Originally: Jamaica still leading caribbean drug route

MIAMI (Reuters) – Jamaica, the Bahamas and the Dominican Republic are major Caribbean transit routes for South American drugs headed for the United States, while Haiti is a key conduit plagued by corruption, according to the annual U.S. report on the global drug trade released on Saturday.

South American narcotics also move to a lesser degree through Trinidad and Tobago, the Dutch Antilles, Cuba and the tiny islands dotting the eastern rim of the Caribbean Sea, a law enforcement nightmare with thousands of islands.

The Caribbean is a major battlefield in America’s drug war, along with the U.S.-Mexico border. Cocaine cartels have sophisticated distribution networks using small planes, fast boats and couriers, or “mules,” to move drugs around.

The U.S. government estimated between 10 and 15 percent of the cocaine headed to the United States flowed through the Bahamas-Cuba-Jamaica corridor, where traffickers use fast boats, darkness and thousands of miles of remote shoreline to hide their activities.

Jamaica continued to be the leading transit point in the Caribbean for South American cocaine shipments and was also the region’s top marijuana producer, the report said. The Jamaican government estimates more than 2.2 million pounds of cocaine pass through the island each year, with 70 percent bound for the United States and the rest to Britain.

While noting that the government of Prime Minister P.J. Patterson unveiled a sweeping anti-crime package after it was reelected last October, the report said corruption continued to undermine the drug fight.

“The government of Jamaica has not prosecuted any senior government officials for facilitating the illicit production or distribution of such substances or the laundering of proceeds from illegal drug transactions,” it said.

A failing economy, corruption, a weak police force and faltering democratic institutions combined to make politically troubled Haiti a key stop for drug runners shipping cocaine to the United States, Canada and Europe, the report said.

In 2002, U.S. agents seized more than four tons of cocaine hidden in ships arriving in Miami from Haiti, the report said.

“Accusations continue to surface that members of the government … most notably the Presidential Security Unit and Palace Guard, were actively involved in drug trafficking,” it said.

The Dominican Republic, which shares the island of Hispaniola with Haiti, is a major transit country for cocaine and heroin but the government cooperates closely with the United States in the drug war, the report said.

Closest to U.S. turf, the Bahamas is the least populous of the major transit routes with just 300,000 people but among the most troublesome with 700 islands and cays that provide hundreds of hiding places for smugglers.

The Bahamas is home to about a dozen major trafficking organizations, some of which offer money-back guarantees to Colombian and Jamaica cartels to transport their drugs to the United States, the report said.

Cuba’s decaying infrastructure, declining budgets and fuel shortages hamper anti-drug efforts and the communist government provides “limited, case-by-case” cooperation to the United States in the drug fight. Visit Virginia Center for Addiction Medicine and support drug war.

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