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Caribbean Basin Security Initiative Authorization Act

Floor Speech

Date: Nov. 18, 2020
Location: Washington, DC

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Ms. PLASKETT. Mr. Speaker, I want to thank my colleague representing the great people of New York, but also who hails from the Caribbean and understands the importance of legislation like this.

As the representative of a Caribbean island, an English-speaking Caribbean island, I am grateful to be yielded the opportunity to talk about this important Caribbean Basin Security Initiative.

Traffickers frequently transport cocaine and other contraband from South America through the Caribbean Sea. Building the law enforcement and interdiction capabilities of our Caribbean partners helps them stop illicit flows, making our Caribbean nations safer.

By developing these capabilities, partner countries also can hold perpetrators accountable and deter further criminal activity that might harm their citizens, threaten their economies, and endanger U.S. citizens at home and as tourists in the Caribbean.

The United States has committed over $556 million for CBSI for fiscal years 2010 to 2018. Congress has appropriated $58 million for fiscal year 2020.

Bravo.

To enhance maritime domain awareness and interdiction, we have improved radar coverage and sharing capacity, enhanced port security, and provided boats, equipment, and training to partner nations.

In the Dominican Republic, the largest Caribbean transit point for cocaine, CBSI programs have yielded a 250 percent increase in cocaine interdictions. USAID programming targets the drivers of youth crime and violence to reduce the risk of youth involvement in transnational organized crime.

USAID uses risk assessment tools to identify at-risk youth in countries like St. Lucia, St. Kitts and Nevis, and Guyana. USAID then partners with those host countries, delivering support to families and youth. Across those three countries, 75 percent of the youth targeted have reduced risk levels.

To augment law enforcement, CBSI supports efforts to professionalize and reform law enforcement institutions and enables partner governments to better prevent, investigate, and prosecute crime. These are tremendous tools.

Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands are transshipment points for illicit drugs that have been smuggled from source countries into the U.S. mainland, as well as destination points for drugs distributed within the two territories. This bill is very essential to us.

Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands are situated between the U.S. mainland and drug-source countries such as Colombia and Peru, making them ideal gateways for movement of illicit drugs onward to the U.S. mainland.

The Caribbean sits as a transshipment area for so many goods: first, people, sugar, and, in many instances, drug trafficking now.

Drug trafficking organizations and criminal groups use commercial and private maritime vessels, commercial private aircraft, and package delivery services to smuggle illicit drugs into and through Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands.

Large drug shipments are often offloaded in Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands, repackaged, and stored in secluded areas until they are distributed locally or transported to the U.S. mainland.

What is the outcome of this? Wreaking havoc in our communities.

There were 52 murders this year on the Virgin Islands, 49.2 per 100,000 people; in 2018, a whopping 52 individuals in a community of 100,000 people. Many of those deaths--most of those deaths--related to drug trafficking, drugs that we do not even use on the islands.

This bill is vital to combating drug trafficking, promoting good governance, independent justice sectors, and empowering civil society in the Caribbean.

Too often, the Caribbean is ignored. We must correct this by deepening our partnerships and cooperation with some of our closest allies. Working together, we can help increase citizen security, build resilience to natural disasters caused by climate change, and improve strategies to reduce illegal narcotics trafficking.

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Ms. PLASKETT. Mr. Speaker, I won't need all of that minute, but I want to thank the gentleman for the time.

This bill is so vital, not only to stopping drug trafficking, but supporting our communities, helping youth within the Caribbean to reach their potential.

I want to thank the authors of this bill. I am grateful this is a bipartisan effort to not forget the Caribbean. I thank my colleague, Mr. Espaillat, and the members of the committee.

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