WASHINGTON — Bahamian Prime Minister Lynden O. Pindling charged Thursday that the United States, while complaining about poor anti-drug cooperation from Caribbean nations, for five years has failed to back up promises to provide a high-technology radar balloon for detecting cocaine shipments through the archipelago.
The forceful criticism of U.S. drug interdiction efforts came as Pindling, whose government has been implicated in cocaine-trafficking activities, mounts a new campaign to position himself in the forefront of mounting international anti-narcotics efforts.
In a breakfast session with reporters and editors of The Times' Washington Bureau, Pindling urged the United States to expand its war on drugs by ordering the immediate recall of all large-denomination currency to hamper drug lords who must deal in cash.
"This would convert rich traffickers and their helpers into paupers overnight," the Bahamian leader says.
Pindling also endorsed a proposed multilateral anti-drug task force that would dispatch troops around the world to help nations eradicate illegal drug crops.
Asked about what the State Department has called the disparity between such "public pronouncements" and the extent of corruption in his government, Pindling freely conceded that the indictments of several of his associates on drug charges have taken a toll on him.
The Pindling associates indicted in the United States earlier this year were Kendal W. Nottage, a member of the Bahamian Parliament, and Everette Bannister, a longtime business associate of the prime minister.
Nottage was charged in Boston in a federal tax conspiracy indictment alleging that he and others conspired to conceal the illegal drug profits of organized crime figure Salvatore M. Caruana from the Internal Revenue Service. Bannister was charged in Florida in an indictment alleging that he conspired with the Colombian Medellin drug cartel to move drugs through the Bahamas.
In the his interview Thursday, the prime minister insisted that the Bahamas "never has been" a haven for drug traffickers. He accused the United States of adopting a double standard in singling out the Bahamas for criticism.
"I'm not saying that all of our fellows are angels," he said, "but don't you try and make out to me that all of yours are angels.
"Don't apply a yardstick abroad in the Bahamas that you aren't prepared to apply at home," the prime minister warned.