The extradition for the second time of a notorious Haitian cocaine smuggler to the United States serves as a reminder of Haiti's little-known status as a drug trafficking transit point.
On April 8, Jean Eliobert Jasme was extradited from Haiti to the United States, following his arrest in late March. Last September, Jasme was indicted in the Eastern District Court of Wisconsin on charges of international drug trafficking, among others. According to the Miami Herald, he allegedly conspired with two Haitian police officers to smuggle Colombian cocaine into the United States through Haiti, the Dominican Republic and the Bahamas.
This is far from Jasme’s first encounter with the American justice system. In 2004, Jasme pleaded guilty to two counts of conspiring to import cocaine after being linked to several cocaine seizures in Miami.
Jasme proved a valuable asset for US prosecutors because of his reported ties to former Haitian President Jean Bertrand-Aristide, who was accused of taking bribes from traffickers to allow them to use the country as a cocaine shipping hub.
According to the Herald, Jasme became a witness in at least 17 prosecutions of former Haitian officials, police officers and other traffickers, many ending in convictions. In 2009, a federal judge halved his 20-year sentence in reward for his cooperation.
But despite these contributions, Jasme appears to have returned to the cocaine trade after his release. He was arrested with 83 kilograms on the outskirts of Port-au-Prince in 2020, released four months later, then arrested again in March 2022.
InSight Crime Analysis
The Jasme extradition demonstrates Haiti’s repeated role as a drug transit point for cocaine headed to the US, if on a smaller scale to some of its Caribbean neighbors.
Haiti emerged as a transit hub of choice for Pablo Escobar's drug empire in the late 1980s. According to media reports, the Medellín Cartel moved dozens of tons a cocaine year through Haiti while working with corrupt officials to build clandestine airstrips.
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When Jasme was arrested in 2003, he was one of several notorious Haitian traffickers moving Colombian cocaine that US authorities sought to prosecute. Another prominent arrest was that of Beaudouin "Jacques" Ketant, who worked with the Medellín Cartel and the Norte del Valle Cartel to move tons of cocaine from Colombia into the United States via Haiti.
Successful prosecution of high-profile smuggling hampered South American suppliers’ ability to move their product through Haiti, but cocaine trafficking has continued.
According to the 2022 International Narcotics Control Strategy Report, Haitian authorities seized just 2.76 metric tons of marijuana and 94 kilograms of cocaine during 2021. While smugglers are likely to have moved greater quantities of drugs through the country, increasing lawlessness, rising gang violence and political upheaval in recent years may have made Haiti unappealing to traffickers.