Remarks by U.S. Charge d’Affaires Lisa Johnson
Good morning. It is a pleasure to be here as we recognize the accomplishments of a three-decade long partnership, Operation Bahamas and Turks and Caicos, better known as OPBAT. The counter-narcotics cooperation our countries enjoy is essential for our citizens, our prosperity, and our mutual security. We do not take lightly the shared threats stemming from increasing illicit activity.
In response, in 2013, OPBAT operations in The Bahamas led to the seizure of over 1 metric ton of cocaine, nearly 28 metric tons of marijuana, 154 arrests, and over 4 million U.S. dollars in currency. This represented a substantial increase in seized cocaine (nearly 5X) and in currency over 2012 seizures. Numbers so far in 2014 are even higher. Such joint successes thwart nefarious efforts, keep drugs off our streets, and increase the cost of doing business for drug traffickers. However, in spite of these many successes, challenges persist. We are faced with sophisticated criminal organizations that operate across oceans and continents and that are willing to do whatever it takes to get their illicit products to market.
We recognize that disrupting the activity of these organizations requires our governments’ collective response. OPBAT successfully brings together law enforcement professionals from the Royal Bahamas Police Force, the Royal Bahamas Defence Force, the Royal Turks and Caicos Islands Police Force, the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration, the United States Coast Guard, and U.S. Customs and Border Protection in a coordinated effort to combat illicit drug trafficking into and throughout The Bahamas and the Turks and Caicos Islands.
Today we recognize and commend these entities and all those that contribute to stopping the flow of illegal drugs in our region. We look forward to many, many more successes together as we continue to work to combat the drug trade and other transnational crimes that threaten regional security.