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Who's to Blame? U.S. Guns Fueling Jamaican Drug Wars

While the United States concentrates on stopping the flow of weapons to Mexico that wind up in the hands of the drug cartels, residents of Jamaica sit back and watch American guns flood their Carribean island nation, contributing to one of the highest murder rates anywhere in the world. But as U.S. and Jamaican authorities take steps to address the situation, both sides are blaming the other for the deadly problem.

Jamaican police confiscate around 700 guns a year from criminals. Law enforcement officials tell the Associated Press that 80% of them can be traced back to the U.S. Most of those come from three counties in Florida -- Orange, Dade and Broward -- all with large Jamaican populations.

It is common for Jamicans in the U.S. to send goods to their families back home. But often times those shipments include weapons. And according to Leslie Green, a Jamaican assistant police commissioner, that's where the "massive problem" begins:

"There aren't any checks or any controls on goods leaving the United States. Yet anything leaving here, we have to make sure it's double-checked and tripled-checked for drugs."

The U.S. admits its role in the problem, and has begun a $95 million program to better inspect outbound shipments. But the U.S. says Jamaica could do a better job on its end. Over the past five years, Jamaican authorities have only stopped 100 guns coming into its ports. Jamaican authorities say the powerful gangs use bribery and intimidation to get shipments past inspectors. In April, for example, one particularly tough inspector had his tires slashed, then was shot on his way home from work.

Jamaican officials are hiring more customs inspectors and giving them additional training on how to spot guns. But even Andrew Lamb, a supervisor with Jamaica customs' Contraband Enforcement Team, admits it's an uphill battleagainst the gangs:

"The guys we're up against, they have time, they have money, and they are very resourceful. They're pretty good at what they do."

These gangs are blamed for 90% of the island's murders. 1611 people were killed on Jamaica last year. Relative to population, that's a murder rate 10 times worse than the United States.


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