The Canadian ship HMCS Shawinigan, the Trinidad and Tobago Coast Guard TTS QUINAM and the French Tank Landing Ship Dumont D’Urvill line up during the multinational, U.S.-led Tradewinds exercise in the Caribbean Sea on June 26, 2016. (Navy photo by Petty Officer 1st Class Todd Stafford)

U.S. Vows Greater Maritime Security Collaboration in Jamaica, Colombia Meetings

Stressing that the Caribbean is America’s “third border,” Secretary of State Rex Tillerson met with Jamaican Prime Minister Andrew Holness on Thursday to discuss strengthening security cooperation with the island and “most particularly” fighting “transnational criminal organizations that bring nothing but problems and violence and devastation to Jamaica and the region, but also certainly to the homeland for the United States.”

Speaking with reporters in Kingston, Holness said he and Tillerson discussed broadened cooperation on national security, energy security, the impact of climate events and economic matters with CARICOM, an organization of 15 Caribbean nations and dependencies.

“In particular, we have greatly valued America’s efforts to disrupt transnational crime through continued support to effectively secure Jamaica’s maritime space,” the prime minister said. “We agreed to deepen our cooperation in this regard, acknowledging also that the sharing and exchange of intelligence is critical to the safety and security of our two countries and the wider region.”

Tillerson said Washington understands how much “our security and prosperity are very closely tied to that of our Caribbean neighbors,” and said their discussions were even more timely as Jamaica is assuming the chairmanship of CARICOM.

“Through the Caribbean Basin Security Initiative, the United States and the Caribbean have really taken great strides in unifying our approach to regional security, but we discussed ways in which we could take that further and do more,” he continued. “We appreciate the Jamaican government’s commitment to countering narcotics trafficking and transnational criminal organizations and the cooperation that we already enjoy, but we also see many, many opportunities to enhance that cooperation to be even more effective in disrupting these illegal organizations.”

Tillerson added that it’s “in both of our countries’ interests to work together to investigate crimes, share intelligence, conduct asset seizures where legally and appropriate to do so, and bolster existing anti-corruption and anti-gang programs.”

The secretary of State traveled to Jamaica from Colombia, where he sat down with President Juan Manuel Santos to discuss, in part, cooperative agreements on maritime interdiction — an “area that’s been a real – we’ve had real obstacles in the past,” Tillerson told reporters in Bogota on Tuesday.

“And through joint efforts with Mexico, the U.S., Colombia, we now have agreements that are allowing us to be much more aggressive at interdicting routes of transportation along the Pacific, in particular maritime routes,”  he said.

Tillerson said the pair talked about the “surge” in coca cultivation and cocaine production along with working together to “undermine the transcriminal organizations that create the networks that are devastating for citizens” in Colombia and the United States.

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Bridget Johnson is the Managing Editor for Homeland Security Today. A veteran journalist whose news articles and analyses have run in dozens of news outlets across the globe, Bridget first came to Washington to be online editor and a foreign policy writer at The Hill. Previously she was an editorial board member at the Rocky Mountain News and syndicated nation/world news columnist at the Los Angeles Daily News. Bridget is a senior fellow specializing in terrorism analysis at the Haym Salomon Center. She is a Senior Risk Analyst for Gate 15, a private investigator and a security consultant. She is an NPR on-air contributor and has contributed to USA Today, The Wall Street Journal, New York Observer, National Review Online, Politico, New York Daily News, The Jerusalem Post, The Hill, Washington Times, RealClearWorld and more, and has myriad television and radio credits including Al-Jazeera and SiriusXM.

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