The US Southern Command-hosted Caribbean Nations Security Conference (CANSEC) started Tuesday in Jamaica. The annual conference brings security and defense representatives from Caribbean Basin countries together to seek common efforts against drug trafficking, organized crime, and other problems that afflict the region. Many of the Caribbean island nations have experienced increased crime and destabilization because of a surge in drugs back through the region, partly the result of successful counterdrug efforts along the Caribbean and Mexican corridor.
Director Mark Wilkins is attending the conference on behalf of the Perry Center. This year’s event marks the first time that Cuba will participate in the regional conference. Cuba has had relations with most Caribbean nations – it has diplomatic relations and an embassy in almost every Caribbean country – but has recently sought to normalize relations with the United States.
The 2016 CANSEC conference also marks the first major regional conference for the new Commander of US Southern Command, Admiral Kurt Tidd. The admiral took over the helm of the combatant command on January 14 from Marine Corps General John Kelly.