Wikileaks – Confirms what most Guyanese knew, the Bharrat Jagdeo PPP/C are a cocaine friendly government
Guyana heading for narco-statehood; govt lukewarm about drug trade– Wikileaks|
Written by Demerara Waves
Saturday, 27 August 2011 13:47
The United States (US) badly wants a Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) office in Guyana because the South American country is approaching narco-statehood, already resulting in drug seeping into almost all layers of the society.
“Post requests the formal establishment of a DEA office at Embassy Georgetown. Guyana is well on its way to narco-statehood — a prospect that poses a real threat to U.S. interests,” said then American ambassador, Roland Bullen.
The cable was dispatched on May 24, 2006 to, among others, the US Secretary of State, DEA Headquarters in Washington. “The level of narco-trafficking influence on the political, judicial and economic systems in Guyana creates ripe conditions for the emergence of a narco- state,” the Grenada-born ambassador told his principals as well as counterparts in Trinidad, Suriname and Venezuela.
The American envoy believed that a DEA presence in Guyana would significantly improve the US government’s ability to fight drug trafficking in Guyana.
Bullen noted that while Guyana, with a population of 750,000 people and an official Gross Domestic Product (GDP) of less than US$1 billion does not attract much US government attention, narco-traffickers regarded Guyana where they can “operate with impunity” partly because of its geography, law enforcement corruption and a government that is less than enthusiastic about smashing the drug trade.
“They see a country with porous borders, corrupt and ineffective law enforcement, little or no control over its airspace, vast swaths of uncontrolled land, ready access to the Caribbean, North America, and Europe, and a government that has been lukewarm about clamping down on the drug trade,” Bullen said in his missive.
In an earlier cable dated January 6, 2006, Bullen noted that the two countries have been talking about setting up a DEA office here since 1999 and questioned the Guyana government’s sincerity in wanting one. “The current stumbling block is the GoG’s inability or reluctance to give approval for basic logistical details. Post’s position remains the same — the USG is ready to work with and advise the GoG as soon as the GoG is fully prepared to move forward in its fight against narco-trafficking.”
The Guyana government has, over the years, complained bitterly that countries like the US have been reluctant to provide enough funding and other rescources to combat the narco-trade. Guyana expects support through the one-year old US-Caribbean Basin Secuity Initiative (CBSI) to fight the narcotics trade and money laundering.
In the May 24, 2006 cable , the American envoy described as “an especially disturbing development” was Guyana’s involvement in “drugs for arms; financing for insurgent groups like the FARC throughout the region.
In addition, large-scale Autodefensas Unidas de Colombia (AUC) infiltration into Venezuela has led to their playing a significant role in narcotics smuggling activities on the Guyana/Venezuela border, he said.
The US embassy’ primary objective in 2008 of disrupting criminal organisations was, he said, difficult by the lack of a permanent DEA presence in Guyana. The office in Trinidad is fully pre-occupied with the counter-narcotics initiatives in their host nation.
Describing the narco-situation in Guyana as “severe”, he said the DEA could work more effectively to accomplish the critical MPP counter-narcotics objectives and provide more sustained support to local law enforcement agencies in Guyana.
The DEA was expected to establish a vetted counter-narcotics unit in Guyana but the ambassador told the Secretary of State that he was worried that it could become infected by corruption.
“An important challenge facing this unit is the pervasive corruption in the country, which has undermined previous Guyanese counter-narcotics initiatives,” he said, adding that establishing a DEA office will allow close and constant monitoring of the vetted unit to help alleviate this problem.”
TIMEHRI AIRPORT IS BACKWARD
Many Guyanese have a torrid time at regional airports. And our President has been consistent in condemning the treatment of his nationals by regional immigration authorities.
But his latest jab, this time targeting the in-transit service at Piarco International Airport, is bound to lead to questions about the standards at his country’s own Cheddi Jagan International Airport.
For any Guyanese to criticize the in-transit facilities at Trinidad’s major airport without recognizing the flaws at Timehri is being disingenuous. To use security checks as the basis for criticizing other airports is inexplicable.
Ever since the attacks of September 11, detailed and rigorous security checks have become the norm at all airports. Except if you are a Head of State traveling on diplomatic privileges, no one is exempt from these checks. And as we learnt recently, even ministers of the government traveling on diplomatic passports can now be delayed at foreign airports while detailed checks are run on them.
Body searches are part of the security drill. These are now mandatory. Passengers are forced to take off their belts, their shoes, have their carry-on items scanned, be patted down by a guard, and may even be subject to questioning.
Even in-transit passengers are now required to undergo security checks, whether it is at a major airport in the developed world or at Piarco in Trinidad. It is unreasonable to expect that the authorities in Trinidad are going to allow a passenger deplaning from another country, but with onward connections, to simply board an aircraft on their soil without being subject to security checks.
So for example, a passenger from New York who is in-transit through Piarco to Georgetown, is required to go to an in-transit area and be subject to the normal security checks as any other passenger. This has been the norm for quite sometime.
It does seem however as if someone is suggesting that in-transit passengers should be shuttled straight to an in-transit lounge and not be subject to such checks.
No country is going to follow this line. They are not a party to the security checks done in the foreign country and therefore they are within their rights to ensure that even in-transit passengers are subject to searches. The country through which the passenger is in-transit can be penalized should something be missed by their security officials.
But if Guyana is going to criticize another regional airport about security checks and having in-transit passengers use the departure area, then Guyana needs to get its own house in order.
Guyana does not have an in-transit lounge. So how can Guyana be criticizing another country for having in-transit passengers use the departure area when the same thing happens in Guyana?
A foreign passenger in-transit through Guyana has to not only go through the same security checks as any normal departing passenger, but also has to clear immigration, something that does not happen at Piarco. So in this regard, the Guyanese system is far more arduous than what exists in Trinidad.
There are other areas that would qualify Timehri as being ranked as one of the poorest airports in the region. In the incoming area for instance, trolleys are provided, but passengers can only use these trolleys to move about twenty-five feet, because by the time you get to the door to exit the area, you have to use the designated Red Cap service. There is nothing more comical than this. Why provide baggage trolleys when passengers can only use it from the conveyor belt to the door, then have to utilize the Red Cap service to haul their luggage to their vehicles?
The Timehri International Airport is also the only airport in the Caribbean where when a passenger is finished checking in, his freedom is constrained. The passenger is not allowed to go back out through the doors. He has to say goodbye at the door to the check-in area. What a joke!
In fact, Guyana has a unique situation where the persons who accompany you to the airport to bid you goodbye have to be peering through a glass window because they are not allowed inside the terminal – the only airport in the world where this happens. The terminal is like a large prison with the passengers inside and everyone else outside peering in.
Yet there is enormous space available to make the check-in area larger and to allow friends and relatives to spend some time with their loved ones after checking-in.
Guyana has excellent physical facilities at its airport, facilities that are amongst the best in the Caribbean. The airport is also properly maintained. However, the systems of processing passengers are primitive and pale in comparison to what obtains in other Caribbean countries. To say that the system is arduous would be misleading. A better word to describe our airport system is backward.
Jagdeo thinks that since he took Guyanese tax payers money and give it to Buddy Shivraj to build a hotel and got rooms as payment, and is trying to do the same with the stalled Marriott project, all hotels are built using that model.
Caribbean Hotel Association, Guyana President Spar Over Tax Issue
The recent description of Caribbean hoteliers’ complaints of excessive government taxation as “absolute nonsense” by Bharrat Jagdeo, president of Guyana, reflects a political leadership that has “a narrow and limited perspective on the far-reaching positive effects of tourism on Caribbean economies,” said Josef Forstmayr, president of the Caribbean Hotel and Tourism Association. “CHTA is of the view that President Jagdeo speaks from a misinformed position on taxation in the islands [in] the region and with little or no knowledge of the tourism industry and the contribution it makes to Caribbean economies,” Forstmayr said.
In response to a question posed at a press conference at the Caribbean Community and Common Market (CARICOM) summit held recently in St. Kitts, Jagdeo was quoted in local press reports as saying Caribbean governments invest in “one hundred things to support the industry,” including airports and roads. “Who do you think produces the fiscal incentives that make tourism work in these countries?” he asked.
Added Jagdeo, “All [hoteliers] are fussing about is the taxes and sometimes they do not look at their cost structure. When you look at how much a guest pays for a bottle of Coke in mini bar in one of the hotels, it is extraordinarily high. They have to look at the cost structure of the industry without constantly [blaming] the meager tax that governments have from these places.”
Forstmayr said Caribbean hoteliers already “bear too much of an increasing tax burden” as hotel workers, supplies, utilities and guests are taxed in several ways “including at the hotel, on the airline and at the airport sometimes with both arrival and departure taxes.” Forstmayr also lamented that CARICOM failed to include tourism as part of its conference agenda despite a 2010 CARICOM report that said Caribbean governments “have an important role to play in revitalizing the tourism sector” and governments must “ensure that taxation cost does not have too adverse an effect on international competitiveness.”
Said Forstmayr, “CHTA would like to extend an open invitation to President Jagdeo, and anyone else misinformed, to a discussion on tourism to explore the overwhelming, sometimes immeasurable but undeniable impact [it] has on Caribbean economies.” For more information, visit www.caribbeanhotelandtourism.com.
Murder rate thrice as high compared to United States – 2011 Crime and Safety Report
– Drug trafficking poses biggest challenge to local law enforcement
The murder rate in Guyana is three-times higher than the murder rate in the United States and criminal activity in the capital city of Georgetown continues to increase, particularly violent crimes against people and property.
These were the findings of the Guyana 2011 Crime and Safety report which was complied as United States Department.
The report noted that foreigners, in general, are viewed as targets of opportunity. Serious crime, including murder and armed robbery, continues to be a major problem.
According to 2010 crime statistics the report noted that there were approximately 710 incidents reported to the Regional Security Office (RSO), of which there were 140 murders, 108 shooting incidents, and 143 armed robberies.
The report recommended that U.S. citizens maintain a high level of vigilance, consider security issues when planning activities throughout Guyana, and avoid traveling at night, when possible.
Armed robberies continue to occur intermittently, especially in major businesses and shopping districts. Criminals may act brazenly, and police officers themselves have been the victims of assaults and shootings.
“Vehicle thefts are common any time of the day or night. Vehicle occupants should keep their doors locked, never leave items in plain sight, and be aware of their surroundings at all times. Robbery and vehicle theft occur with some frequency in Georgetown and New Amsterdam (Guyana’s second largest city).
“After dark, it is highly advisable not to walk or bike and only drive from venue to venue. Residential burglaries are less common when homes have guards who pose a deterrent to would-be thieves,” the Guyana 2011 Crime and Safety report stated.
According to the report, criminals are frequently armed and appear to be able to obtain weapons with ease, despite the arduous licensing requirements for the average person. Handguns, knives, and machetes or “cutlasses” are the weapons of choice.
Drug trafficking organizations are prevalent and pose the biggest challenge to local law enforcement in Georgetown. Airport security and customs officials are detaining and arresting individuals on a weekly basis as these try to smuggle drugs out of Guyana into the United States.
Apprehensions of drug “mules,” often U.S. citizens perceived to be able to travel easily with their U.S. passport, have also increased this past year.
The report further underscored that armed robberies of business/patron establishments are becoming increasingly common in Georgetown. Criminals are usually organized, travel in groups of two or more and conduct surveillance on their victims.
The limited police presence in most areas is largely ineffective in preventing crime.
“Local police in Guyana have resource and manpower limitations that inhibit their ability to deter or respond to criminal activity. Police patrols are rare or nonexistent. There is an emergency telephone number “911” for police, fire, or rescue.
The fire department generally provides a timely response, while a police response, especially during the night is less dependable. The police response to emergency calls is often too slow (15 minutes or longer). When the police do respond, they have a limited amount of authority to act on their part, and at times attempt to solicit bribes, as officers are not compensated well,” the report stated.
– Ramsammy urges victims to file complaints with Health Ministry
By Keeran Singh
Health Minister Dr. Leslie Ramsammy has confirmed that he has received complaints of physicians and other public health employees soliciting financial contributions from their patients.
The minister was responding to a Kaieteur News query about allegations of Guyana-based Cuban doctors accepting monetary and other gifts from patients for medical services.
He added that this is unacceptable and the Ministry is trying to control this situation but needs the public’s co-operation.
Ramsammy stressed that patients utilizing public health treatment should refuse to pay for services and complain formally with supporting evidence to his Ministry.
“Generally speaking I do believe it happened and we have cases where doctors no longer work with us. It is due process and there is a need to document complaints,” he stated.
Kaieteur News has received several complaints about some Cuban doctors providing preferential treatment to patients who reward them with gifts including Blackberry phones, I-Pods and cash.
A local medical staffer alleged that this malpractice has contributed to the lengthy waiting hours patients encounter at these public facilities.
Kaieteur News was told that at the Leonora Cottage Hospital, West Coast Demerara, where there are reportedly seven Cuban doctors and one Guyanese doctor, the waiting period for the ‘poor’ is lengthy, while the more affluent are prioritized.
According to a source, this situation was so alarming at the health facility that patients openly complained and a meeting was recently held to address the matter. However, some employees believe that the culprits are still involved in this practice.
This situation reportedly also exists at another diagnostic centre in Region Four.
Some of the Cuban doctors stationed at the Leonora Cottage Hospital are also being accused of conducting private practices utilizing the hospital’s medical supplies.
It was noted that medications go missing from shelves and some patients who visit the hospital for follow-up treatment would reveal that a certain doctor visited their homes and performed certain procedures.
In relation to this, Dr. Ramsammy stated that the Cuban doctors should not be in private practice. He posited that patients should provide names of the doctors who are involved so that appropriate action can be taken.
The Minister further noted that the same persons who complain are the ones encouraging the situation.
In addition, the health sector has been trying to have accountability in health facilities but there is room for the misappropriation of medical supplies.
Patients have been complaining that there is a serious language barrier between the Cuban doctors and themselves. This has resulted in them depending on the Guyanese nurses for clarification.
Minister within the Ministry of Health, Dr. Bheri Ramsaran stated that the Cuban doctors have been exposed to English classes to help them interact with patients but according to Cuban doctors they never attended any classes. Whatever English they know was learned in Cuba and it was expanded through interaction with patients.
Dr. Ramsaran further noted that the Ministry is pairing doctors so that both Cuban and Guyanese doctors work together. However, this cannot be done at the Leonora Cottage Hospital because there are seven Cuban doctors and only one Guyanese doctor.
However, one medical practitioner noted that despite the shortcomings, the Cuban medical staffers provide important services for Guyanese. It was emphasized that the 300 medical students scheduled to return home in 2012 would not be able to provide these services like these specialists
Two-patient per bed at GPHC to end next month
By next month the two-patient per bed scenario in the Male Medical Ward at the Georgetown Public Hospital Corporation is expected to be over with the completion of the new building in the hospital’s compound facing Lamaha Street.
According to Michael Khan, Chief Executive Officer of the institution, this situation occurs when there are more patients than the facility can accommodate and it is against the hospital’s policy to turn patients away.
He added that beds are currently being shifted to the new building.
When Kaieteur News visited the hospital yesterday approximately 10 bunk beds had two patients per bed in the Male Medical Ward, which was upsetting to the patients. Kaieteur News spoke to patients who were sharing beds. Five of the adult males were suffering from malaria while one was also suffering from typhoid and diabetes.
Concerned about the medical implications such a situation poses to the patients, one of the doctors at the institution declined to comment.
There are reports that similar scenarios exist on occasions in other sections of the hospital.
Marijuana continues to be the most common drug used by Guyanese. Crack cocaine is becoming more popular, however, and is quite affordable at as little as fifty cents per dose. Reports indicate that drug potency is rising, leading to a rise in psychosis among addicts. Marijuana is sold and consumed openly in Guyana, despite frequent arrests for possessing small amounts of cannabis. Anecdotal evidence, sources within the GOG and a local NGO note that consumption of all psychotropic substances in Guyana is increasing, with a particularly notable rise in the incidence of crossover addiction, i.e., addicts of one illicit substance becoming hooked on at least one other. In addition, the potency of locally grown marijuana has reportedly increased, which has fueled local consumption. Media reports have indicated the possible widespread use of sniffing agents such as gasoline and glue among students.
Guyana’s ability to deal with drug abusers is hampered by the modest financial resources to support rehabilitation programs. Guyana only has two residential facilities that treat substance abuse: the Salvation Army and the Phoenix Recovery Center which are both partially funded by the government. Since 2007, the Ministry of Health has run several modest demand reduction programs in the media, schools and prisons, as well as outpatient talk-therapy treatment. There is little by way of Non- Governmental Organization (NGO) support in demand reduction.
U.S. Policy Initiatives and Programs U.S. policy focuses on cooperating with Guyana’s law enforcement agencies, promoting good governance, and facilitating demand reduction programs. The USG continued to encourage Guyanese participation in bilateral and multilateral counternarcotics initiatives. The U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) is funding projects to improve governance in Guyana, which includes parliamentary and judicial reform.
Bilateral Cooperation. In 2009, the Drug Enforcement Administration’s Trinidad office continued to collaborate with Guyana’s law enforcement agencies in counternarcotics-related activities, and reported a generally favorable and improving working relationship. The U.S. Coast Guard provided seven resident and on-the-job training courses to the Guyana Defense Force Coast Guard in maritime law enforcement, leadership and management, and engineering and maintenance procedures.
The Road Ahead. The U.S. encourages the GOG to effectively follow up on recent legislation supporting counternarcotics efforts. The U.S. also encourages the GOG to implement the new plea bargaining and wiretapping laws. We look forward to collaborating with Guyanese law enforcement to test the amended extradition law and emphasize the need for vigorous exploitation of the new money laundering legislation.