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THE COUNTRIES OF MICRONESIA
Guam is a 333 square kilometre incorporated territory of the USA.
It is the southernmost of the Marianas chain and hosts extensive US
base facilities. Because of these it has excellent transport linkages to
the USA and Asia. About 20% of the 175,000 population are non-US
citizens. Only 37% are Chamorro and about 33% Filipino and north
Asian. Guam has a major tourist industry, attracting mostly tourists
from Japan, South Korea, Taiwan and Hong Kong.
The major threat to Guam is crystal methamphetamines. This
drug is imported from Asia by mules, posted in from the USA in
parcels, and produced locally in clandestine laboratories. Most users
are locals although Asian-run businesses and tourists contribute
significantly to the trade. Local Asian-run vice businesses provide
the bulk of prostitution and gambling services on the island. The
methamphetamines trade cannot be ‘stamped out’ as recently
suggested by one official, as the island imports most of its food,
consumer and industrial goods from the USA and Asia. Both the port
and Guam international airport have connections to North America,
North Asia, South east Asia and Australia.
The ‘normal’ drug case investigated by Guam Police Department
(GPD) is a marijuana case, but they stress that these rarely involve
any form of violence. About a third of their drug cases from 1001 to
2010 involved methamphetamines, and these involved higher levels
of violence. Additionally, the users had a far higher ratio of supporting
their habit through other forms of criminal activity. These ranged from
selling drugs themselves, to prostitution and crimes of violence.
As with all drug seizures, amounts are patchy and it is difficult
to detect trends. There have been no massive seizures in the
tens or hundreds of kilo range, instead the trade is characterised
by a steady flow of bodypack and postal seizures, with annual
seizure rates tending to be below ten kilograms. Most of the crystal
methamphetamines seized originates in Asia, but most of the drug
imported has traditionally come from the USA in parcel post. From
2006 the US Postal Service began to upgrade its detection systems in
Guam in order to attack this trade, but these officials did not prove
willing to provide information on their seizure rates. It is believed that
most of the scanning is done in San Francisco, Hawaii and San Diego
mail sorting facilities, through which all US mail to the island passes.
These facilities also deal with US mail heading for Palau, FSM and the
RMI, so similar impacts on parcel post drug seizures can be expected
Heroin and cocaine are not drugs of choice in Guam and very little
has been seized. That which has been seized has been very small
quantities brought in by tourists for personal use.
Locally Originated Drugs. Guam, like all Micronesian states, has an
ideal climate for marijuana cultivation. It is grown in the rural north
and south of the island and is also imported from the CNMI, Palau and
FSM. Depending on availability of military aircraft and good weather,
the GPD has an annual marijuana aerial survey and eradication
program, which is conducted in conjunction with the US National
Guard, a standing military reserve force maintained at State level. In
favourable years, this normally leads to the location and eradication of
2000-3000 plants on Guam and Saipan.
Terrorist Activities. Guam has been unique in Micronesia in having
a connection to terrorist activities. There is a low terrorist threat to
Guam per se, but in September 2006 members of the Liberation Tigers
of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) were apprehended by US officials in Guam,
as part of an operation being run from the US state of Maryland.
They were there to purchase night vision equipment, specialised
sniper rifles, automatic weapons and grenade launchers. They had
been seeking a wider variety of weapons. The persons arrested later
received long prison sentences, and fines, including fines for money
laundering. It is believed that their money laundering activities were
done in conjunction with organized criminal entities.
People Trafficking. People trafficking is a major law enforcement
issue in Guam. There is a a constant small scale traffic from Saipan
via Rota in small craft (Saipan is 73nm from Rota, which is 47nm from
Guam). The standard operation is a Filipino or Chinese smuggler
bringing 4-20 Chinese from CNMI to Guam for US$3,000 to US$6,000
per head. Guam has many landing sites, but the best one is at Tumon,
where people landed can instantly blend in with local Asian tourist
Customs and Excise Avoidance. Guam enforces its own Customs,
Excise and Quarantine laws and coordinates with the US Customs,
Immigration and Border Enforcement authorities. There is a
jurisdictional coordination issue here, as no export license is required
for exports to the USA, but these are required for exports to or imports
from other destinations. This permits possible staging via Guam or
the CNMI of goods to be moved to Asia, with reduced risk of detection
prior to export. This is the ‘low risk port of origin’ gambit. Guam is
not recognised as a high risk destination for exports from the USA.
Neither is it recognised as a high risk origin for goods imported into
Australian soldier providing assistance in Micronesia.
Credit: CoA / Tony Tolley
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