MIAMI-DADE COUNTY, Fla. – There has been a “recent increase” in weapons smuggling from South Florida to Haiti, federal officials reported on Wednesday during a news conference in Miami-Dade County.
Anthony Salisbury, the special agent in charge of Homeland Security Investigations Miami, met with reporters at his principal field office in Sweetwater, just south of Doral. He had a message for smugglers.
Salisbury stood near tables displaying weapons, including machine guns and submachine guns, as evidence of the federal government’s efforts to disrupt entrepreneurial criminals’ illicit trade of firearms, explosives, and ammunition.
“In the wrong hands these weapons are easily capable of causing mass casualties,” Salisbury said.
Usually, a straw buyer with a clean record will legally purchase the weapons and ammunition destined for the black market. These are leaving the country for the Caribbean through South Florida.
The group of partners Salisbury was referring to includes The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, also known as ATF; The U.S. Department of Commerce; U.S. Customs and Border Protection and the U.S. Coast Guard.
“We put a priority on inspecting cargo advances in both the air and maritime environments that are destined for Haiti,” said Vernon T. Foret, a U.S. Customs and Border Protection director of field operations in Miami and Tampa Field Office. “We’re also looking at travel for commercial airlines, as well as general aviation.”
Gédéon Jean, of the Center for Analysis and Research in Human Rights in Haiti, recently told the Miami Herald that the trafficking of guns and ammunition appears to have supplanted cocaine trafficking.
Researchers with the United Nations Office of Drugs and Crime reported traffickers prefer to use sea transport for large shipments, so seizures from vessels involved more than five times the number of firearms typically intercepted from other types of transportation.
U.S. Coast Guard Rear Admiral Brendan McPherson, the commander of the Seventh Coast Guard District headquartered in Miami, said disrupting transnational profiteering is a priority.
“We are really focused on getting after this threat to remove those weapons from the hands of people who should not have them — the gangs, the transnational criminal organizations,” McPherson said.
Federal agencies are also dealing with a rise in human trafficking at sea. According to the U.S. Coast Guard’s regular reports, most of the migrants detained are from Cuba and Haiti.
“These people are facing a perilous voyage because danger at sea is less than the danger at home,” Leonie M. Hermantin recently told Local 10 News in reference to the gang warfare in Haiti.
Federal authorities are asking anyone with information about the smuggling of weapons and ammunition or human smuggling to call 1-866-347-2423.
Watch the 4:30 p.m. report
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Watch the 12 p.m. report