Obama administration's anti-narcotics fight spreads to Caribbean

By Glenn Kessler
Washington Post staff writer
Thursday, June 10, 2010; 2:14 PM

BRIDGETOWN, BARBADOS -- Sometimes success breeds new problems.

The U.S.-backed campaign against drug dealers in Colombia and Mexico has led gangs to look for new transit routes through the Caribbean. Drug gangs have become so brazen that Kingston, Jamaica, erupted in violence last month when the country's prime minister approved the extradition of Christopher "Dudus" Coke, one of the top targets for U.S. anti-drug officials. Caribbean states are especially vulnerable to narcotics trafficking because they are small, poor and have high rates of unemployment.

Now the Obama administration, identifying the Caribbean as the "third border," wants to nearly double anti-narcotics aid for the Caribbean Basin Security Initiative, to $79 million for 2011. Representatives of Caribbean nations met in Washington last month to agree on a plan of action, which includes programs to reduce the flow of weapons, improve border security, promote social justice reform and combat government corruption.

On the last stop of her four-nation tour of Latin America, Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton met Thursday with her counterparts in Caricom, an organization of Caribbean states, to iron out the details of the anti-drug strategy.

Clinton told the ministers that the United States is "applying lessons we've learned in Colombia, Mexico and Central America to our security cooperation" and is "working to curtail the flow of guns and illicit funds to the region and to reduce demand for drugs."

Earlier, Clinton had told reporters traveling with her that the Jamaica incident "was a very unfortunate reminder that even countries with stable political systems and trained police forces and military assets can be facing tremendous challenge from these well-organized drug traffickers."

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