Sun | Jun 16, 2019

Editorial | Dear Secretary of State Tillerson

Published:Monday | February 5, 2018 | 12:00 AM

The USA does not now see the Caribbean as a high priority. We accept that this is partly because Washington, DC, and our other allies have grown weary of our constant requests for money and our consistent failure to deliver the reforms that would have given us a firm foundation for economic growth.

So let us start a new relationship based on honesty and enlightened self-interest. And let us start by stating that we do not want to be regarded as mendicants any longer. In the past, we have pretended that our problems were not of our making. We blamed them on neo-liberal economics, IMF policies, oil prices, our small size, our colonial history, great power rivalry in the Cold War. In short, we have blamed everything and everyone except ourselves. Our politicians are masters of the art of evading responsibility.

The truth is that our economic development has been crippled by the crime and corruption that our own politicians unleashed upon us. They organised political violence in the 1970s and '80s, helped the gangs grow rich and powerful on government contracts, and even now try to protect the criminals inside their ranks.

Our economy today should be at least three times larger, but corruption and violence have deterred investment, destroyed capital formation, discouraged business development, driven away our skilled graduates, created ghettos that survive on the proceeds of crime and patronage, and destroyed hope. We have also hurt our friends. Jamaica-based gangs have murdered at least 3,000 people in the USA and other countries.

So let us build a new partnership to destroy the gangs, tackle crime, and root out the corrupt politicians, and some lawyers, who have facilitated them. Some of their criminal assets are in the USA and other countries, and we need your support to trace and seize them. With help from the FBI, we can bring them to justice.

You have already given us fast boats. But the Caribbean does not have the domain awareness needed to see the traffickers at sea and intercept the weapons and narcotics. With satellite cover and help from US Southern Command, we can step up our efforts to break the deadly supply chains that move guns into Jamaica and drugs into the USA.

There is an even more powerful tool at your disposal - extradition. Our justice system is broken. If Christopher Coke had been put on trial in Jamaica, the case would almost certainly still be in the courts. Coke would be defended by the country's most expensive attorneys, who would use every possible delay tactic. Police officers and witnesses would be intimidated or murdered, and the evidence contaminated.




Coke would continue to run his criminal empire from inside a detention centre. In the end, he probably would have been released for lack of evidence - and might even have demanded compensation for the harm done to his reputation.

When Coke was extradited to New York, he found himself in a world that he could not control. His case was processed swiftly and effectively, and justice was done.

So we need better cooperation between our law-enforcement agencies. With a few FBI officers, effective intelligence-sharing, more extraditions and seizures of the proceeds of crime, we can finally break the power of both the criminals and their facilitators.

The benefits to both our nations will be swift and dramatic. You will permanently disrupt one of the world's main trafficking routes. Your citizens will again be safer in Jamaica. Jamaica will become a magnet for US investments in tourism, shipping, logistics, healthcare, agriculture and other areas.

If Jamaica's level of crime and violence falls to the world average, our rate of economic growth would rapidly increase by about seven per cent - and US firms could the first to take advantage of that surge in potential.

Mr Secretary of State, let us now build that new partnership.