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(SNO) – Saint Lucia and Venezuela have agreed to work together to ease concerns the island has over guns and drugs passing through its borders that Prime Minister Allen Chastanet said played some part in the murders committed last year.
A high-powered delegation from Venezuela headed by General Endes Palencia, the vice minister for prevention and citizen security in Venezuela, paid a one-day visit to Saint Lucia Thursday to hold talks with Home Affairs and National Security Minister Hermangild Francis, Commissioner of Police Severin Moncherry and Prime Minister Allen Chastanet.
Minister Francis told reporters that the talks with the Spanish-speaking delegation will focus on the visa regime his government has slapped on Venezuelans and about drugs and guns from Venezuela entering Saint Lucia.
His hope was that out of those talks will come forth a Memorandum of Understanding for cooperation between the two countries to fight the drug menace and the proliferation of firearms coming into Saint Lucia.
Palencia said that his delegation was in Saint Lucia to listen to the concerns of Saint Lucia. He gave the assurance that Venezuela will embark on certain policies to safeguard the security of both countries.
Saint Lucia’s primary concern with Venezuela is what it claims to be the drugs and guns coming from that country into St. Lucia hereby affecting the safety of Saint Lucians.
Prime Minister Allen Chastanet is adamant that drugs and firearms out of Venezuela played a major role in the whopping high number of murders St. Lucia recorded last year, namely 60.
He added that one of the greatest sources of drugs and guns coming to Saint Lucia is Venezuela. He pointed to several arrests of Venezuelans in Saint Lucia and sums of monies confiscated from Venezuelans as evidence enough for his assertions.
Minister Francis however refused to be drawn into making the same statements as the prime Minister when challenged on the subject by reporters. He said he did not think the prime minister was making a correlation to firearms used in last year’s murders to Venezuela.
“I think the prime minister made the statement that some firearms were originating from Venezuela,” Francis said, adding that never has Saint Lucia been able to link a firearm used in a murder directly to Venezuela despite information indicating that firearms coming into Saint Lucia do come from Venezuela and other places in the Caribbean.
“So it is not fair to say that the prime minister actually said the homicides were due to firearms coming from Venezuela,” Francis said.
Chastanet had told reporters that his government is concerned with the number of Venezuelans entering the country without visas, a situation that could result in Saint Lucia’s inability to extradite them should they break the law. He said that by putting visa restrictions on them allows Saint Lucia to have greater control of its borders.
The prime minister noted that currently “we are seeing, not only in Saint Lucia, but throughout the length and breadth of the Caribbean” Venezuelans being involved in the shipment of drugs and firearms due to the economic situation in their homeland.