Guns, gangs & ganja - Military leaders from US and Jamaica list security concerns
The flow of guns from the United States into Jamaica continues to occupy the minds of top military leaders in the two countries, and last Friday this was listed among the major mutual threats faced by both countries.
During the third Countering Violence and Extremist Organisations Conference put on in Washington, DC, earlier this month, Chief of Defence Staff for the Jamaica Defence Force (JDF) Major General Rocky Meade, and General Joseph F. Dunford Jr, chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff, also listed radical terrorism, organised gangs, and the flow of narcotics among the other mutual threats.
Meade and Lieutenant Colonel Pablo Raggio, senior defense official/defense attache for the US Embassy in Kingston, on Friday discussed the outcomes of the conference while speaking at a press avail at the US Embassy in Jamaica called to highlight the discussions.
"Even though the Caribbean Sea separates us, whatever happens in Jamaica has an effect in the region and the United States. The illegal trade of firearms, narcotics, special-interest aliens being smuggled in and out of the area are also concerns," said Raggio.
"This is part of the threat network, and our countries are interconnected. Jamaica has a large diaspora in the United States. I personally refer to New York as Montego Bay North and Fort Lauderdale as Kingston North. Our economies are interdependent," added Raggio, as he underscored the importance of comprehensive partnerships between the two countries.
Meade told the press avail that the trafficking of illegal guns from the United States to Jamaica, though not explicitly discussed, was among the major issues outlined at the Washington conference.
"Illegal networks will support each other. You may find that someone who is trafficking drugs will need weapons to protect that business, and that the same network is trafficking more than one type of contraband," said Meade.
"All of these issues would have been considered because of the fact that networks support each other. You can have an ideological network utilising a criminal-for-profit network to further its ideological desires," added Meade.
The JDF head cited the prevalence of illegal guns and gangs in Jamaica, and the ease with which such gangs, made up primarily of youngsters, can be influenced.
Neither of the military leaders could speak to evidence of radicalisation in Jamaica, but noted that in addition to hard security measures, there needs to be 'soft efforts' aimed at preventing citizen involvement.