WASHINGTON (AP) _The State Department said Monday Caribbean
countries will hurt only themselves if they go ahead with a decision to
suspend drug cooperation with the United States.
Nations of the Caribbean Community agreed to take that step Sunday out
frustration with the U.S. position on banana exports from the region to
"Cooperating in the international fight against drug trafficking and abuse
manifestly in the interest of the members of Caricom," State Department
spokesman James Rubin said.
The United States has said the special banana trade arrangements Caribbean
countries maintain with Europe are a violation of World Trade Organization
rules. The WTO has sided with the U.S. position.
Rubin said marijuana has been cultivated in Caribbean states since long
before the United States brought its case on bananas to the WTO.
Pressure against drug producers, however, has increased recently "with
growing recognition of the problems of marijuana use and the corrupting and
corrosive effect of economic dependency on the illegal trade provoking
cannabis growers to rationalize their illegal activity," he said.
As an example, he said, Saint Lucia relies heavily on banana exports, yet
"an excellent, close, collaborative and cooperative anti-drug, anti-crime
working relationship" with the United States.
At the same time, Saint Lucia "is working diligently to diversify its economy,"
Rubin added. He said there may be some who want to link drug cooperation
and the banana trade but "we don't think it's justified."
An agreement signed in Barbados by President Bill Clinton in May 1997
calls for cooperation by Caribbean nations in anti-drug trafficking measures
and extradition of suspects. But regional leaders have increasingly
complained that Washington has ignored its end of the bargain by failing to
address economic issues important to the Caribbean.
Caricom spokesman Leonard Robertson said the decision to suspend the
agreement, often referred to as the Bridgetown accord, was seen by the
Caribbean leaders as the strongest way to send a message to Washington.
Copyright 1999 The Associated Press.