MIL-OSI USA: U.S.-Caribbean Engagement to Counter Firearms Trafficking

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Source: United States Department of State

United States Ambassador to the United Nations Linda Thomas-Greenfield led a U.S. delegation to Guyana to participate in the U.S.-Caribbean Community (CARICOM) Dialogue on February 25, 2024.  Her engagement builds on Vice President Kamala Harris’ April 2022 meeting  with Caribbean leaders, the Vice President’s June 2023 engagement  of Caribbean leaders in The Bahamas, and Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken’s participation in the 50th Anniversary of CARICOM in July 2023 in Trinidad and Tobago. The following are activities stemming from recent US efforts in the region.

Countering Firearms Trafficking

  • Bipartisan Safer Communities Act (BSCA): Signed into U.S. law in July 2022, the BSCA dramatically increased criminal penalties for straw purchasers and U.S.-sourced firearms trafficking. Provisions under the “Stop Illegal Trafficking in Firearms Act” assign further penalties for smuggled firearms or ammunition out of the United States, with the intent to promote transnational organized crime.
  • Recent Firearms Cases: On February 1, Haiti’s 400 Mawozo gang leader Joly Germine pleaded guilty  to his role in a gunrunning conspiracy that smuggled firearms to Haiti in violation of U.S. export laws, and the laundering of ransoms paid for U.S. hostages to the gang in 2021. His former girlfriend, Eliande Tunis, pleaded guilty to the same 48-count indictment. Jocelyn Dor, a Haitian citizen also affiliated with 400 Mawozo, was sentenced  to 60 months in prison on February 28 for her role in a firearm smuggling scheme between the United States and Haiti. On February 26, Elieser Sori-Rodriguez was sentenced  to 57 months in prison for smuggling firearms from the United States to the Dominican Republic.
  • Coordinator for Caribbean Firearms Prosecutions: In July 2023, the Department of Justice named a Coordinator for Caribbean Firearms Prosecutions to elevate firearms trafficking and prosecutions and help implement the provisions of the BPSA.  The Coordinator has since attended an Association of Caribbean Chiefs of Police meeting, traveled to Jamaica and met with Jamaica’s Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs, and met with the CARICOM Implementation Agency for Crime and Security Leadership.  He will travel to Trinidad and Tobago this spring to meet with host nation counterparts, Caribbean officials at the CARICOM Crime Gun Intelligence Unit, and U.S. law enforcement partners at Embassy Port of Spain.
  • Operation Hammerhead: Partnering with the CARICOM Crime Gun Intelligence Unit (CGIU) , U.S. Homeland Security Investigations initiated an interagency, multijurisdictional surge operation to target illicit firearms being trafficked from the United States to the Caribbean.  Through collaboration with Caribbean partners, Operation Hammerhead has, to date, resulted in seizures of 339 firearms, 26,495 rounds of ammunition and over 400 magazines.
  • Training on Firearms Investigations: In 2023, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives (ATF) supported training for 270 Caribbean police officers on firearms investigations, including familiarization training on Privately Made Firearms (Ghost Guns) and 3D-printed firearms.  To advance firearms trafficking prosecutions in the United States, ATF conducted extensive domestic training on applying anti-trafficking provisions in the 2022 Bipartisan Safer Communities Act (BSCA) to disrupt and dismantle international trafficking schemes.
  • Haiti Transnational Criminal Investigative Unit (TCIU): On February 13, 2024, Homeland Security Investigations and the Government of Haiti signed a Memorandum of Cooperation to formally establish the Haiti TCIU, which will facilitate the exchange of information between law enforcement partners in the United States and Haiti, and enhance cross-border investigative capabilities to prosecute those involved in transnational criminal activities. TCIUs are multi-discipline units comprised of vetted foreign law enforcement, prosecutors, and customs, immigration and intelligence officials that share information and operational activities. This complements the work of existing TCIUs in the Caribbean, located in Jamaica and the Dominican Republic.
  • Holiday Cargo Screening: In advance of the 2023 holiday season, U.S. agencies surged resources to screen outbound cargo from the United States to the Caribbean via freight forwarders at the Miami River.  Caribbean partners advised U.S. law enforcement counterparts that firearms traffickers take advantage of the annual surge in U.S.-Caribbean shipping to hide firearms and firearms components in “blue barrel” shipments bound for the Caribbean.
  • Saint Lucia Forensics Lab: The State Department is proud to have partnered with Saint Lucia to make its forensics lab a Regional Center of Excellence, working toward laboratory accreditation under the International Organization for Standardization.  This project is part of a $2.2 million United States investment in strengthening Caribbean forensics capabilities. The Regional Center of Excellence will enable Saint Lucian law enforcement and regional counterparts to collect and analyze crime scene evidence in the region, ensuring that criminals can be arrested, tried, and convicted more quickly, with scientific evidence.

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