BRIDGETOWN – Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates arrived here tonight for meetings to show support for the Caribbean Basin Security Initiative aimed at curbing drug trafficking and other trans-border threats.
Gates will meet tomorrow with seven Caribbean defense ministers to assess progress in the initiative President Barack Obama announced a year ago at the Fifth Summit of the Americans in Trinidad and Tobago.
The secretary told reporters traveling with him that he plans to deliver the same message he has carried throughout this week’s Latin America trip during visits to Peru and Colombia: The only way to confront regional threats is through regional cooperation.
„A key element of this [initiative] is the regional cooperation among the seven Caribbean islands‘ governments and the regional security arrangements that they have working together, particularly on narcotics, but also crime, which has become a real problem in several of the islands,“ Gates said.
The security initiative is built on three strategic objectives: substantially reducing illicit drug trafficking, advancing public safety and security and promoting social justice. The United States is providing funding to help these countries enhance their capabilities, training and information exchange to better address these challenges.
Obama initially pledged $30 million in fiscal 2010 funding for the initiative, but Gates said an additional $15 million was identified to boost that to $45 million. „About a third of that money will be used to … enhance their regional security arrangements, particularly communications and boats for maritime interdiction,“ he said.
The president’s fiscal 2011 budget request includes almost $73 million in military and economic aid for the program.
Fifteen Caribbean Basin nations are included in the security initiative: Antigua and Barbuda, The Bahamas, Barbados, Belize, Dominica, Dominican Republic, Grenada, Guyana, Haiti, Jamaica, St. Kitts and Nevis, Saint Lucia, St. Vincent and the Grenadines, Suriname, and Trinidad and Tobago.
U.S. Department of Defense
Office of the Assistant Secretary of Defense (Public Affairs)