Friday, December 30, 2011

The CARICOM Blueprint for Illicit Drug Trafficking

This analysis was prepared by Melissa Beale, Research Associate for the Council on Hemispheric Affairs 
December 28, 2011
  • Drug trafficking and related violence is on the rise throughout the Caribbean at a time that the region is being heavily influenced by organized Latin American criminal groups.
  • U.S./Mexico border controls have been profoundly tightened, resulting in a growing spillover of drugs into the wider Caribbean.
  • The Caribbean’s natural landscapes and diffuse geographical locations make it appealing for drug traffickers who take advantage of such terrain that features long often uncontrolled coastlines and mountainous interiors for the growth and transportation of narcotics.
  • The role of the U.S. has increased with the creation of the Caribbean Basin Security Initiative, targeted on helping to combat the growing menace of the drug trafficking phenomenon.
  • Drug traffickers target vulnerable CARICOM islands such as Haiti to earn big profits by corrupting high officials.
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U.S./Caribbean Tactics
Presently, there is a lot of speculation about Puerto Rico becoming a narco-state with the increase in the illicit flow of drugs. Officials have noted that “75 percent of the [year’s] murders are drug-related.”[6] According to a report by CBS news, “Drug smuggling is as much a part of Puerto Rico as palm trees and sand – American sand.”[7] The main reason for this is that “For drug traffickers…once they get to Puerto Rico, no more customs checkpoints on the way to the mainland.”[8] 

This is also the case for other U.S. Caribbean territories such as the U.S. Virgin Islands, which needs to be examined by U.S. authorities. Greater emphasis, therefore, needs to be made in when it comes to U.S.’ tactics to combat drug trafficking in their Caribbean territories – Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands come to mind since “domestic commercial cargo shipments between these U.S. territories and the continental U.S. ordinarily are not subject to US Customs inspection”.[9]  Additionally, these U.S. territories, which are often less rigorously controlled and monitored by officials, become popular ocean drop-off points for Latin American cocaine shipment that have been previously airdropped on other eastern Caribbean islands such as St Martin and St Kitts.