CONFIRMATION by the US Embassy of its role in this month’s $234 million drug bust – reportedly the largest on land to date – reflects American officials’ strong desire to underline the depth and complexity of US support to the region in fighting crime.
In a media release announcing the seizure last Saturday, Commissioner of Police Erla Harewood-Christopher made mention of collaboration “with both regional and international partners” and assured the TT Police Service (TTPS) would “continue to partner with our law enforcement counterparts in the US.”
But on Tuesday, the US Embassy shined a spotlight on decades-old collaborations between personnel from the US Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) and other agencies and the TTPS.
“I am proud of the six law enforcement agencies resident at the US Embassy, and the great work they perform at great risk to support Trinbagonian criminal investigations,” said US Ambassador Candace Bond, who also said, “The US is Trinidad and Tobago’s best and most reliable partner in the world.”
That partnership is in the interest of both countries but in more recent times it has come under greater scrutiny due to the position taken by Caricom leaders who last month pointed to the role of the US in the proliferation of firearms.
There are many questions lingering in the wake of this month’s drug bust, but it clearly complicates the leaders’ narrative.
Ms Bond in April also noted the work of the Caribbean Basin Security Institute as well as US investment to the tune of US$832 million into efforts to reduce firearms trafficking, increase public security and promote social justice.
The recent handing down of verdicts in a high-profile corruption case in Miami also provides a palpable example of the role of cross-border collaboration in the battle against white collar crime, an area in which local authorities struggle to make a meaningful impression.
Minister of National Security Fitzgerald Hinds on Wednesday congratulated the TTPS for the bust and, on prompting by former national security minister Stuart Young, extended his congratulations to “our international partners” but warned the matter remained under active investigation.
Mr Hinds was pointedly asked by Naparima MP Rodney Charles to state what urgent measures are being contemplated to secure local ports and to arrest masterminds, matters which have been on the minds of many in the wake of Saturday’s announcement.
It was an announcement which triggered memories of the $700 million Monos Island drug bust in 2008, an event that resulted in the arrests of a water taxi operator and four foreign nationals who were found in a house at Passy Bay.
They are serving life sentences in jail, but there remains the perception that too often the big fish in these kinds of matters remain untouchable and at large.