home Central America, Export Controls, Jamaica Jamaica Needs Stronger Export Control Laws, Not Gun Control Laws

Jamaica Needs Stronger Export Control Laws, Not Gun Control Laws

Be careful by what you read in the headlines, that is usually only part of the story. This is especially true in Latin America and the Caribbean.

According to numerous mainstream media stories, several thousand “warheads,” about 3,000, have been seized by Jamaican Customs officials. Bullets, machinery, and other equipment were also among the cache of weapons. Jamaican officials are not saying the type of explosive or “warhead” that was seized. The entire shipments may just have been bullets and re-loading equipment that can be purchased just about anywhere these days.

At least one report claims that the items were found onboard a ship docked at Kingston Wharf. Destination or origin, unknown. Depending on the type of devices, the items could have been headed to a neighboring Caribbean country or even for use by Colombia’s terrorist group, FARC. They may also have been destined for use somewhere in Jamaica.

In 2011 Jamaica was again designated by the President as one of twenty-two major drug-transit countries that significantly affect the United States. Narcotics are trafficked from South America to Jamaica en route to the U.S. and Europe. Where you have illegal drugs, there are weapons. A lot of them. Drug dealers and other criminals do not buy weapons legally, they usually resort to the black market. And when they need more firepower, these make their own.

Approximately nine years ago, the State Department’s Directorate of Defense Trade Controls (DDTC) allegedly froze the export of  weapons, weapon parts, and ammunition to Jamaica and required exporters to complete new licensing requirements before sending articles. It may just have been slower license approval times, not new requirements.

It will be interesting to learn more about this recent seizure and how Jamaican authorities learned about the shipments and what the contents really are. I strongly doubt these “missiles” are anything more than bullets (and a quick glance at the Jamaican Constabulary Force Facebook page seems to confirm this). They have asked for help from the U.S. and international organizations; however, I think that they also may be exaggerating aspects of this seizure for domestic political consumption in Jamaica.

While Jamaica is a small Caribbean island, it should seriously consider finally adopting Wassenaar controls and implement a suitable regulatory system to deal with these matters. OAS and UN conventions are not sufficient and poorly suited to properly combat these sort of crimes; nor are the extreme Jamaican gun controls law that only serve to disarm law-abiding citizens.

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