Bahamas and United States renew anti-drug trafficking agreement

Nassau, The Bahamas – The Governments of The Bahamas and the United States renewed an agreement that provide continued US funding for narcotics control and law enforcement.

The amended Letter of Agreement on Narcotics Control and Law Enforcement was signed by the Hon. Frederick A. Mitchell, Minister of Foreign Affairs and the Public Service, and His Excellency John D. Rood, US Ambassador to The Bahamas, at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, East Hill Street. Under the amended agreement, the US State Department will provide The Bahamas with $592,000 in 2005 for its anti-drug programs.

“This funding represents a continuation of our longstanding commitment to cooperation with the Government of The Bahamas that dates back more than twenty years,” Ambassador Rood said at the signing ceremony.

This year’s funding includes $270,000 to be used to increase the efficiency of the Bahamian Police and Customs Department through enhanced training and equipment, $282,000 in direct support for Operation Bahamas, Turks and Caicos (OPBAT), and $40,000 to assist local prevention and drug demand reduction initiatives.

Since initial signing of the Agreement, the US Government has provided The Bahamas with over $14 million through the US State Department, and $30 million annually under the OPBAT program to help strengthen the capacity of Bahamian law enforcement to meet the challenge posed to by drug traffickers.

Ambassador Rood added that for more than 20 years The Bahamas has been one of the United States closest and most successful allies in the fight against illegal narcotics trafficking, and their joint effort has made a difference.

He noted that in the early 1980s, an estimated 80 percent of the cocaine bound for the United States from South America passed through the Caribbean corridor.

Ambassador Rood said, “The number is below 10 percent and the joint effort of The Bahamas and the US has resulted in the interdiction of more than 1,700 kilos of marijuana.”

He also noted that while cooperation of the Department of State’s international partners is critical to reducing the supply of illegal drugs, American demand for these drugs fuels the drug trade.

This is the reason why the United States devotes increasing resources to treatment and prevention programs, Ambassador Rood added.

Ambassador Rood said “forty percent of all federal government drug spending ($4.5 billion) goes directly to prevention and treatment programs. State and local governments, he said, spend similar amounts on prevention and treatment resulting in a 17 percent reduction in illicit drug use since 2001.

He said the United States remains committed to taking action in close cooperation with partners such as The Bahamas against drug trafficking and the criminal activities linked to it.

The Hon. Fredrick Mitchell, Minister of Foreign Affairs said the joint interdiction efforts under OPBAT, remain pivotal to the success both countries have and continue to achieve against the constant onslaught of drug trafficking.

Minister Mitchell expressed satisfaction with the increased proactive methods employed by the United States and The Bahamas law enforcement agencies, especially at Ports of Entry, which has resulted in a significant increase in the apprehensions of those persons entering and exiting The Bahamas with drugs or proceeds from illicit drug trade.

He said the contribution of $592,000 from the United States Government will assist in continuing the joint efforts of both countries.

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