A former military commander in Guyana has sounded the alarm that the country is in danger of becoming a "narco-state," with the emergence of ties to European organized crime and a rising role as a transit nation.
David Granger, a former commander of the Guyana Defense Force and a political opposition leader, told Congress during a budgetary debate that "Guyana is sleepwalking, step by step, into narco-statehood," reported the Guyana Times.
"Narco-trafficking is the engine of growth that is driving the country's economy," he said. Granger spoke about the problems that drug trafficking has generated in the small country -- which sits on the northeastern shoulder of South America -- including gang warfare, money laundering, armed robberies and murders.
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The ex-commander said the country's drug traffickers had strong links with the Gambino and Bonanno mob families in New York, as well as Italy's most powerful mafia organization, the 'Ndrangheta.
He also outlined how the country's hinterlands -- which border Brazil, Venezuela, and Suriname -- have become key corridors for arms and drug smugglers.
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Guyana's geography, offering access to key drug transit nations in West Africa and surrounded by porous borders with major drug trafficking nations, makes it an ideal jumping off point for smugglers.
The country's increasingly worrisome situation was pointed out in a 2012 report, which found rising homicides connected to street gangs, the presence of larger drug trafficking organizations, and criminal ties with the political class and security forces. In a recent case, US and Italian authorities dismantled a billion-dollar drug smuggling operation that used a Guyanese shipping company to transport cocaine and heroin in consignments of fruit and fish to a port in Calabria, Italy, where the 'Ndrangheta is based.
Granger's stark assessment that Guyana is becoming a "narco-state" was likely a call to the country's politicians and law enforcement, who are often corrupt or lack the political will to address these problems. Guyana is further affected by the fact it has limited resources to combat drug traffickers, as highlighted by President Donald Ramotar recently requesting international assistance to investigate the Italy case.
Guyana's neighbors, Suriname and French Guiana, are also largely overlooked countries in South America that serve as key drug transit routes. All three are former European colonies, and these historical cultural ties likely continue to bind them to the continent, contributing to their drug trafficking appeal for shipments bound for Europe's expanding market.