US reports hike in weapons smuggling to Haiti, Caribbean

The smuggling of guns into Haiti and the Caribbean has increased recently, according to U.S. authorities, who promised on Wednesday to step up their efforts to stop the trade that is causing severe gang violence in Haiti and an increase in crime in the area.

The announcement comes as nations like The Bahamas and Jamaica are reporting an increase in the number of homicides associated with firearms. These announcements follow multiple brutal outbreaks of gang violence in Haiti, which featured gun battles in downtown Port-au-Prince.

Anthony Salisbury, Special Agent in Charge of Homeland Security Investigations Miami, noted that in addition to a noticeable increase in the quantity of guns, there has also been a significant rise in the caliber and type of firearms being unlawfully trafficked.

He was accompanied by representatives from the Coast Guard, Customs and Border Protection, and other organizations as he declared, “We have been stepping up our efforts to prevent the flow of illicit weapons into Haiti and the Caribbean.”

Handguns and a variety of semi-automatic weapons, one of which authorities characterized as a sniper rifle, were among the weapons found among those seized that were headed for Haiti.

Licenses from American authorities are normally needed for the legal export of weapons from the country. A 1990s-era arms embargo that still applies to Haiti has been modified to include limited exceptions for exports of firearms to Haitian security forces.

Guns are routinely purchased in the United States through straw buyers, some of whom claim to be the guns’ ultimate end users but later export them illegally.

Anger over a constant influx of weaponry was sparked by a series of recent arms-trafficking scandals in Haiti, including last month’s discovery of weapons in a shipping container classified as church contributions.

As part of the investigation into the firearms seizure in July, Haitian police on Wednesday detained Frantz Cole, a priest with the Episcopal Church of Haiti, a police spokeswoman informed the media.

The church’s attorney, Samuel Madistin, declined to comment.

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