**U.S. Ambassador John D. Rood**

U.S. President George Bush recently released an annual report to the U.S. Congress identifying countries the United States determined to be major drug producers or drug-transit points, the so-called “majors list.” In response to concerns that The Bahamas was included on the list despite its outstanding cooperation with the United States in the fight against illegal narcotics trafficking, the US Ambassador released a statement indicating that the categorisation should not be viewed as a criticism of the Bahamian Government and its excellent law enforcement cooperation. Rather, he said, it is simply an objective determination of which countries in the world produce drugs or through which drugs pass on their way to the United States.

*”For more than twenty years, The Bahamas has been one of the United States closest and most successful allies in the fight against illegal narcotics trafficking,”* said the Ambassador. Reportedly, the US recognises that the reduction in the estimated percent of cocaine passing through the Caribbean corridor and bound for the United States could never have occurred without the strong support of successive Bahamian governments. *”It is no coincidence that our closest southern neighbors, Mexico and The Bahamas, appear year after year on the list of major drug transit countries. Traffickers look for the shortest, most convenient routes to move their illicit products. The Bahamas inclusion on the “majors” list reflects the reality of its location between the South American suppliers and North American consumers of cocaine and the continued flow of a substantial – even if greatly reduced – amount of illegal narcotics.”*

Beyond this objective assessment, the President’s report also determines whether or not drug transit or producing countries fully cooperate with the United States to fight drugs. The Bahamas was certified as “fully cooperating” with the United States in this most important element of the report. In fact, The Bahamas was singled out for praise by the State Department’s highest-ranking counter-narcotics official, Nancy Powell, who pointed out that *“…the police in the Bahamas have a superb record in terms of dismantling drug trafficking organizations.”* Since 2001, she added,* “the Bahamas has stopped the illegal activities of three major drug rings, an accomplishment which resulted in the arrest of hundreds of criminals in The Bahamas as well as in the United States.”*

Amb. Rood points to the inescapable fact that combating the drug trade requires a global effort, and that nations work together in common purpose. The United States is committed to taking action in close cooperation with friendly governments against drug trafficking and against the criminal activities that are linked to it. In meeting this challenge to the political, economic, social and cultural well being of the United States the Government is committed to an integrated approach that combines eradication with interdiction, alternative development, criminal justice modernisation, anti-corruption measures, and demand reduction and awareness programs.

Specifically referencing the success of the Operation Bahamas, Turks and Caicos (OPBAT) initiative in the fight against illicit drugs, Amb. Rood indicates that the United States contributes nearly $30 million a year to OPBAT. *”I look forward to continuing this successful cooperation in the coming years to further reduce the drug trafficking threat to our countries.”*