Wednesday, November 18, 2009

SVG Calls for Fighting Drugs

By Nelson A. King
Published: Wednesday, November 18, 2009 9:11 AM EST
St. Vincent and the Grenadines has called on the international community to demonstrate the “necessary political will” in cooperating against the global problems of narcotic drugs.

In addressing the United Nations General Assembly recently, Ambassador Camillo Gonsalves also highlighted the interrelations between drug trafficking and other developmental problems.

He also said there is “need for consideration to be given to transit states that lie between the drug producing countries of South America and their primary markets in North America and Europe.”

In debating the U.N. Report of the Commission on Narcotic Drugs, Gonsalves, the eldest son of Prime Minister Dr. Ralph Gonsalves, noted that the St. Vincent and the Grenadines’ economy was once been based on a “thriving banana-export business to the United Kingdom.”

But, he added that with changes “initiated by the World Trade Organization and the United States, which “does not grow a single bunch of bananas,” the island’s economy has since “plummeted.”

“The resulting unemployment, poverty and social upheaval spawned a destructive drug industry,” the U.N. envoy said.

“And ‘ancient old-growth’ rain forests are subsequently decimated to make ways for cannabis herb fields, run by criminal enterprises with headquarters often in other countries,” he added.

“St. Vincent and the Grenadines is now one of the Caribbean’s major marijuana producers,” he said, quoting a UNODC report that points to the Caribbean as having a murder rate higher than any other region in the world.

“The tragic statistic is specifically tied to the illicit drug industry,” Gonsalves said.

He lamented that his country only has “a few hundred, largely unarmed law enforcement officers, which face the challenge of policing armed drug gangs,” adding that the judicial system is “crowded with drug-related cases.”

Gonsalves pointed out that the Report of the Commission on Narcotic Drugs recognizes “the multifaceted challenges faced by transit states.”

He, therefore, called for increased technical and financial assistance to states most directly affected by the world’s drug problem.

“This is, indeed, a global problem,” he said. “And the human and financial costs of combating it cannot be borne by states like ours, which are essentially transit points for drugs on their way to North American and European markets.”

At the same time, Gonsalves said the “interconnectedness of the world drug problem to other global issues must be acknowledged and addressed.”

“Surely, it is preferable for international trading regimes to carve out exceptions and export preferences for what are essentially de minimis producers of legitimate agricultural goods than it is to force them to choose between unemployment and the production of illicit cash crops,” he said.

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