By Zena Henry
The establishment of an office of the United States (US) Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) here in Guyana is still very much a consideration. According to outgoing United States Ambassador Brent Hardt, there is nothing substantial preventing such a placement of the renowned anti-drug agency.
The US Ambassador reaffirmed yesterday that he is still very committed to this development, even if it is outside of his tenure.
During an interview at the US Embassy, Hardt expressed that training among other preparatory issues is outstanding, but the government has already expressed its willingness to working closely with the foreign agency in dealing with drug issues should the office be established.
Hardt highlighted that the role of the Embassy is to boost the capacity of local partners so that they can do their jobs in a more effective manner. He pointed out that in boosting effectiveness, programmes such as the recently completed Federal Bureau of Investigations (FBI) interrogation course arises, “and interrogation is a critical part of the process”.
The Ambassador said that such skills are necessary especially for borders and other entry ports where persons have to be assessed.
Hardt noted that such enforcement techniques aid with detecting certain unusualness; for example nervousness and unfamiliar behaviours. The Ambassador said he believes that through the Caribbean Basin Security Initiative (CBSI) engagement and investments being made, the work is paying off, and in the end, it is boosting the capacity of drug squads and the police in general.
He said that there is much more to be done, but there are numerous engagements ongoing to strengthen the ability of agencies and their agents. The Ambassador said also that he has been trying to boost the presence of DEA operations here in Guyana and good progress has been made, since there is an even more active engagement with the Trinidad and Tobago-based agency.
The Ambassador also recognized that despite efforts to have the office established during his tenure, there had been some, “severe budgetary issues in the US for the first couple of years.” He said however that that is now over, “and the DEA is now able to identify human resources to open another office.” However a new office requires congressional approval, notification etc., so it then becomes a processing issue. The Ambassador is hopeful that in time to come he can one day “knock on the door of a Guyana-based DEA office”.
“There is nothing holding back the establishment of the office.” Hardt said that from all indications and what was spoken about with President Donald Ramotar, the Foreign and Home Affairs Ministers, “they are prepared to work with us to meet structural relationships between the DEA and special units.
The US has been instrumental in the identification and arrest of major drug operators.
The Ambassador attributed that ability to their closeness with relevant agencies and on the ground intelligence. He said that the DEA also depends on their global reach and scope, “we understand and appreciate the interconnectedness of some drug networks.”
“Drug organizations are multinational companies in essence, they work across global markets, they can look and see where the prices of cocaine are best and try to get shipments in that direction,” the Ambassador asserted.
“Being able to make the connections and keeping an ear on the ground is very effective. Catching someone with drugs is great, but it is really hard work to get on to the bigger fish,” he said.
The outgoing US envoy pointed out that the Anti-money laundering legislation is one key area in identifying drug operators. He said that it really takes carefully developed law enforcement investigations and training and operation to support the efforts.