A joint battle
During a 12-hour official visit to Jamaica on Nov. 19, Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos Calderon and Jamaican Prime Minister Bruce Golding convened in an attempt to curb the rapidly-growing narcotics market throughout Jamaica.
At a signing ceremony at the Prime Minister’s Office, Calderon and Golding signed a Memorandum of Understanding that will permit the two nations to more effectively share information, and increase collaboration and joint action between Colombia’s Financial Analysis Unit and Jamaica’s Financial Investigation Division.
The newly-signed Memorandum of Understanding will be implemented with the intention of fighting money laundering, the financing of terrorism, and connected criminal activities throughout Jamaica.
November’s official visit by Calderon was the second of two major Colombian initiatives regarding Jamaica in 2010. In August, eight high-level Colombian National Police officials visited the Caribbean island to assess Jamaica’s Constabulary Force for the nation’s Ministry of National Security.
“The report is that the assessment they did was very thorough and they have identified some things that can be done to improve the quality of our counter-narcotics activities,” Golding noted. “I expect we will be rolling out those very soon.”
According to Calderon, Colombia is also willing to give Jamaica more hands-on assistance in policing.
“I came here with the two police chiefs, the present and the former,” said Calderon. “We are offering specialized help in intelligence, counter-intelligence, and in specific areas where Jamaica needs to improve its capabilities.”
Although Colombia and Jamaica have had diplomatic relations since 1965, their relationship has historically existed more in word than deed.
With few examples of the two nations cooperating, especially with the magnitude of their recent announcement, on record, Colombia’s actions in the last six months have demonstrated that they are willing and able to help Jamaica curb their crime problems. Considering that a recent poll showed that 64 per cent of Jamaicans view crime as the most pressing issue facing the nation, this is no doubt a good thing.
“So far, there has been no real political will to go ahead. Now we have the political will,” Calderon said. “The Prime Minister and I have already agreed, and we are going to go full steam ahead.”
Unfortunately for both Colombia and Jamaica, it appears that the two nations are fighting an uphill battle by trying to rid Jamaica of its prosperous narcotics trade.
Jamaica, which lies 550 miles north of the Colombian coast and 550 miles southwest of Miami, serves as an ideal transit point for narcotics from South America – where copious amounts of cocaine are produced – to North America – where copious amounts of cocaine are consumed. With a gross domestic product of 4,300 dollars per capita in 2009, and an unemployment rate of nearly 13 per cent, involvement in the cocaine business is seen by many as one of the few ways to make a decent living in Jamaica.
Aside from working with law enforcement to curb the island’s narcotics trade, Calderon also made several of his other intentions for Jamaica public. This included efforts to stabilize the island’s economy by financing a number of feasibility studies in hopes of finding oil and gas, and plans to further explore the Joint Regime Area, located south of the Pedro Banks.
In a press conference in Kingston, Calderon noted although Colombia intends to help Jamaica, greater international help is still needed for the island, which is home to nearly three million inhabitants, to legitimately prosper and rid itself of organized crime.
“But not only you, Central America and most of the Caribbean islands, and that is why we are telling the U.S. that they will have to put their share, because this is a joint battle,” said Calderon. “No one country, however powerful it is, can fight by itself organized multinational crime.”