US commits US$45 million to counter criminal activities in Caribbean region

KINGSTON, Jamaica – Deputy Assistant Secretary in the United States (US) Department of State, Julissa Reynoso, says the US administration has committed US$45 million to bolster the efforts of Caribbean nations to counter criminal activities in the region, through the Caribbean Basin Security Initiative (CBSI).

She made the announcement while addressing the inaugural two-day meeting of the CBSI Commission at the Wyndham Hotel, New Kingston, on Wednesday (November 3).

The CBSI is a multifaceted effort by the US Government and Caribbean Community (CARICOM) member states to develop a joint regional citizen safety strategy to tackle the full range of security and criminal threats to the Caribbean Basin.

The initiative, first announced by US President, Barack Obama, at the 2009 Summit of the Americas in Trinidad and Tobago, draws on partnership to achieve the strategic objectives of substantially reducing illicit trafficking, increasing public safety and security, and promoting social justice.

Julissa Reynoso

Pointing out that the US/Caribbean partnership and relationship has “deep roots and lasting binds” because the regions’ close proximity, economic, cultural and political ties, Ms. Reynoso contended that “we have a shared responsibility to ensure the safety of all our citizens.”

She said that some of the funding will come in the form of equipment such as boats and maritime security tools. Through other funded programmes, members of the security forces will be trained to use the equipment and learn new security techniques that can be employed to fight transnational crime.

“Recognising that citizen safety is linked to education and employment, CBSI funding also supports the establishment and expansion of regional programmes, like COMET, based here in Jamaica, which empowers communities, enriches school civic programmes, teaching life skills and community safety to middle school students,” she informed.

COMET, the Jamaica Community Empowerment and Transformation Project, is a United States Agency for International Development (USAID)-funded programme, initiated in 2006, that aims to strengthen the capacity of the Jamaica Constabulary Force (JCF) to engage in community policing islandwide, thereby, enhancing the relationship between citizens and the police.

Noting that approaches to countering and prevention helps in enhancing safety and promoting community development, Ms. Reynoso said the US Administration anticipates an expansion of the programmes and initiatives “as our CBSI partnership matures and develops over the coming years.”

“We have committed to this partnership to provide greater opportunities for our future generations but this requires a life free of fear and persecution, and it requires all of our governments to think through, how we can better tackle the problem and commit politically socially, and holistically, to tackling this problem. Ensuring the safety of our citizens remains our primary goal,” Ms. Reynoso assured.

The CBSI Commission comprises representatives of CARICOM member states, the US, Dominican Republic, CARICOM Secretariat, CARICOM Implementation Agency for Crime and Security, and the Regional Security System.

The Commission was established following the Inaugural Caribbean-US Security Cooperation Dialogue held in Washington, DC on May 27, 2009.

The CBSI’s meeting in Kingston concluded on November 4.

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