Headlines, Latin America & the Caribbean

NARCOTICS-TRINIDAD AND TOBAGO: Drug Lord’s Estate Turned Addicts’ Haven

Peter Richards

PORT OF SPAIN, Mar 3 1999 (IPS) - It is hardly likely that former drug lord, Dole Chadee had envisaged that the lavish estate that he had acquired, reportedly through drug trafficking would one day be turned into a haven for recovering addicts, but that is exactly what has happened.

Earlier this week the government made good on its promise to establish a drug Rehabilitation Centre on Chadee’s estate in south central Trinidad.

“It is one of history’s great ironies that an estate developed by the rewards of drug trafficking should become a centre to help those afflicted by the drug habit,” says Prime Minister Basdeo Panday.

“This location was the centre of drug activity, overseen by one of the most notorious drug lords this country has ever produced,” Panday adds.

Chadee’s 46.5 hectare estate with a number of erected buildings in the rural village of Piparo, in south central Trinidad, was reclaimed by the authorities after it was discovered that he was squatting on state land for more than 15 years.

Chadee and eight others were convicted in 1996 for the 1994 brutal slaying of four members of a family. They are now on Death Row.

The nine have lost their appeal before the London-based Privy Council and other international human rights organisations including the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights.

However there is provision for the state to seize assets of a convicted drug trafficker under the amended 1991 Dangerous Drugs Act.

Since 1997, the authorities have been discussing the idea of converting Chadee’s estate into a rehabilitation centre.

Social Development Minister Manohar Ramsaran says that the new facility will house 60 male and female residents, offering rehabilitation, coupled with training in agriculture, carpentry, masonry and food preparation.

These recovering addicts will remain there for a period of one to two years. At the existing centres they can only be accommodated for three months as space is limited.

Most of the other 28 existing centres throughout the country are financially strapped.

“We are always looking for funding,” says Ann Isaac Gibson, managing director of the organisation ” Families in Action” .

The National Alcohol and Drug Abuse Prevention Programme (NADAPP) which has a mandate to implement state policy on drug abuse, has initiated a number of projects to deal with the problem.

One such project involves treatment and rehabilitation and research and information in five selected communities. Funding will come from the United Nations Drug Control Programme, the European Union and the local government.

Trinidad and Tobago like its other Caribbean neighbours is battling a serious drug trafficking problem and the government complains that its efforts to deal with the situation are being frustrated by some persons including those within the law enforcement agencies.

In its 1999 Drug Certification Report for the Caribbean, the United States said that last year, the authorities here seized 88.5 kilogrammes of cocaine and arrested 1,388 people on cocaine- trafficking or possession charges.

In the largest single seizure of cocaine in the country’s history three citizens of Antigua were convicted in October 1998 and jailed for attempting to ship 226 kilogrammes of cocaine out of Trinidad and Tobago in 1994.

Further, the police here reported the destruction of 4.23 million fully-grown marijuana plants and seedlings during 1998.

Last year, the United States Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) opened an office here with both the U.S. and local authorities indicating that the move had further enhanced the bilateral cooperation between the two countries.

Such cooperation was exemplified by the joint effort of the Trinidadian authorities and DEA officials in the recapture of 33- year-old Deochan Ramdhanie, a convicted drug dealer who had taken refuge in Venezuela last year.

“This cooperation with the United States has come in for criticism. I have no regret. The recapture of Ramdhanie proves the cooperation is working well,” says Panday.

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