The United States Department of State released its 2019 International Narcotics Control Strategy Report and has listed Belize as a major hub for South American cocaine shipments destined for the United States.

The two-part report cited Belize’s vulnerability due to its lack of resources and weak structures, including investigative and judicial shortcomings.

According to the report on narcotics, “Belize has no air defense systems, no radar systems capable of monitoring night flights, and no maritime radar. It has significant equipment maintenance needs, limited law enforcement response capability, and systemic investigative and prosecutorial limitations.”

The report said that the Government of Belize is cognizant of the danger posed by the drug trade, but its focus is domestic on local criminal gangs.

“Given Belize’s resource constraints, most of its law enforcement and legislative initiatives are necessarily tied to domestic gang activity,” the report said.

In a section captioned “corruption,” the report said that as a matter of policy, the government does not encourage or facilitate drug distribution.

“However, insufficient resources, weak law enforcement institutions, an ineffective judicial system and inadequate compensation for civil service employees and public safety officials facilitate corruption,” said the report.

The report also noted that Belize lacks laws to specifically address drug corruption.

“A Special Audit of the Immigration and Nationality Department found multiple cases of fraud and corruption within the department. After this revelation and other reports of corruption among senior government officials (not related to illicit drugs) and significant public pressure, Belize signed and ratified the United Nations Convention against Corruption (UNCAC) in 2016,” the report noted.

The section of the report on narcotics concluded saying, “Belize faces a challenging drug control environment, and strong leadership is necessary to reduce the impact of drug trafficking and crime in the country. The United States will continue to assist Belize’s law enforcement and justice sectors by providing training, advisory, and institutional support to combat drug trafficking.”

In a section dealing with money laundering, the report notes: “Belize’s geographical location, porous borders, poverty, and limited material and personnel resources leave it vulnerable to illicit trafficking, illegal migration, transnational criminal organizations, and corruption.”

“International cybercriminal activities continue to plague Belize, including phishing and ATM harvesting scams. The slow development of both a national cybersecurity policy and technical expertise constrains response in this area. The FIU’s associated capabilities are limited. Key agencies and offices involved in enforcement and monitoring, such as the FIU, Police Department, and Customs and Excise Department face various challenges, including political interference, corruption, and human resource and capacity limitations,” the report concluded.

Amandala