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#2647: Cocaine traffic through Haiti up 24 percent in 1999 (fwd)
Cocaine traffic through Haiti up 24 percent in 1999
WASHINGTON, March 1 (Reuters) - The cocaine traffic through the Caribbean
state of Haiti increased about 24 percent in 1999 and the government again
failed the U.S. test for cooperation against drugs, the State Department said
But Washington waived a ban on U.S. aid to the impoverished
country, partly for fear that Haitian migrants will head for U.S. shores in
``Haiti cooperated in some anti-drug actions last year but it did not meet
the standard for certification,'' said Secretary of State Madeleine Albright,
releasing an annual report on the anti-drug efforts of foreign governments.
``A national interest waiver was granted in order to preserve our own ability
to interrupt the flow of narcotics and to deter undocumented Haitian migrants
from risking their lives on unsafe vessels headed for the United States,''
The waiver enables the U.S. administration to continue providing aid, despite
the government's drug record.
The report said some 67 tonnes of cocaine from South America passed through
Haiti in 1999, up from a U.S. government estimate of 54 tons in 1998.
It accounts for nearly 14 percent of all the cocaine reaching the United
States, against 10 percent in 1998.
``Aircraft are flying through Venezuelan air space, landing in daylight and
darkness in Haiti, and offloading cocaine,'' President Bill Clinton's chief
drug buster, Barry McCaffrey, told a briefing on the annual report.
``Haiti is the poorest nation in our hemisphere, with a disbanded parliament
and a criminal justice system that has many problems. This has made it ... a
staging area for the large and sophisticated international drug- trafficking
syndicates,'' added Deputy Attorney General Eric Holder.
The report paints a grim picture of U.S. efforts to persuade the Haitian
government to crack down on drugs.
In 1999 the authorities seized less than one third of the amount of cocaine
they seized in 1998 and the police deployed none of the 25 new officers it
had pledged for the drug squad.
``The judicial system continued to move slowly, and while numerous drug cases
were handed to the system for investigation, there were no drug
convictions,'' it said.
``Corruption continues to spread throughout the GOH (government of Haiti),
despite official iterations that it must not be tolerated,'' it added.