Paper Presented by Ambassador Odeen Ishmael of Guyana at the 19th Session of the

Inter-American Drug Abuse Control Commission (CICAD)

Washington, D.C. -- 4-8 March 1996


For many years, inhabitants of most of the Commonwealth Caribbean states as well as their French, Spanish and Dutch speaking neighbours, have increasingly come to realise that by sheer geography they found themselves in the path of a multi-billion dollar trade in illicit drugs and substances. This illicit trade, controlled by organised cartels from South America, is currently taking place in the western hemisphere between the major drug producing countries of South America and the drug consuming markets of North America and Western Europe.

2. Drug rings from South America are making use of the traditional advantages the Caribbean area has to offer. These advantages include the favourable geographic location, easy navigation, an ample network of airlines and cruise ship connections, a large and mobile volume of tourists, inadequately patrolled borders, coastline and waters, as well as the inherent difficulties of policing a group of island states. Many of these smaller states which had not previously experienced any significant drug problem are being utilised as transhipment points by international traffickers who are constantly seeking alternative routes.

3. Commencing in the 1970s through the 1980s, the movement of drugs through the region resulted in the relative peace and tranquility of the region being affected by an increase in the local trade in and availability and misuse of illegal drugs. This situation was inevitably accompanied by an inevitable rise in violent crimes, lawlessness and drug addiction among the local populations.


4. Caribbean states have been attempting to respond to the situation on an individual basis, by using scarce resources primarily for interdiction and eradication of marijuana which is cultivated in a substantial way in countries like Jamaica, St. Vincent and Guyana. Foreign assistance primarily from the United States in the area of interdiction has been minimal but useful, since it has provided vessels, vehicles, equipment and training to aid the process.

5. In Guyana, cultivation of marijuana takes place in the heavily forested and riverain areas, which are difficult and very costly to access. The borders of Guyana, like those of many sister CARICOM states, are difficult to patrol. Hence, in an effort to reduce the cultivation of illegal drugs, as well as to prevent illegal importation of drugs via their borders, states have to commit large sums of money for interdiction in those areas.

6. Whether the country is considered a producing state or a transit one, the efforts of its law enforcement agency play a major role in preventing drugs from reaching the lucrative markets in North America and Western Europe. In fact, it is generally recognised that these consumer countries benefit substantially, if not primarily, from these efforts.

7. Apart from the high demands placed on the meagre financial resources of our states, we are also aware of the adverse effects on the human resources. Thus, our states in the present economic circumstances see the need for all-round assistance in conducting enforcement and interdiction tasks and for rehabilitation programmes to reduce demand.

8. The measures taken by all the Caribbean countries individually fall short of a regional response which will be necessary in the development of a sustained Caribbean initiative. The time has come for CARICOM states to collectively find a common position on the drug question acceptable to and in the interest of the region.

9. The heavy foreign debt repayment coupled with the high expenditure incurred in the fight against drugs cannot be sustained by the fragile economies of CARICOM states. As a result, development and growth occur at a slow pace once we continue the drug war for the developed countries, without the required level of assistance. In this context, consumer countries would be persuaded to provide the necessary level of funding to CARICOM states for programmes which will improve their anti-narcotic capabilities and enhance their economic viability. Debt relief to CARICOM countries should also be renegotiated in order to promote development and provide alternative employment for those involved in the drug trade.

The Guyana Situation

10. The major drug problems with which Guyana is confronted are:

Production of marijuana on an increasing scale primarily in the interior forested regions.

The transit of cocaine through Guyana.

The economic and social cost of the abuse of the illicit substances.

The increase in crime and drug addiction resulting from production and trade of these illicit substances.

11. Guyana's response to these challenges has focused on a number of important areas:

Legislative and Administrative Measures

Through the enactment of the Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances Control Act 1988 and a subsequent amendment in 1991, very harsh measures of punishment under the law were meted out for all drug related offences. Provision was also made for forfeiture of property connected with drug related offences.

12. Guyana also approached the drug problem by preparing a strategy which set up an institutional framework. It established the National Drug Law Enforcement Committee (NADLEC) to formulate policies to guide the work of the Law Enforcement and Demand Reduction Agencies. The Committee is chaired by the President of the Republic, and its membership includes Ministers with responsibilities for Security, Education, Health and Legal Affairs, as well as heads and senior officials of the Military, Police and Customs Department. The Committee reviews the work of its sub-committees and sets new guidelines.

13. The sub-committees of NADLEC are:

(a) The Joint Anti-Narcotics Operations Committee (JANOC), which is responsible for planning, coordinating and implementing anti-narcotics operations. JANOC is chaired by the Deputy Commissioner of Police responsible for Law Enforcement, and includes the Head of the Customs Anti-Narcotics Unit, the officers in charge of intelligence in the Police Force and the Army, and officers of the Police Narcotics Branch.

(b) The New National Co-ordinating Council for Drug Enforcement and Rehabilitation (NNCDER), which is responsible for demand reduction activities. It is chaired by the Minister of Health and includes as members senior Education and Health officers, representatives of the Guyana Council of Churches, representatives of Non-Governmental Organisations, Police, Military and Prison Departments, and the Ministry of Home Affairs.

Joint Counter Narcotics Operations

14. The Narcotics Branch of the Guyana Police Force is the main unit which carries out operations of drug interdiction. Its efforts have shown good and sometimes spectacular results. However, financial constraints impose grave limitations on the size of the unit, number and quality of equipment, and ability to effectively police the numerous routes and strategic points which can be used in the drug trade.

15. In an effort to lend support to the work of the Police, joint drug eradication operations involving Military and Para-military Forces were mounted and have been somewhat successful in curtailing the production of marijuana in some locations of the hinterland. These operations could be more effective with the aid of technology to identify marijuana cultivations and monitor the activities of suspected drug operators.

16. The Atlantic sea coast in the areas between Venezuela and the North West Region of Guyana is known to provide scope for smuggling operations. In that area the Police had in the past intercepted vessels on which cocaine was discovered. Guyana's strategy is to focus on policing that area, and, as such, a proposal for joint patrols involving the Police, Customs and Coast Guard has been agreed upon, and operations will commence shortly.

Joint Intelligence Coordinating Centre (JICC)

17. With the help of the US Government, Guyana established the Joint Intelligence Coordinating Centre (JICC) to collect, analyse and disseminate narco-intelligence to the agencies in the Police, Army and Customs Units, and to link up with similar international centres, thus establishing a narco-intelligence network. However, because of technical problems at the Centre itself and its supporting units in the Army, Police and Customs, operations of the Centre were initially not effective. The problems have since been rectified, and the Centre is operating as intended in the support of law enforcement operations. A new software package which is expected shortly from the US Government will aid its effectiveness.

Education and Training

18. Guyana, with the assistance of the United Nations, has organised programmes of internal and external training for drug law enforcement officers. This training involves aspects related to the identification of the various types of drugs, search and destroy operation techniques, and the chemical analysis of narcotic drugs and psychotropic substances.

19. In the area of drug education and counselling, the New National Council for Drug Education and Rehabilitation (NNCDER) recently established a drop-in centre for adults and their families. The centre conducts counselling sessions on a voluntary basis and also coordinates outreach programmes in other parts of the country.

20. Between 3 to 7 June 1996, the US State Department in collaboration with CICAD will sponsor the 1996 James Hendricks Memorial Drug Prevention and Treatment Workshop for professionals from the English-speaking Caribbean working directly with drug users. The Workshop will provide training for 44 persons including 20 Guyanese in counselling techniques.

21. There is also need for training in the languages of Spanish, Portuguese, French and Dutch to enable effective communication between our narco-intelligence officers and counter narco operatives of the neighbouring countries, Brazil, Suriname, Venezuela and French Guiana.

Bilateral Agreements

22. Guyana has entered into bilateral agreements with Venezuela, Brazil, Cuba, Colombia and Suriname, all countries within the region, and also with the United States and the United Kingdom. All the agreements with regional countries in the main are to facilitate bilateral cooperation for the prevention of trafficking in narcotics and psychotropic substances. The cooperation agreement with the USA has resulted in the donation of equipment and training assistance. Guyana is a signatory to several international conventions and treaties and has, within the limits of her financial, human and technical resources, honoured her commitments to these covenants.

23. At the regional level, cooperation is based primarily on drug reduction through the assistance of Caribbean Commissioners of Police in collaboration with the US and UK Governments. Our security forces have been the recipients of several US and UK training courses.

24. To facilitate more speedy and effective implementation of bilateral and international drug agreements, a Standing Committee has been appointed. Its main functions are:

(i) Constant review of the status of implementation of articles of each agreement and decisions arising therefrom.

(ii) Analysing the impact of actions taken against objectives of bilateral decisions and recommending appropriate follow up action.

(iii) Providing up to date information to representatives of Guyana to the fora which examine and plan strategies for anti-narcotic cooperation.

Regional Information Systems

25. Apart from being able to share information shortly in an international narco-intelligence system, Guyana has also been invited by the OAS to become involved in CICAD's data base information exchange programme. The benefits to Guyana from this form of regional cooperation are obvious. However, it would require the use of scarce financial resources for the purchase and maintenance of computers as well as for operational and administrative expenses to be incurred by the programme.

Money Laundering

26. Guyana's peculiar economic status and the absence of a corps of experts in the field of money laundering create the conditions which make the country vulnerable to money laundering. Hard currency acquired from illicit drug operations can conveniently be smuggled into Guyana and be presented for exchange at cambios at favourable rates.

27. Drug money laundered through the acquisition of immovable property and in many other areas of investments is difficult to trace. It was recently discovered that gold, a product of Guyana, has on a regular basis been illegally exported from the country. The training of our bank administrators and our narco-intelligence officers in this area is necessary. Laws designed to minimise the practice and to make money laundering a criminal offence are being drafted.

28. Guyana supports the UN global strategy and recognises that the uncovering of money laundering schemes should be one of the items foremost on the agenda of our international cooperation.

National Drug Master Plan

29. Guyana wishes to understand more clearly the dynamics of the various aspects of the drug phenomenon and to develop strategies to combat the drug trade and its resultant ill effects. To this end, a National Drug Master Plan is now being prepared to replace the initial strategy to deal with the drug problem. The plan will examine and identify:

The extent to which drug abuse has become a problem in the society.

The vulnerable groups and reasons from susceptibility to drug abuse.

The levels of various types of illicit drugs and psychotropic substances produced, in transit, and exported from Guyana.

The social and economic cost of the drug trade.

The measures applied to combat the drug trade and its consequences.

The results and effectiveness of those measures.

The changing patterns of the drug problems.

30. The plan will advocate the formulation of policies as well as the development of strategies to combat the drug menace in all its forms. It will also determine financial and other resources required for its implementation.


31. Guyana wishes to commend the work of CICAD and all other international agencies and donor countries for their support and assistance to CARICOM states in the fight against the illicit trafficking and the use of narcotics. CARICOM states, because of their fragile economies, geographical location, and inadequate security capabilities, are vulnerable to narco-trade. Very mindful of the situation as described in this document, Guyana advocates the following:

Drug laws within the hemisphere must be harmonised.

Training for law enforcement officers must be intensified.

Increased efforts must be made for the improvement of the capabilities of the law enforcement agencies to detect and interdict illegal drugs, and to prosecute offenders.

Greater financial and technical assistance must be provided by countries which are beneficiaries of our regional anti-narcotics activities.