Haiti remains a transit point for cocaine originating in South America and marijuana originating in Jamaica, en route to the United States and other markets. This traffic takes advantage of Haiti's severely under-patrolled maritime borders, particularly on the northern and southern coasts. Haiti is not a significant producer of illicit drugs for export, although there is cultivation of cannabis for local consumption. Haiti's primarily subsistence-level economy does not provide an environment conducive to high levels of domestic drug use.
The Haitian government continued to strengthen the Haitian National Police (HNP) and its counternarcotics unit (Bureau for the Fight Against Narcotics Trafficking, or BLTS) with additional manpower, and officials at the highest levels of government have repeatedly committed to fight drug trafficking. While drug and cash seizures were higher in 2016 than in previous years, the government has been unable to adequately secure borders to cut the flow of illegal drugs. Principal land border crossings with the Dominican Republic are largely uncontrolled and the southern coastline remains virtually enforcement-free. The minimal interdiction capacity of the Haitian Coast Guard (HCG) creates a low-risk environment for drug traffickers to operate. While Haiti's domestic law enforcement interdiction capacity has improved marginally, a largely ineffective judicial system continues to impede successful prosecution of drug traffickers.
B. Drug Control Accomplishments, Policies, and Trends
1. Institutional Development
The HNP's 26th cadet class graduated in May 2016 with 1,508 officers, including a record 190 women. In August 2016, the 27th class entered the police school with 963 recruits, including 84 women. Its graduation in early 2017 will bring the total police force to 14,500. The HNP has already started preparing for the 28th class, scheduled to begin in mid- 2017 and expected to number 950 recruits. This will allow the HNP to meet its five-year development plan goal of 15,000 officers and to assume greater responsibility for security ahead of the drawdown and eventual withdrawal of the United Nations Stabilization Mission in Haiti (MINUSTAH) peacekeeping force.
The HNP's counternarcotics unit, BLTS, remains the institution dedicated to interdicting drug traffic. Attrition decreased its manpower to 170 officers in 2016, but an additional 59 officers from the 26th promotion brought manpower to 229 officers in December 2016. After completing a basic two-month counternarcotics course given by BLTS trainers with U.S. assistance, the new officers will be assigned to BLTS units and outposts, including border crossings to the Dominican Republic at Malpasse and Terrier Rouge.
BLTS enhanced its interdiction capacities in 2016 by assigning officers to new outposts in Ouanaminthe on the border with the Dominican Republic, and Cap Haitien on the north coast, further expanding use of a 19-dog canine unit, and participating in U.S.-funded training in Colombia. BLTS assigned 15 officers to the HCG base in Les Cayes on the south coast, which now has a maritime interdiction capability that will increase operational capacity to deter drug trafficking along the southern coast. Delivery of two new vessels and related training took place in August, and the BLTS-HCG task force is now operational. A partially vetted unit was established and participated in sensitive operations led by the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA). Airport canine prefabricated buildings were installed in Haiti's two international airports in Port-au-Prince and in Cap Haitien.
Reports of misconduct and participation in the drug trade by some HNP officers are investigated by the HNP's Inspector General's office. The HNP still faces challenges regulating its internal affairs, particularly in the south and in remote provinces. Between December 2015 and September 2016, a total of 20 officers were recommended for termination stemming from abandonment of post and corruption. The officers were removed from the HNP.
The HCG is the sole maritime enforcement agency in Haiti, responsible for securing maritime borders. Its effective strength of 160 officers will be complemented by an additional 60 officers from the HNP's 26th promotion to bring overall strength to 220 officers. The HCG has operating bases in Cap Haitien, Killick (Port-au-Prince), and Les Cayes. The force has a total of 18 maritime vessels, but only five are currently operational, with seven of the remaining 13 vessels non-repairable due to age or past viable hull life limit. Maritime domain awareness and enforcement are daunting tasks for the HCG, considering Haiti's 1,100 miles of coastline and seven international ports. Operational capacity remains low due to insufficient funding, management deficiencies, an inability to refuel, and unavailability of locally procured parts to maintain the vessels reliably. These issues have prevented the HCG from serving as an effective deterrent force to maritime drug trafficking.
Haiti maintains several core legal agreements in support of drug control goals and often cooperates effectively with the United States on illicit drug cases. A 1997 bilateral letter of agreement on Cooperation to Suppress Illicit Maritime Drug Traffic allows U.S. law enforcement agencies to enter Haitian territorial waters and airspace in pursuit of suspect vessels or aircraft, to board and search suspect vessels, to patrol Haitian airspace, and to carry members of the HCG as ship riders. Although there is no mutual legal assistance treaty between Haiti and the United States, the Haitian government has cooperated on many cases within the limits of Haitian law. While a bilateral extradition treaty entered into force in 1905, it has not been used in recent history, in large part because the Haitian Constitution prohibits the extradition of Haitian nationals. However, the Government of Haiti has expelled other nationals to the United States who were wanted to stand trial in the United States.
2. Supply Reduction
BLTS executed several successful operations in 2016 that resulted in the seizure of 3.52 metric tons (MT) of marijuana and 35 kilograms (kg) of cocaine. Ninety-seven suspects were arrested for alleged drug crimes and two were expelled to the United States for prosecution. A total of 370 kg of cocaine and 4 kg of heroin coming out of Haiti were seized by other international law enforcement agencies in joint operations with DEA and the U.S. Coast Guard (USCG). In addition, 1.1 MT of cocaine were seized by the USCG on a "go-fast" boat off of Haiti's southern coast. DEA and the USCG routinely conduct joint operations with BLTS and provide assistance in operational planning and intelligence gathering. In 2016, the United States sponsored a number of BLTS officers to receive numerous trainings abroad and in Haiti. There is no significant availability or traffic of illegal synthetic drugs in Haiti.
3. Public Information, Prevention, and Treatment
Illicit drug abuse is uncommon in Haiti because of the population's minimal discretionary income. The Government of Haiti runs small-scale public awareness and demand reduction programs funded through its National Commission for the Fight Against Drugs (CONALD), but there is no data on their impact or utility. The United States provides funding for the Community Anti-Drug Coalitions of America (CADCA), which carries out drug abuse prevention training with local non-governmental organizations, while a Haitian private sector anti-drug association called APAAC receives funds from CONALD to conduct prevention and awareness activities. The United States also assisted BLTS in developing a Drug Awareness Program for school aged children. At the request of local schools, BLTS officers administer this program to children and adolescents, informing them of the dangers of individual drug use and the negative impact it has on their community.
As a matter of policy, the Haitian government does not encourage or facilitate illegal activity associated with drug trafficking, or the laundering of proceeds from illicit drug transactions. Government officials have expressed their desire to combat drug trafficking and its negative impacts.
Effective government action to fight corruption, particularly related to illicit drugs, is constrained by a historically obstructive legal framework. Haiti did not codify corruption as a crime until 2014, when a law formally criminalized public corruption and set penalties for bribery and illegal procurement. Implementation of this law remains a challenge, but training of judicial personnel is underway and the bill's passage is a positive step. Haiti's asset seizure laws have enabled its financial intelligence unit and the HNP's financial crimes unit to seize the assets of drug traffickers convicted outside of Haiti. The Haitian Constitution's grant of blanket immunity from prosecution to members of Parliament is a concern for anti-corruption and drug control efforts.
Another constraining factor is systematically poor judicial performance, due to antiquated penal and criminal procedure codes, opaque court proceedings, lack of judicial oversight, and widespread judicial corruption. To date, there have been no successful drug trafficking convictions in Haitian courts. The Haitian Unit for Combatting Corruption has referred 32 corruption-related cases to the judiciary since its inception in 2005, but only one corruption case has been successfully prosecuted, resulting in a five-year prison sentence.
C. National Goals, Bilateral Cooperation, and U.S. Policy Initiatives
U.S. drug control initiatives in Haiti focus on improving the capacity of the HNP, BLTS, and the HCG to detect, investigate, and deter the flow of illegal drugs through the country. A 2004 letter of agreement between the United States and Haiti and a 2013 agreement, which is amended annually, govern these activities.
Core goals in these agreements are to increase counter-drug capabilities, interdict drug shipments, and develop cases against traffickers and criminal organizations. The continued growth of BLTS' manpower, strong coordination in executing counterdrug operations in conjunction with U.S. agencies, and total drug seizures in 2016 were all positive steps. Still, the continued absence of local convictions in illicit drug cases underscored the ongoing underperformance of the judicial system.
U.S. assistance is directed to the general development of the HNP and the targeted support of the BLTS. Support to the HNP covers a broad range of activities, including infrastructure, equipment, and in-country and overseas training. Improved operational capacity and professionalism of the HNP are necessary for effective counternarcotics activity in Haiti. With U.S.-funding, the New York City Police Department deploys rotating teams of officers to Haiti to serve as technical advisors to the HNP, including on illicit drug activities. This program has been highly effective in helping improve the HNP's investigative and community policing capabilities.
Specific support to the BLTS includes procurement of communications equipment, vehicles, non-lethal operational gear, and canine unit training. U.S. support includes multiple training opportunities for BLTS officers, including in the United States and in third countries, such as at the International Law Enforcement Academy in El Salvador. The United States also funds joint enforcement operations between DEA, USCG and the HNP/BLTS.
The United States has provided crucial training and assistance for the establishment of the joint HCG-BLTS task force conducting maritime interdiction operations from its base in Les Cayes. The task force is now operational. If successful, this pilot program will be expanded to Cap Haitien. Ongoing U.S.-supported training for high-ranking HNP officials at the Inter-American Defense College, FBI Academy, and other partnerships with U.S. police agencies have the potential to develop leaders who will serve as positive change agents for the HNP.
Finally, the United States also provides maintenance support for five boats originally purchased for the HCG by the Government of Canada; refurbishment and maintenance of three small vessels at the Cap Haitien base; law enforcement training; mobile training teams and professional development; electronic equipment; and HCG facility modernization.
The continued institutional development of the HNP and the BLTS are positive trends that have helped to improve public security and have marginally increased Haiti's ability to interdict drug trafficking. Continued strong cooperation between Haitian and U.S. law enforcement yielded major illicit drug seizures and enabled the apprehension of individuals indicted in U.S. jurisdictions and their return for trial in the United States. However, the dysfunctional Haitian judicial system drastically limits domestic prosecution of drug cases and thus reduces disincentives to drug-trafficking operations. Drug seizures still remain low, and Haiti's minimal capacity to police its sea and land borders is a particular point of concern.
Continued engagement from the United States, particularly in support of BLTS operations and general HNP development, will help Haitian law enforcement to capitalize on marginal gains in drug interdiction capacity. However, the benefits of such gains will be limited if the judicial system fails to convict drug traffickers. Only the concurrent strengthening of the judiciary, law enforcement, and border security will enable Haiti to make real progress in fighting drug trafficking.
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|Title Annotation:||Country Reports|
|Publication:||International Narcotics Control Strategy Report|
|Date:||Mar 1, 2017|