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Bahamas still on US drug list

By TAMARA McKENZIE, The Nassau Guardian, September 19, 2006

The Bahamas was again branded by the US Department of State on Monday as a "major drug transit" country, mainly because of its location between South America (suppliers) and North America (consumers).

However, US Embassy officials noted that the amount of drugs shipped through The Bahamas during the 1980s, in comparison to present day statistics, has decreased sharply.

The Report on the major drug transit or major illicit drug-producing countries is released annually by the US Department of State. The report contains presidential determinations of those countries that have "failed demonstrably" to make substantial efforts during the past year to adhere to international counter-narcotics agreements and to take measures specified by US law.

The major illicit drug producing and drug transit countries listed by the US for the fiscal year 2007, include, Afghanistan, The Bahamas, Bolivia, Brazil, Burma, Colombia, The Dominican Republic, Ecuador, Guate-mala, Haiti, India, Jamaica, Laos, Mexico, Nigeria, Pakistan, Panama, Paraguay, Peru, and Venezuela.

The number of countries listed this year has decreased from 22 to 20 after China and Vietnam were removed.

According to the US Department of State, a country's presence on the Majors List is not necessarily an adverse reflection of its government's counter-narcotics efforts or level of cooperation with the US.

One of the reasons that major drug transit or illicit drug- producing countries are placed on the list, has to do with the combination of geographical, commercial and economic factors that allow drugs to transit or be produced, despite the concerned government's most assiduous enforcement measures.

David M. Foran, the Narcotics Affairs Officer at the United States Embassy, told the press on Monday that it is possible for The Bahamas to be removed from the US annual listing of major drug transit or major illicit drug-producing countries if drug trafficking continues to dry up in The Bahamas.

Mr Foran pointed out that throughout the 1980s, some 70-80 per cent of illegal narcotics (mostly marijuana and cocaine) entering the US from South America were smuggled through The Bahamas, but with the re-establishment of routes, only 7-10 per cent is now smuggled through The Bahamas.

However, he added that he has noticed a trend concerning marijuana-Jamaican nationals are cultivating it on various secluded islands of The Bahamas.

Mr Foran said the US has no intention of letting its guard down when it comes to monitoring The Bahamas for illegal narcotics, especially those islands that are in close proximity to the US, such as Bimini and Grand Bahama.

A statement released by the Embassy yesterday indicated that President George Bush has certified to Congress that The Bahamas fully cooperates with the US when it comes to fighting the war on drugs.

"The United States appreciates the close law enforcement partnership we enjoy with The Bahamas as we seek to strengthen international efforts to reduce the flow of illegal narcotics to our shores," the statement read.