U.S. and Caribbean Nations Strengthen Security Ties at High-Level Dialogue

In a significant move to bolster regional security, the United States and Caribbean nations convened for the 11th High-Level Caribbean-US Security Cooperation Dialogue on November 16, 2023, in Castries, St. Lucia. This annual event, under the Caribbean Basin Security Initiative (CBSI) and the Caribbean-United States Framework for Security Cooperation, aims to address pressing regional security challenges and set priorities for the forthcoming year.

Kamala Harris

Hosted by St. Lucia, the dialogue was co-chaired by the United States, the Caribbean Community (CARICOM), and the Dominican Republic. Discussions focused on a range of critical issues including firearms trafficking, counteracting transnational organized crime, bolstering maritime security, and strategies to prevent youth crime and violence.

The State Department highlighted the joint adoption of a statement by heads of delegations from the United States, CARICOM, and the Dominican Republic, which outlines the priorities for security cooperation through CBSI for the next year. A notable inclusion in the joint statement is the endorsement of a Multinational Security Support (MSS) mission in Haiti, authorized under Chapter VII of the UN Charter.

Leading the U.S. delegation was Deputy Assistant Secretary for Caribbean Affairs and Haiti, Barbara A. Feinstein. The delegation comprised representatives from various U.S. agencies, signaling a comprehensive approach to addressing the multifaceted security concerns.

A key focus of the dialogue was the joint effort by the U.S. and Caribbean nations to disrupt illicit firearms trafficking, an issue closely tied to rising crime and violence in the region. This collaboration involves capacity building for Caribbean nations to detect and interdict illegally trafficked firearms and ammunition and promotes enhanced coordination and information sharing among law enforcement agencies.

In April, a technical working group meeting in Trinidad and Tobago reaffirmed the commitment to implementing the Caribbean Firearms Trafficking Priority Actions under CBSI. Additionally, the U.S. has taken significant legislative steps, such as the Bipartisan Safer Communities Act and the Stop Illegal Trafficking in Firearms Act, to tackle firearms trafficking domestically and internationally.

Vice President Kamala Harris, with familial ties to the Caribbean through her Jamaican father, has shown a keen interest in these issues. In June 2023, she announced the appointment of a Coordinator for Caribbean Firearms Prosecutions by the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ), a move to strengthen investigations and prosecutions related to firearms trafficking.

Moreover, the establishment of the Caribbean Crime Gun Intelligence Unit (CCGIU) in November 2022 by CARICOM Implementational Agency for Crime and Security (IMPACS), with U.S. support, marks a critical step in enhancing intelligence and information sharing among law enforcement agencies in the region.

The dialogue also covered the impending signing of a memorandum of understanding between the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives (ATF) and the Haitian National Police, facilitating information sharing through the ATF eTrace system. This collaboration is a part of broader efforts, including the development of a Transnational Criminal Investigative Unit (TCIU) focused on tackling firearms and ammunition smuggling, human trafficking, and transnational gang activity.

As part of these efforts, Homeland Security Investigations’ (HSI) Caribbean Firearms Initiative in Fiscal Year 2023 led to significant seizures, underscoring the ongoing commitment and cooperation between the U.S. and Caribbean nations in fighting transnational crime and enhancing regional security.