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Kamla: Colombian cartels working with local gangs, businessmen

Kamla: Colombian cartels working with local gangs, businessmen

COLOMBIAN drug cartels are working directly with Trinidadian gangs and businesspeople to bring drugs and guns into this country, says Opposition Leader Kamla Persad-Bissessar.

The former prime minister said yesterday the recent wave of migration from Venezuela had also brought Venezuelan gangs to this country, and some were engaging in turf wars with local gangs in different areas.

Persad-Bissessar noted Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley’s comments yesterday that US security agencies, the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) and Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), disclosed that Trinidad and Tobago was attracting ‘elements of international organised crime’ and have pledged assistance to ensure that this ‘bad situation’ is not worsened.

She told the Express in a telephone interview that some Venezuelan gangs who have allied with local gangs are operating as a conduit to Colombian cartels.

They are facilitating local gang leaders and businessmen by transporting them through Venezuela to meet directly with Colombian drug suppliers, she said.

Persad-Bissessar said the drug cartels are strengthening their base and operations in this country by bringing in their ‘soldiers’, pretending to be migrants.

She emphasized that the majority of Venezuelan migrants were not involved with these drug cartels.

Persad-Bissessar said the vast unpatrolled and unprotected area off the east coast is being used as a drop-off and transfer point for cocaine bound for Europe.

She said bales of cocaine are dropped into the sea to be picked up by European-bound ships.

The cartels, she said, are facilitating this because of their presence in the country.

This problem has been left to fester for years, she said, adding that this situation is cause for grave concern.

‘Eventually, there will be a war for turf against local gangs, leading to increased bloodshed and violence as is being seen in Ecuador. This is only going to get worse if the Government continues to take no action,’ she said. Persad-Bissessar said there was urgent need for a comprehensive migrant policy, a competent National Security Minister, a competent Police Commissioner, and a multidisciplinary approach to crime, with input from all stakeholders.

Persad-Bissessar said she does not have confidence that working with US law enforcement authorities is enough to tackle crime in T& T.

‘No, while the US may be willing, it already has its hands full and is stretched worldwide with security issues, with the upcoming US presidential elections, there is much uncertainty about their future foreign policy priorities and allocation of resources if there is a change in leadership in Washington,’ she said.

Persad-Bissessar said for any change to come about in dealing with crime, the Prime Minister should announce on Tuesday a new national security minister, a new attorney general and also provide clarity on the future of Police Commissioner Erla Christopher.

Persad-Bissessar said National Security Minister Fitzgerald Hinds’ absence from the Prime Minister’s delegation to the United States was very telling.

Said Persad-Bissessar: ‘It just shows his contempt for the population. He does not even have confidence in Hinds to carry him to these high-level meetings, but persists with him as minister. Almost 1,600 were murdered under Hinds.’

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