Mon, Apr 20, 2009 - Page 7 News List

Caribbean asks US to expand anti-drug Merida plan

AP , PORT OF SPAIN, TRINIDAD

Caribbean leaders said they have asked the US to expand a US$1.4 billion program to help Mexico and Central America fight drug trafficking and organized crime to include aid for their island country.

The so-called Merida Initiative should include funding for Caribbean countries where drug-related gun deaths are rising, Guyanese President Bharrat Jagdeo said after Caribbean leaders met US congressmen on Saturday.

Jagdeo said Caribbean presidents and prime ministers told US lawmakers that a crackdown in Mexico could push drug traffickers into the Caribbean, which lies directly between the South American source of many illegal drugs and the US, the world’s top consumer.

RESOURCES

“We have to spend resources that we do not have on interdiction,” Barbados Prime Minister David Thompson added, stressing how hard it is to fight trafficking with many island’s poorly funded police and limited armies.

US President Barack Obama on Friday told a hemispheric summit in Trinidad that the US would provide at least US$30 million to help strengthen security in the Caribbean.

Caribbean leaders directly addressed economic aid, gun and drug smuggling and other issues in a one-hour meeting with Obama late on Friday, describing a new tone in US policy and expressing hope for closer ties.

LISTENING

“The US is not lecturing us anymore, but rather listening,” Jagdeo said. “They need to listen and that is what we got.”

Obama also promised to ask the World Bank and the IMF to consider boosting credit to the region, Jamaican Prime Minister Bruce Golding said.

Caribbean leaders said they hoped talks would continue in a second round of meetings in Washington later this year.

US officials did not immediately confirm those plans.

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