Drug cultivation and traffic in the Caribbean basin area have long been concerns of American officials because the region is considered a major supplier to the U.S. drug market.

That concern was dramatically demonstrated recently by the U.S. indictments of Panama's de facto ruler, Gen. Manuel Antonia Noriega, on charges that he provided government protection and other services to drug smugglers.

Peru, Bolivia, Mexico, Colombia and Jamaica are the region's largest cultivators of marijuana destined for the United States, according to the U.S. State Department's Bureau of International Narcotics Matters.

About 80 percent of the cocaine that reaches the United States is grown in Bolivia and Peru and manufactured in Colombia, and much of it is transported through Mexico, the Bahamas and Jamaica on its way to the United States, according to the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration.

In the last two years, the United States has earmarked more than $2.6 million to help eradicate the cultivation of marijuana in Jamaica alone.

However, Jamaican politicians and some of the island's growers have been doubtful that such efforts will be successful. The ganja plant -- the green Jamaican sensemilla -- is a traditional, socially acceptable cash crop grown by farmers large and small. Also, it is used by practitioners of the Rastafarian faith.

Of increasing concern to Jamaicans and U.S. officials, however, is the use of the infrastructure developed to export marijuana to transship cocaine, which is not native to the island.

About 1,200 pounds of cocaine were seized in Jamaica in 1986.

Jamaican politicians and others have expressed fear that cocaine money may have the same politically corrupting effect that it has had in Colombia. Drug traffickers in Colombia are believed to be behind the January assassination of the country's attorney general, Gen. Carlos Mauro Hoyos Jimenez. Earlier, traffickers had offered to pay off the country's large foreign debt.