(CMC) The Minority Leader in the United States House of Representatives Hakeem Jeffries has promised Caribbean Community (CARICOM) countries that every effort is being made in Washington to curb the illegal trade of guns and ammunition to the Caribbean.
Congressman Jefferies, who led a bipartisan Congressional delegation to Trinidad and Tobago to meet with Caribbean leaders who just ended their three-day 45th Regular Meeting of CARICOM Heads of Government, gave the assurance on Thursday, a day after the announcement that the US government has appointed a special prosecutor to serve as its first coordinator for Caribbean Firearms Prosecutions.
On Wednesday, speaking during the plenary session of the meeting before it closed later that night, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken announced that Michael Ben’Ary will hold the post.
This “very experienced” Department of Justice prosecutor is expected to bolster efforts to disrupt firearms trafficking in the Caribbean by interdicting illicit shipments of firearms and ammunition, and by holding offenders accountable and bringing them to justice.
Then on Thursday, Jeffries renewed his government’s commitment during talks with several CARICOM leaders, including Prime Minister Mia Mottley and host Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley.
“Gun violence is something that we’re not stranger to hearing as members representing constituents in America. Unfortunately, it has been visited upon the people of Trinidad and Tobago, but we understand that the guns that are being illegally trafficked in Trinidad and Tobago are being used in violent acts are not manufactured here,” Jeffries said, acknowledging that in almost every instance, the weapons were manufactured and initially purchased in the United States of America.
Jeffries acknowledged the challenge which gun trafficking and gun violence posed to the region.
He and members of his delegation, which also included Congresswoman Yvette Clarke, a Member of the Committee on Homeland Security and of the Committee on Energy and Commerce, said they intend to work with their colleagues in a bipartisan manner to stem the flow of weapons into the region.
“We can use our support through our Department of Homeland Security, to tighten up and begin to crack the code ….and take a comprehensive look at the challenge that all of the CARICOM nations are facing with respect to gun trafficking and the rise of gun violence,” Clarke said.
The seven-member Congressional delegation disclosed that every CARICOM leader they had met while in Trinidad had identified drug trafficking and violence as major problems in their countries.
“Certainly, Prime Minister Rowley has raised a significant issue that we need to find a way to tackle and tackle decisively and it is our intention to do just that,” he said. “And certainly I think that will be one of our takeaways as we return to . . . the United States.”
The previous day, in a move aimed at underscoring the Joe Biden administration’s commitment to combating firearms trafficking in the Caribbean, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken announced the appointment of a Department of Justice (DOJ) prosecutor as that country’s first-ever coordinator for Caribbean Firearms Prosecutions.