Washington reviewing Ja anti-smuggling MOU
After more than four years of painstaking negotiations, Jamaica and the United States (US) are on the final leg of inking a Customs Mutual Assistance Agreement (CMAA), a memorandum of understanding aimed at stamping out the smuggling of contraband through Jamaican ports.
The top American diplomat to Jamaica, Donald Tapia, told The Gleaner on Thursday that the CMAA was now in the hands of US officials in Washington, D.C., signalling that the document could soon be sent back to local officials for the final review before both parties sign the agreement.
At a Gleaner Editors’ Forum in Kingston in June, Tapia, the US ambassador to Jamaica, bemoaned the inordinate delays by Prime Minister Andrew Holness and Attorney General Marlene Malahoo Forte.
Since that time, however, Tapia has indicated that Malahoo Forte has “pushed through” the document, paving the way for an agreement to be reached.
The US ambassador had outlined in June that the CMAA would allow American intelligence and customs authorities to partner with local law enforcement to build cases against persons involved in the shipment of illegal items into the island.
Tapia praised, on Thursday, the partnership between American law enforcement and their Jamaican counterparts.
In a related issue, commander of the United States Southern Command, Admiral Craig Faller, told The Gleaner that transnational criminal organisations had stepped up their activities amid the onslaught of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The senior US army official said that transnational criminals had increased their nefarious activities to undermine democracies and institutions and make profit as they traffic in cocaine, marijuana, people, and guns.
“We have seen that across the region …, the United States Southern Command stepped up with additional assets, ships, surveillance, and intelligence,” he said.
Faller noted that other US law-enforcement agencies had also boosted their efforts to tackle the scourge.
He commended the Jamaica Defence Force for providing a commitment, both in leadership and in assets, to exchanging intelligence daily, which has produced good success in the fight against traffickers.
Faller highlighted countries such as Jamaica, Honduras, and Colombia for partnering with the US in tackling transnational crimes.