(CMC) – The United States government said on Wednesday that disrupting illicit firearms trafficking in the Caribbean is “a shared priority” for the US and its Caribbean partners.
The US Department of State said in a statement that disrupting illegal trafficking is also “an important aspect of our cooperation to address rising levels of crime and violence in the region”.
To date, it said, 12 Caribbean countries have drafted national action plans under the auspices of the Caribbean Firearms Roadmap – developed in 2020 by the Caricom Implementation Agency for Crime and Security (Impacs) and the United Nations Regional Centre for Peace, Disarmament and Development in Latin America and the Caribbean with US support – which provides timelines and baselines for implementing the Caribbean Firearms Trafficking Priority Actions.
“The United States stands ready to help countries implement their individualized priorities, plans and timelines upon completion of their respective national action plans,” the statement said.
In March 2022, through Operation Citadel, the State Department said Homeland Security Investigations (HSI), the second largest criminal investigative agency in the United States, deployed agents and analysts throughout the Caribbean region “to bolster firearms smuggling investigations and intelligence sharing capabilities”.
As a result of Operation Citadel and multiple HSI-led efforts, there were 111 firearm-related seizures that netted 446 firearms and 188,256 rounds of ammunition.
Last September, the State Department noted law enforcement officers from 19 Caribbean countries, along with Interpol, Caricom, World Customs Organization, the US Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives and HSI cooperated on a joint operation that led to the seizure of 350 weapons, 3,300 rounds of ammunition and 10 tons of cocaine.
Identifying other ways in which the US has provided security assistance for the Caribbean, the State Department said that the Bipartisan Safer Communities Act, which was signed into law in July 2022, “dramatically increased criminal penalties for straw purchasers and US-sourced firearms trafficking”.
It noted that provisions under the Stop Illegal Trafficking in Firearms Act assign further penalties for smuggled firearms or ammunition out of the United States with intent to promote transnational organized crime.
In November 2022, Impacs, with US interagency support, inaugurated the CCGIU to improve intelligence and information sharing among Caribbean and US law enforcement agencies.
The State Department said the CCGIU supports Caricom member states with seizing firearms, related parts, and components, as well as in identifying, charging and prosecuting co-conspirators for firearms crimes.