Chargé d’Affaires Terry Steers-Gonzalez
Remarks: Workshop on Alternatives to Incarceration Including Drug Treatment Courts
Wednesday, February 27, 2019, 9:00 a.m.
Honorable Minister of Public Security, Khemraj Ramjattan
Executive Secretary of CICAD, Ambassador Adam Namm
OAS Country Representative, Jean-Ricot Dormeus
Director of the National Narcotics Agency, (Retd.) Major General Michael Atherly
Members of the Media
Ladies and Gentlemen,
A good morning to you all.
I am heartened to acknowledge Guyana’s increasing efforts at tackling issues around drug abuse, incarceration, and related changes to the justice sector. I am pleased to reiterate that the United States Government also remains committed to these efforts through programming support from the U.S. State Department’s International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Bureau (INL). Since 2011, INL has helped train and certify drug-abuse treatment personnel and supported a certification program for drug and violence prevention, including increasing treatment measures, rehabilitation, and continued training.
Recognizing the cost of drug abuse among the young, INL recently added an adolescent treatment curriculum and support for adolescent drug-use treatment training. Through its Caribbean Basin Security Initiative (CBSI), INL also supports several programs on drug interdiction and law enforcement capacity-building, as well as mentoring support.
Drug abuse is a growing problem for many countries. For Guyana, the issue is further complicated because the country is a transshipment point for illegal narcotics. Last year alone, between January and September, Guyana’s authorities seized 164.9 kilograms of cocaine and 889 kilos of cannabis. Authorities also reported the seizure of synthetic drugs, including ecstasy.
These drugs are seeping into local communities and exposing vulnerable populations, especially youth, to drug use. The recent spate of cases involving ecstasy in schools, is a case in point.
Supply and more importantly, the growth of demand for hard drugs is becoming a significant problem around the world. Globally, opium production increased by 65% between 2016 and 2017. Cocaine production also rose sharply. Guyana, with its relatively small population and low prevalence of drug use, is fortunate. However, as the research indicates, no country can afford to be complacent. The growing supply and demand require countries, including Guyana, to shape their responses to reflect comprehensive measures that include a combined response from the law enforcement, justice, health, and education sectors.
I am pleased to note that Guyana continues to develop and fine-tune its Drug Strategy Master Plan. Through this plan, Guyana is working on comprehensive solutions that include supply and demand reduction, alternatives to incarceration, and treatment and rehabilitation. Setting up the Interagency Task Force on Narcotic Drugs and Illicit Weapons, and passing and/or amending significant legislation, including the Maritime Drug (Suppression) Trafficking Act, the Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances Control Act, and the Food and Drugs Act, are significant milestones.
Guyana’s many efforts to improve treatment for drug dependency through both general and specialized care and emphasis on early diagnosis and primary care intervention are equally commendable. Guyana is also advancing in the use of evidence-based prevention programs. Moreover, Guyana is focusing on alternatives to incarceration through strategies to reduce the amount of time offenders spend in custody, taking into account the seriousness of the crime and the proportional harm in relation to punishment.
I am keen to learn more about Guyana’s progress on the issues surrounding drug abuse and alternatives to incarceration, as well as the outcomes of your discussions during the next two days.
In closing, I would like to extend my sincere wishes to all of you in your work. The U.S. Embassy looks forward to supporting your efforts.