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Surveillance plane crucial to cracking meat-for-guns trade with Haiti

Published:Friday | February 8, 2019 | 12:00 AM

Jamaica’s security forces will need to acquire additional surveillance aircraft to dent the burgeoning illegal trade between local farm thieves bartering meat for guns from Haiti, National Security Minister Horace Chang has revealed.

However, the cost of procuring another state-of-the-art plane to bolster monitoring of the coastline is prohibitive, rounding out at about J$4 billion or almost five per cent of the 2018-2019 national security budget.

“Border security is expensive stuff. You can’t stop guns coming in unless there is security at the border. We received a maritime patrol aircraft (last year), but we really need two,” the minister said Wednesday.

“Two of them can give us 24-hour service, but one of them costs US$36 million, which is nearly $4 billion with the appropriate equipment. Persons are bringing in the guns, and they are also bringing in illicit cigarettes and are trafficking humans,” the minister said.

The development complicates the drugs-for-guns trade between the two countries that has been blamed on a surge in violent crime in Jamaica for more than a decade and an increase in praedial larceny, the cost to farmers annually estimated at J$6 billion.

“Praedial larceny is something every rural Jamaican is afraid of today. It has become part of organised crime activity,” Chang told a gathering of members of the Lions Club of Kingston during its luncheon at The Jamaica Pegasus hotel in New Kingston.

“In Clarendon, people are being killed, and their goats, cattle and even donkeys are stolen. In addition to sending it to the market in Kingston, there is a significant meat-for-guns trade with Haiti. You find they will take away an entire herd belonging to a small farmer, take it to Haiti, then they bring back guns.”