs) in an effort to garner their inputs.