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Top US State Department Official Travels to Caribbean

U.S. Assistant Secretary of State Arturo Valenzuela travels to the Caribbean next week for talks on security and other issues of mutual interest.

The State Department said Tuesday that Valenzuela will travel to the Bahamas, Jamaica and the twin-island nation of Trinidad and Tobago July 25-30. Talks are expected to cover a new regional security partnership known as the Caribbean Basin Security Initiative, along with economic opportunity and competitiveness, energy, the environment and health initiatives.

Last month, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton pledged continued U.S. support to fighting drug trafficking and other security problems in the region.

While in Barbados, Secretary Clinton and members of the Caribbean Community marked the launch of a new regional security partnership known as the Caribbean Basin Security Initiative. It calls for $124 million to be spent over a two-year period to help countries counter illicit trafficking in drugs and small arms.

Officials also say another goal of the program is to strengthen the capacity of regional defense, law enforcement and other institutions to interdict and prosecute criminal elements operating in the Caribbean. The initiative was inaugurated in May and is designed to complement similar U.S. cooperation efforts in Mexico, Central America and Colombia.

Last month, authorities in Jamaica extradited alleged drug lord Christopher "Dudus" Coke to the United States to face drug and weapons charges. He faces a maximum sentence of life in prison if convicted.

Attempts to arrest Coke in May sparked several days of gun battles in the Jamaican capital, Kingston, between security forces and Coke's supporters. At leas 73 people were killed.