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The Bahamas.

A. Introduction

The Bahamas is not a significant drug producing country, but remains a transit point for illegal drugs bound for the United States and other international markets. The Bahamas' close proximity to the coast of Florida, as well as its location on Caribbean transshipment routes, makes it a natural conduit for drug smuggling. The Bahamas' 700 islands and cays, the vast majority of which are uninhabited, provide near-ideal conditions for smuggling. Smugglers readily blend in among numerous pleasure craft traveling throughout the Bahamian archipelago, which covers nearly 100,000 square nautical miles. Smuggling also occurs through commercial and private plane traffic; some smuggling continues by means of remote airfields and airdrops from South and Central America. Smuggling is enabled and accompanied by organized crime and gang activity.

The United States and The Bahamas enjoy a long-standing history of counternarcotics cooperation, including under Operation Bahamas, Turks and Caicos (OPBAT). In 2016, OPBAT operations resulted in the seizure of cocaine and marijuana, as well as the destruction of marijuana plants on multiple sparsely-populated islands, an indicator suggesting that marijuana cultivation has remained steady in the Bahamas.

Bahamian government surveys suggest that demand for cocaine within the country has diminished, though a domestic market does continue to exist. Experimental and chronic use of marijuana, including among adolescents, remains a concern. The Bahamas' National Anti-Drug Strategy places significant emphasis on drug abuse awareness, demand reduction, and treatment policies, though programs in these fields would be enhanced by additional resources.

B. Drug Control Accomplishments, Policies, and Trends

1. Institutional Development

Bahamian government and law enforcement authorities are committed to combating illicit trafficking, and the United States and the Bahamas have a strong counternarcotics relationship. The Bahamian government's 2012-2016 National Anti-Drug Strategy outlines the Bahamian government's framework for action to reduce drug demand and supply, strengthen drug control institutions, build international cooperation, and resource anti-drug efforts. Implementation of the strategy remains ongoing. The National Anti-Drug Secretariat announced plans to release its new strategy at the conclusion of 2016.

Launched in 2012, the government's "Urban Renewal 2.0" program includes a community-based policing program that seeks to prevent crime, gang activity, and drug consumption through directed patrols, community partnerships, and after-school programming for youth.

Further implementation of the government's "Swift Justice" program, which seeks to reduce processing time for legal matters, continued in 2016. During the year, the Ministry of Legal Affairs formed a public defender unit to minimize delays caused by unrepresented defendants.

Full implementation of the program would help improve the Bahamian judiciary's capacity to process drug crimes and address the case backlog, which dates back many years.

The United States signed a comprehensive maritime agreement with the Bahamas in 2004 that continues to enable cooperation in counternarcotics and migrant interdiction operations in and around Bahamian territorial waters, including through the use of Royal Bahamas Defense Force (RBDF) shipriders aboard U.S. Coast Guard (USCG) vessels.

The United States and the Bahamas are bilateral parties to both a mutual legal assistance treaty and an extradition treaty. Though the United States and the Bahamas have a strong mutual legal assistance relationship, improved procedures to expedite extraditions would bring drug crime offenders to trial more quickly and serve as a more credible deterrent for traffickers. Currently, defendants can appeal a magistrate's decision and then continue appeals up to the Privy Council in London, a process that can add years to extradition proceedings.

2. Supply Reduction

Under OPBAT, U.S. law enforcement agencies integrate with the Royal Bahamas Police Force (RBPF) to gather intelligence, conduct investigations, and execute interdictions. These operations are supported by marine, technical, and training resources provided through U.S. assistance programs. With a small population base (353,000 according to the 2010 census) and significant territory to cover, pooling U.S. and local resources and knowledge are essential to efficient deterrence and interdiction. The RBDF and law enforcement personnel in the Turks and Caicos Islands also participate in counternarcotics operations.

In 2016, OPBAT operations in the Bahamas led to 91 arrests and the seizure of approximately 1,543 kilograms (kg) of cocaine, 4.45 metric tons of marijuana, and $687,142 in currency. This represented a 242 percent increase in the amount of seized cocaine compared to 2015, when 637 kg were seized, and a return to high levels recorded in 2014. OPBAT also identified and eradicated three marijuana fields and 3,175 marijuana plants on multiple sparsely-populated islands--an indication that marijuana cultivation remains steady. U.S. and local law enforcement investigations indicate that illicit trafficking through the Bahamas remains high.

Smugglers exploit the wide distribution of numerous islands and the high number of recreational vessels flowing through the Bahamas. Large loads are split up into smaller loads before entering the southern Bahamas, sometimes bypassing the customs station in Great Inagua, which is strategically located between the Turks and Caicos Islands, Haiti, the Dominican Republic, and Jamaica. Traffickers move cocaine through the Bahamas via "go-fast" boats, small commercial freighters, maritime shipping containers, and small aircraft. Small sport fishing vessels and pleasure craft move cocaine from the Bahamas to Florida by blending in with legitimate traffic that transits these areas. Larger "go-fast" and sport fishing vessels transport marijuana from Jamaica both to the Bahamas and through the Bahamas into Florida. Haitian and HaitianBahamian drug trafficking organizations, networked between Haiti and the significant Haitian diaspora in the Bahamas, continue to play a role in the movement of cocaine.

Investigations also reveal that Bahamian drug trafficking organizations use the Turks and Caicos Islands as a transshipment point. Strong familial connections between the Turks and Caicos Islands and the Bahamas, coupled with direct flights between Haiti and the Turks and Caicos Islands, result in many Bahamian smugglers traveling to Haiti via the Turks and Caicos Islands with large amounts of cash for future smuggling ventures. The Turks and Caicos Islands represent a regional vulnerability due to a lack of sufficient law enforcement resources.

Aviation routes are a cause for concern. Small, privately owned and operated planes ferry loads of cocaine from and between significant source countries in South America into the Caribbean. Law enforcement information suggests that drug trafficking organizations utilize airdrops and remote airfields to deliver cocaine shipments to the Turks and Caicos Islands and to the Bahamas from Venezuela and Colombia.

Customs and Border Protection officers working at preclearance facilities at the Nassau and Freeport international airports have interdicted cocaine, marijuana, steroids, and currency. To attract tourism from its Spanish-speaking neighbors, the Bahamas concluded an agreement in 2011 to allow Panama-based Copa Airlines to begin flights between Nassau and Panama. The four flights a week remain a transshipment route for contraband smuggling.

Bahamian law enforcement agencies leverage their small fleet of vessels by prepositioning them in strategic locations on the archipelago. Effective use of this limited number of vessels over a vast area of coverage depends on effective use of quality intelligence and aviation support during critical interdiction missions. The RBDF operates a fleet of nine offshore patrol vessels, 11 coastal patrol vessels, and various small boats which conduct regular patrols.

3. Public Information, Prevention, and Treatment

The Bahamian government determined in its National Anti-Drug Strategy that cocaine dependency in the Bahamas is predominantly limited to those who became addicted during the 1980s and 1990s. The Bahamian government further determined that experimentation and use of marijuana is increasing among school-aged groups. With U.S. support, the Bahamian government is partnering with the Organization of American States to conduct a comprehensive drug use survey, which will provide additional data in 2017.

The Bahamian government's anti-drug strategy employs a multi-tiered approach, incorporating civil society organizations that work with youth, substance abusers, and former convicts. Its main institutional bodies are the National Anti-Drug Secretariat, the Bahamas National Drug Council, and the Sandilands Rehabilitation Center.

The Sandilands Rehabilitation Center offers residential substance abuse treatment programs, drop-in treatment programs, substance abuse prevention programs, and relapse prevention programs. Health care professionals report that women and residents of the outer islands (islands in the archipelago outside of New Providence) are under-represented in the treatment population. The United States partners with the Sandilands Rehabilitation Center to train, mentor, and certify drug treatment professionals both from within and outside government.

The Bahamas Department of Correctional Services has a small residential drug treatment program, which can accommodate up to 10 inmates at a time. The United States has provided training for the corrections officers

that provide drug treatment programs at the facility. In 2016, the Bahamas concluded a long-term project with U.S. support to further professionalize all substance use treatment staff in the country through the dissemination of U.S.-developed treatment curriculum and international credentialing through the Colombo Plan's International Centre for Certification and Education of Addiction Professionals.

4. Corruption

The Government of the Bahamas does not, as a matter of government policy, encourage or facilitate illicit drug production or distribution, nor is it involved in laundering the proceeds of the sale of illicit drugs. However, corruption remains a significant impediment to law enforcement efforts in the country. No charges of drug-related corruption were filed against government officials in 2016.

C. National Goals, Bilateral Cooperation, and U.S. Policy Initiatives

The United States supports a wide range of efforts designed to address crime and violence affecting Bahamian citizens, primarily through the Caribbean Basin Security Initiative (CBSI). CBSI is a security partnership between the United States and nations of the Caribbean that seeks to substantially reduce illicit trafficking, advance public safety and citizen security, and promote justice. To support the development of regional public security capacities, the United States funds RBDF participation in U.S. maritime exercises and foreign security assistance training programs, as well as maritime training programs, on topics including maritime law enforcement, small boat operations, port security, engineering, and maintenance. Additionally, the United States provides equipment and training to the RBDF to enhance maritime domain awareness and command and control. To improve local capacities in the region, the U.S. Department of Defense and USCG provide professional exchange and training opportunities, including between the RBDF and the United States Northern Command and the Rhode Island National Guard. Subject matter expert exchanges also occur in conjunction with USCG cutter visits to the Bahamas.

The United States has delivered training, technical assistance, and equipment needed by Bahamian government counterparts to combat transnational organized crime networks and improve citizen security in The Bahamas. For example, the United States provided training and consultations to RBPF officials on port harbor security management, and conducted a series of mobile training events on maritime law enforcement to help develop a cadre of RBDF instructors. The United States also provided the RBPF with a new 41-foot interceptor vessel in March to increase maritime capabilities in and around Nassau. The boat participated in multiple successful interdiction operations during the year. The United States also provided three trucks and boat trailers to facilitate the use of the interceptor vessels in Exuma and Great Inagua, as well as New Providence.

The United States sent RBPF officers for anti-gang operations training and homicide investigation training at the International Law Enforcement Academy in San Salvador. The United States organized a sentencing and plea bargaining workshop for judges and magistrates to increase the consistency in sentencing practices and encourage the use of plea bargaining to decrease case backlog. The workshop provided justice sector professionals with training on best practices in intelligence gathering, evidence analysis, and use of informants. Participants also received a variety of materials including statutes, indictments, plea agreements, intelligence gathering instruments, and case management tools. The United States supported Bahamian participation in the International Drug Enforcement Conference and other regional counterdrug training opportunities.

U.S. assistance for demand reduction supports the Ministry of National Security, the Sandilands Rehabilitation Center, and nongovernmental organizations, including the Bahamas Association for Social Health--the only non-governmental organization providing comprehensive residential drug treatment and rehabilitation programs in the Bahamas. Additionally, the United States supported training focused on drug demand reduction and improved corrections policies addressing drug use and demand within prisons.

D. Conclusion

The United States and the Bahamas enjoy a long-standing cooperative relationship against drug trafficking and transnational organized crime. Drug trafficking and related smuggling will remain a primary concern for the United States in The Bahamas. The United States will continue to assist Bahamian efforts to counter these networks and increase efficiencies in the administration of justice through a range of assistance, and the CBSI framework will continue to bolster Bahamian drug-control institutions and enhance U.S. and Bahamian law enforcement relationships.
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Title Annotation:Country Reports
Publication:International Narcotics Control Strategy Report
Article Type:Report
Geographic Code:5BAHA
Date:Mar 1, 2017
Words:2085
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