The illegal drug trade is a pernicious phenomenon in the Caribbean. Drug trafficking, with its related domestic and transnational criminal activities, continue to place a great deal of pressure on various institutions – including those responsible for security and law enforcement. The very geography of the Region makes the Caribbean a desirable transshipment point to drug traffickers who move cocaine from the supply markets in South America to the demand markets in North America and Europe, bringing a proliferation of illegal weapons, an increase in organized crime; undermining of democratic governance and the destabilization of the legal economies of CARICOM countries.
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The international drug trafficking syndicates that are operating today are more powerful and sophisticated than any criminal enterprise our nations have previously faced. They are well-organized, influential and extremely savvy – relying on a worldwide network of personnel, technological assets and financial resources that handsomely rival those held by international businesses. As a region of mainly small territories, the Caribbean lacks the domestic capacity to address these security challenges, in addition to the challenges that arise from domestic issues related to poverty, high rates of unemployment, social inequality and marginalization, and inadequacies of its criminal justice systems. The region remains vulnerable to threats.
Cognizant of the fact that the illegal drug trade is not solely a local or regional issue but rather a global challenge, policymakers of nation states among other stakeholders within the Caribbean have made numerous efforts to address the issue. However, there is consensus that the strategies to be employed must be multi-disciplinary, comprehensive, balanced, coordinated, and require common and shared responsibility among all States.
A major drug-transit country is defined as one:
(A) that is a significant direct source of illicit narcotic or psychotropic drugs or other controlled substances significantly affecting the United States; or
(B) through which are transported such drugs or substances.
In its 2007 Report Crime, Violence, and Development: Trends, Costs, and Policy Options in the Caribbean the UNODC/World Bank noted:
“the high rates of crime and violence in the Caribbean are undermining growth, threatening human welfare, and impeding social development.”. The Report also makes the telling point that “the strongest explanation for the relatively high crime and violence rates in the region – and their apparent rise in recent years – is narcotics trafficking.”
The Caribbean possesses the physical and social geography that makes it quite conducive to the illegal drug trafficking. Its geographical location provides numerous accessible borders contributing to the regions’ overall vulnerability due largely to the region’s inability to effectively monitor and police its territorial waters. Additionally, its proximity to major drug suppliers to the south and consumer markets such as North America and United Kingdom (UK) has positioned the region in the unattractive role as a trans-national shipment point. Generally the Illicit drugs typically move internationally from less developed areas of the world to the more developed countries, where most drug consumption takes place.
The Caribbean is viewed by the US government as a Third Border to the US and such the region has again been thrust into the major role of trans-shipment point. Having recognized that potential, the USA has pledged funding at a sum of USD124 million over two (2) years from 2010 to 2012, to aid in the improvement of the region’s capacity to counter the illegal narcotics and arms trade and improve their ability to prosecute offenders.
The Bahamas, Dominican Republic, Haiti and Jamaica were listed amongst the world’s major illicit drug producing and/or drug-transit countries by United States Department of State: International Narcotics Control Strategy Report (INCSR) dated March 2010. Additionally, the INCSR reported that Antigua and Barbuda, Bahamas, Belize, Cayman Islands and the Dominican Republic were also identified as major money laundering centers.
THE CURRENT DRUG SITUATION IN THE CARIBBEAN
Although the Caribbean is regarded as a trans-shipment route, historically it has not has not played a major role in the production of illicit drugs such as cocaine and heroin. The region’s actual contribution to the illicit drug trade is the cultivation and production of marijuana. According to a United Nation Office on Drugs and Crime’s (UNODC) report, Jamaica was identified as one of the principal producers of cannabis herb because seized cannabis had originated there. According to the United Nation’s World Drug Report 2009, Jamaica ranked 14th amongst the twenty four (24) major marijuana producing countries and accounted for approximately 0.7 percent of the total marijuana seizures for the period 2007. By region the Caribbean for the period 2007 ranked 9th and accounted for 0.1 percent of the total global marijuana seizures.
The table below indicates that Jamaica’s marijuana seizures for the period 2006 – 2009 amounted to 127,706.59 kg. It also indicates that Guyana had seizures totaling 75,440.51 kg and Saint Vincent and the Grenadines had amassed a total of 42,566.77 kg whilst Dominica had a total of 41,515 kg. Collectively those four countries accounted for 75% of the total marijuana seizures in the region. For the period 2006 – 2009 total marijuana seizures within the Caricom member states were estimated to be 384,224.84 kg in comparison to cocaine seizures which were estimated at 16,023.49 kg.
MARIJUANA SEIZURES BY CARICOM MEMBER STATES
St. Kitts And Nevis
St. Vincent and the Grenadines
SOURCE: NATIONAL POINTS OF CONTACT IN MEMBER STATES.
Cocaine distribution both regionally and internationally depends largely upon its supply from South America. The United Nations Drug Control Program (UNDCP) estimates that 20-40 % of the cocaine entering the US and Europe transits the Caribbean.
COCAINE SEIZURES BY CARICOM MEMBER STATES
Trinidad and Tobago
St. Kitts and Nevis
St. Vincent and the Grenadines
SOURCE: NATIONAL POINTS OF CONTACT IN MEMBER STATES.
According to Professor Ivelaw GRIFFITH the islands of Antigua and Barbuda, Barbados, Dominica, Grenada, Saint Kitts and Nevis, Saint Lucia and St. Vincent and the Grenadines are major trans-shipment routes to US ports of entry. GRIFFITH posited that:
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“In so far as Geo-narcotics is concerned, the Caribbean lies at “the Vortex of the Americas;” it is a bridge or front between North and South America. This strategic importance was dramatized in geopolitical terms during the Cold War. However, the region’s strategic value lies not only in its geopolitical significance as viewed by state actors engaged in conflict and cooperation. Over recent decades the region also has been viewed as strategic by non-state drug actors, also with conflict and cooperation in mind, not in terms of geopolitics, but of geo-narcotics”.
The concept of Geo-narcotics postulates firstly, that the narcotics experience in the Caribbean should be viewed from a multidimensional prospective encompassing four major areas: drug production, consumption-abuse, trafficking, and money-laundering; second that the illicit drug trade and associated activities lead to increasing actual and potential threats to the global security; and third, that those activities generate both conflict and cooperation among various state and non-state actors in the international system.
COUNTRY NARCOTICS OVERVIEW
The information listed in relation to the regional country profiles was sourced from the US Department of State Website.
Eastern Caribbean states -Antigua and Barbuda, Barbados, Dominica, Grenada, St. Kitts and Nevis, Saint Lucia, and St. Vincent and the Grenadines form the eastern edge of the Caribbean transit zone for drugs, mostly cocaine and marijuana products, going from South America to U.S., Europe and other markets. Illicit narcotics transit the Eastern Caribbean mostly by sea, in small go-fast vessels, larger fishing vessels, yachts and freight carriers. South American traffickers deliver drug loads either on the beach or offload their illicit cargo to smaller local vessels at sea. Marijuana shipments from St. Vincent often come ashore via swimmer delivery. Smugglers also attempt to transport cocaine and marijuana by commercial air. An OAS study on maritime trafficking in the Western Hemisphere indicated that cocaine trafficked to Europe is transported primarily in commercial containerized cargo. There is little narcotics airdrop activity in the region.
Antigua and Barbuda- The islands are used as transit sites for cocaine moving from South America to the US and other global markets. Marijuana cultivation is not significant and is imported for domestic consumption, which primarily comes from St. Vincent. Approximately 60 percent of the cocaine that transits Antigua and Barbuda is destined for the UK, 25 percent to the U.S, and 10 percent to the island of St. Martin/Saint Maarten.
Barbados- Barbados has developed a robust coast guard presence with the recent purchase of three new Damnen patrol boats. Barbados is a transit country for cocaine and marijuana, and the strengthened coast guard is designed to stem the flow of narcotics transiting Barbados. Notable trends in 2008 included an increase in the number of drug couriers swallowing cannabis, the continued use of go-fast boats from neighboring islands of St. Vincent and St. Lucia, and the use of in-transit passengers to transport drugs. The trend of employees working in key commercial transportation positions, e.g. baggage handlers, FedEx, DHL assisting with drug trafficking also continued.
Approximately 99% of the cannabis entering Barbados is consumed locally, while local consumption of cocaine represents only five percent of the amount thought to transit the island. Barbados has legislation in force that imposes recordkeeping on precursor chemicals. There were no reports of production, transit or consumption of methamphetamines in Barbados. Seventy percent of the cocaine transiting the island is destined for the U.K., fifteen percent for Canada, ten percent within the region, and five percent for local consumption.
The Government of Barbados’ (GOB) National Council on Substance Abuse (NCSA) and various concerned NGOs, such as the National Committee for the Prevention of Alcoholism and Drug Dependency, are active and effective. NCSA works closely with NGOs on prevention and education efforts and supports skills-training centers. The NCSA sponsored a “Drugs Decisions” program in 45 primary schools and continued sponsoring prison drug and rehabilitation counseling initiatives. Barbados’s excellent D.A.R.E. and Parents Resource Institute for Drug Education (P.R.I.D.E.) programs remained active throughout the school system. There are four (4) drug rehabilitation clinics in operation.
Commonwealth of Dominica- The Commonwealth of Dominica serves as a trans-shipment and temporary storage area for drugs destined for the U.S. and Europe and marijuana is cultivated there. The coast guard’s limited capability to patrol Dominica’s extensive shoreline offers drug traffickers the ability to conduct drug transfer operations with relative impunity. According to the Government of the Commonwealth of Dominica (GCOD) Police, most of the drugs that transit through Dominica are intended for foreign markets. Marijuana accounts for approximately 90 percent of all drug consumption on the island.
Grenada – Grenada’s coastal waters serves as a transit stop by South American and Caribbean drug traffickers shipping cocaine and marijuana to the U.S. and other markets. It is estimated that 70 percent of the cocaine is intended for the United Kingdom (UK), 20 percent for the U.S. and 10 percent for local consumption. Marijuana remains the most widely used drug among Grenadian users. Marijuana is smuggled through Grenada from both St. Vincent and Jamaica. Local officials estimate that about 75 percent of the volume remains on the island. The remaining 25 percent is destined for other markets, primarily Barbados and Trinidad.
The new anticorruption laws, Integrity in Public Service Act number 14 of 2007 and Prevention of Corruption Act number 15 of 2007, which require all public servants to report their income and assets, have been passed and the Prevention of Corruption Act has been implemented and is in full force. The oversight commission for the Integrity in Public Service Act has not yet been formed, nor has the mechanism for reporting been established so the act is in force but not fully implemented.
There are a number of drug demand reduction programs available to the public through the National Drug Avoidance Committee. There are specific programs for students from the pre-primary level up to the college level, teachers, and adults (community outreach program). There is also a specific program targeting women.
St. Kitts and Nevis – St. Kitts and Nevis is a transshipment point for cocaine from South America to the United States and the United Kingdom as well as to regional markets. Trafficking organizations operating in St. Kitts are linked directly to South American traffickers, some of whom reportedly are residing in St. Kitts, and to other organized criminal organizations. Marijuana is grown for local consumption.
Drug demand reduction programs are available to schools and the public. D.A.R.E., Operation Future and the National Drug Council also have programs to prevent drug abuse in St. Lucia. There are no drug rehabilitation clinics in St. Kitts and Nevis and persons seeking such treatment are sent to St. Lucia.
Saint Lucia – Saint Lucia is a transshipment point for cocaine from South America to the U.S. and Europe. Cocaine arrives in St. Lucia in go-fast boats, primarily from Venezuela, and is delivered over the beach or off-loaded to smaller local vessels for delivery along the island’s south or southwest coasts. Marijuana is imported from St. Vincent and the Grenadines for local consumption and grown locally as well. Foreign and local narcotics traffickers are active in Saint Lucia and have been known to stockpile cocaine and marijuana for onward shipment.
The US and the Saint Lucia cooperate extensively on law enforcement matters. Saint Lucia law permits asset forfeiture after conviction. In 2005, the GOSL adopted wiretap legislation and is working on civil forfeiture. Saint Lucia does not have an operational National Joint Coordination Center.
Saint Lucia has instituted a centralized authority, the Substance Abuse Council Secretariat, to coordinate the government’s national counter-narcotics and substance abuse strategy. Various community groups, particularly the Police Public Relations Office, continue to be active in drug use prevention efforts, with a special focus on youth. St. Lucia offers drug treatment and rehabilitation at an in-patient facility known as Turning Point, run by the Ministry of Health, but it is currently under renovation. The Saint Lucian Police reports that the D.A.R.E. Program has been tremendously successful.
St. Vincent and the Grenadines- St. Vincent and the Grenadines is the largest producer of marijuana in the Eastern Caribbean and the source for much of the marijuana used in that region. Extensive tracts are under high volume marijuana cultivation in the inaccessible northern half of St. Vincent.
The illegal drug trade has infiltrated the economy of St. Vincent and the Grenadines, making some segments of the population dependent on marijuana production, trafficking and money laundering. However, total cultivation is not at the level which would designate St. Vincent and the Grenadines as a major drug-producer because it does not significantly affect the United States. Compressed marijuana is sent from St. Vincent and the Grenadines to neighboring islands via private vessels. St. Vincent and the Grenadines has also become a storage and transshipment point for narcotics, mostly cocaine, transferred from Trinidad and Tobago and South America on go-fast and inter-island cargo boats. Boats off-loading cocaine and weapons in St. Vincent and the Grenadines will return to their point of origin carrying marijuana.
In 2008, the Drug Prevention of Misuse Act Chapter 219 of the Revised Edition of the Laws of St. Vincent & the Grenadines 1990 was amended to increase the punishment from 3 years and $100,000 fine to 7 years and a $500,000 fine on a summary charge for supplying. The new Act will increase indictment from 14 years and $200,000, to 25 years and $5,000,000 on a supplying charge. A draft national counter-narcotics plan remains pending. The government mental hospital provides drug detoxification services. The family life curriculum in the schools includes drug prevention education and selected schools continue to receive the excellent police-run D.A.R.E. Program. The OAS is assisting the GOSVG develop a drug demand reduction program for St. Vincent’s prison.
Bahamas- Cocaine, marijuana and other illegal drugs are transshipped through The Bahamas’ 700 islands and cays. Drug trafficking via maritime and aerial routes between South American source countries and the United States make detection difficult. While there is no official estimate of the number of hectares under cultivation, marijuana grown on remote islands and cays is of concern to Bahamian authorities. The Bahamas, USG and host country enforcement agencies believe Jamaican nationals are involved in the cultivation of marijuana on The Bahamas’ remote islands and cays, however only a fraction of the marijuana seizures in 2009 were in plant form. Most marijuana loads were found concealed aboard smuggling vessels or stashed on sparsely populated islands. In 2009, The Bahamas continued to participate in Operation Bahamas and Turks and Caicos (OPBAT), a multi-agency international drug interdiction effort established in 1982 to stop the flow of cocaine and marijuana through The Bahamas to the US.
The GCOB upgraded its interdiction capabilities with the acquisition of two fixed wing surveillance aircraft for the Royal Bahamas Defense Force (RBDF) and one fixed-wing transport aircraft for the Royal Bahamas Police Force (RBPF).
The DEU and Bahamian Customs, in conjunction with the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), continued a program in Great Inagua to enforce GCOB requirements that vessels entering Bahamian territorial waters report to Bahamian Customs. During 2009, the RBDF assigned three ship-riders each month to U.S. Coast Guard (USCG) cutters. The ship-riders extend the law enforcement capability of the USCG into the territorial waters of The Bahamas.
During 2009, INL funded training, equipment, travel and technical assistance for GCOB law enforcement and drug demand reduction officials improved Bahamian law enforcement capacity to target trafficking organizations through better intelligence collection and more efficient interdiction operations; supported the GCOB’s “Drug Free Schools” initiative. The USCG plans to rebuild the OPBAT hangar on Great Inagua. Construction will begin in 2010 with completion planned for 2012. The new hangar will allow USCG to base helicopters flying in support of OPBAT on Great Inagua. Before the end of 2009, the Department of Defense will deliver two additional 43-foot interceptor boats and communications equipment to the RBDF under the U.S. Southern Command’s Enduring Friendship program.
Belize – Belize is a transit point for narcotics destined for the United States. Belize’s shared borders with Guatemala and Mexico, miles of unpopulated jungles, navigable inland waterways, and unprotected coastline with hundreds of small islands make it vulnerable to trans-shipment of illicit drugs between Colombia and Mexico and the U.S. Authorities’ ability to counter the threat is hampered by limited infrastructure and corruption. Ineffective anti-money laundering legislation and weak enforcement of laws regulating offshore financial interests contributed to an increase in money laundering incidents. To date there have been no arrests and/or prosecutions in Belize for any money laundering offenses.
A fair amount of marijuana is cultivated for local consumption in scattered plots throughout Belize. Cocaine is trans-shipped through Belize’s territorial waters for onward shipment to Mexico. The primary means for smuggling drugs are “go-fast” boats transiting Belizean waters for transshipment along navigable inland waterways and then to remote border crossings into Mexico.Interdiction are hampered by the lack of adequate host nation resources and lax customs enforcement.
Guyana- Guyana is a transit point for cocaine destined for North America, Europe, West Africa, and the Caribbean, but not in quantities sufficient to impact the U.S. market. Cooperation among law enforcement bodies is gradually improving, albeit through personal relationships as much as official mechanisms. Weak border controls and limited resources for law enforcement continue to allow drug traffickers to move shipments via river, air, and land with minimal resistance.
Government’s counter-narcotics efforts remain hindered by inadequate resources for, and poor coordination among, law enforcement agencies; an overburdened and inefficient judiciary; and the lack of a coherent and prioritized national security strategy. Murders, kidnappings, and other violent crimes commonly believed to be linked with narcotics trafficking are regularly reported in the Guyanese media.
Guyana’s 2005-2009 National Drug Strategy Master Plan (NDSMP) came to a close, but the Government of Guyana (GOG) achieved few of the plan’s original goals. Elaborate plans spelled out in the 2005 document envisioned a comprehensive, country-wide counter-narcotics program yet little action was taken toward these ends. However, the GOG’s 2008 overhaul of its chief counter-narcotics body appears to be paying dividends in 2009 through greater intelligence sharing and more drug seizures.
Guyana is hampered by the modest financial resources to support rehabilitation programs. Guyana only has two residential facilities that treat substance abuse: the Salvation Army and the Phoenix Recovery Center which are both partially funded by the government. Since 2007, the Ministry of Health has run several modest demand reduction programs in the media, schools and prisons. In 2009, the Drug Enforcement Administration’s Trinidad office continued to collaborate with Guyana’s law enforcement agencies in counter-narcotics-related activities.
Haiti – Haiti is a geographically attractive transshipment point for trafficking organizations moving cocaine and marijuana through the country for distribution in the United States and elsewhere in the Caribbean. There appears to be increasing cultivation of marijuana in Haiti, mostly intended for the domestic market. Clandestine flights from Venezuela remain the primary narcotics threat, with traffickers continuing to use small aircraft to make some offshore air drops and many more land deliveries at clandestine airstrips throughout Haiti.
Haiti has a 50-person counter-narcotics unit (French acronym BLTS), a 107-person maritime police unit (French acronym GC), a 20-person financial crimes investigative unit (French acronym BAFE) and a 30-person anti-kidnapping unit (French acronym CCE). The specialized units bear responsibility for investigating organized criminal networks that directly or indirectly engage in narcotics trafficking or benefit from illicit trade. Nonetheless, the units are poorly-resourced; police officers have no guarantee of employee rights, such as getting paid on time; and they often have difficulty conducting operations on their own initiative without substantial oversight and mentoring.
On April 30, 2009, the Ambassador and President PREVAL signed an agreement for $2.5 million to be allocated for Haitian law enforcement capacity-building under the Merida Initiative. The funds will be used in four key areas to continue reforms and advances towards a more effective counter-narcotics capability in the HNP: joint Haitian-Dominican border security training, aimed at improving collaboration and cooperation; an improved police communications system to allow controlled data-sharing between law enforcement units, investigating judges, prosecutors, and corrections and detention managers; expanded operating stations in Port-de-Paix in the northwest of Haiti for the GC and BLTS; and continued training of police, judges, and prosecutors on their roles in case preparation and prosecution of drug traffickers.
Suriname – is a transit zone for South American cocaine en route to Europe, Africa and, to a lesser extent, the United States. Inadequate resources, limited law enforcement training, the absence of a law enforcement presence in the interior of the country, and lack of aircraft or sufficient numbers of patrol boats limit the capacity of the Government of Suriname (GOS) to adequately control its borders. In general, this enables traffickers to move drug shipments via land, water, and air with little resistance.
The National Anti-Drug Council (NAR) and its Executive Office have made progress in the implementation of the National Drug Master Plan (2006-2010) that covers both supply and demand reduction and calls for new legislation to control precursor chemicals. The National Drug Master Plan is supported by both the Ministry of Health and the Ministry of Justice and Police.
The GOS launched Operation Koetai in the second half of 2009, which focused on narcotics interdiction on Suriname’s western border with Guyana. The operation has resulted in an increase in the market price of cocaine from $3,500 to $7,000 per kilograms in the area due to successful disruption of that trans-shipment route. The GOS installed a urine testing machine at the airport to identify suspected drug mules. Three Dutch-trained dogs were introduced for narcotics detection on flights to Amsterdam. This enhanced effort may have contributed to the downward trend in the number of drug mules arrested.
The NAR conducted a number of activities surrounding the International Day Against Drugs, with a specific focus on youth and at-risk groups. In reaction to several cases of youth in performance groups being arrested for smuggling narcotics into the Netherlands when traveling for cultural performances, the NAR outreach specifically targeted youth in musical groups and brass bands. In 2010, the NAR plans to continue its efforts on raising drug awareness, creating self-help groups, and partnering with local stakeholders on youth and community outreach initiatives.
The NAR, together with the Ministry of Health and the Ministry of Justice and Police, is also planning a 2010 pilot program for a Drug Treatment Court, which would hear defendants with drug-use related crimes. There is one government detoxification center which is free; other treatment centers are run by non-governmental organizations. The Bureau of Alcohol and Drugs, a non-governmental entity which has a mandate from the Ministry of Health, reported in mid-2009 an increase in cocaine use in Suriname but based this on anecdotal evidence.
Jamaica – The Island remains the Caribbean’s largest source of marijuana for the United States. It is also a transit point for cocaine trafficked from South America. A particular focus of concern has been the increasing activity of organized crime, which permeates both the legitimate business sector as well as the political sector. The “guns for ganja” trade exacerbates the problem as undocumented handguns continue to flow freely into the country. Recent assessments indicate that approximately 70 percent of the illegal firearms entering Jamaica originated from the US.
Jamaica has several demand reduction programs, including the Ministry of Health’s National Council on Drug Abuse. The United Nations Office Drug Control (UNODC) works directly with the GOJ and NGOs on demand reduction; however, due to limited resources these programs have limited impact.
In 2009, the USG provided training and material support to elements of the JCF and JDF to strengthen their counter-narcotics, and anticorruption capabilities and improve the investigation, arr
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