Editorial: US moving in right direction
We are not yet certain about the optimism of the US ambassador to Jamaica, Luis Moreno, regarding the game having changed. But we agree that America's help in building out Jamaica's security infrastructure is giving the island a fighting chance against the criminals. Much, however, will depend on how Jamaica employs the additional resources.
The Americans, Ambassador Moreno disclosed, are, among other things, providing 17 boats to the island - seven of which will go to the Jamaica Defence Force Coastguard and the remainder to the marine police.
The specifications of these vessels have not yet been disclosed, but we assume that they will be appropriate to what is required for the Coastguard to reasonably patrol Jamaica's territorial waters and provide policing of its exclusive economic zone, and for the police to engage in coastal operations. In the event, these are 17 vessels that were not previously in the diminished and inadequate fleet of the two organisations.
This is important. Jamaica's substantial maritime boundaries are notoriously porous, which is of great enticement to criminals wishing to exploit the island's strategic location on a major transatlantic shipping route to or from the Panama Canal. Indeed, Jamaica emerged as a major trans-shipment point in the global narcotics trade, especially for cocaine heading to Europe from South America.
Wherever there is this kind of illicit activity, guns, which are not manufactured in Jamaica, tend to be in demand. They are among the tools used by criminals to protect their assets. Some of these weapons, which mostly have their origin in the United States, enter Jamaica in the same go-fast boats and other vessels that illegally transport much of the narcotics to Jamaica.
The same guns are often also used in other forms of crime, including extortion, robberies and gang feuds. Indeed, 90 per cent of Jamaica's more than 1,000 homicides annually is the result of gun violence. In that regard, any action that results in even one fewer gun or bullet entering the island is, to us, a positive development.
Gun control not easy
We acknowledge the impediments faced by the Obama administration in getting, and enforcing, sensible gun laws in the United States. We, nonetheless, appreciate America's growing awareness of how easy availability of these weapons in the US exacerbates Jamaica's gun crimes, despite the administration's more recent robust efforts to help us tackle the crisis. There is, for example, the initiative to enhance the island's capacity for ballistic testing.
But as Ambassador Moreno said, "all the law-enforcement cooperation in the world will not matter if the justice system cannot convict criminals", even as the US donation of digital audiovisual equipment to the Jamaican courts that will allow for the taking of evidence from remote locations is a significant development. Its impact will be to reduce the possibility of criminals intimidating vulnerable witnesses.
An important fact underlined by these American gifts is that they are no mere US largesse to Jamaica. They represent an understanding by the United States that, if the security of one neighbour is compromised, there is potential danger for everyone else in the neighbourhood. Terrorists and assorted criminals first poke the soft spots.
We note, too, that the appreciation of these facts, and their bearing of fruit, appear to have at once deepened and accelerated on Ambassador Moreno's watch. We mustn't lose the momentum.