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Caribbean SIDS and crime

The Caribbean is the area between North and South America. The islands have an ideal geographical location and climate, which, together with their close historical connections with Europe offer an ideal financial and logistical focal point for doing business; the perfect hub for connecting North and South, and East and West.

The UN report states that in the Caribbean drug cartels are spreading violence. It is estimated that 10% of the cocaine from Colombia to the Unites States is transported via Venezuela and the Caribbean. The world’s biggest trading partners are also the world’s biggest market for illicit goods and services. The consequences for the Caribbean island societies are: addiction, drug related crime and violence, destabilization and corruption. In the 1990s the cocaine flow started to shift from the Caribbean to Central America and Mexico, because radar surveillance made trafficking by air more difficult. A UNODC report states the following in relation to Curaçao.

“Parts of the Netherlands lie in the Caribbean (Aruba and the Netherlands Antilles) and Suriname in South America was a former Dutch colony. Rotterdam (Netherlands) and Antwerp (Belgium) are Europe’s largest seaports. From these hubs, cocaine is distributed to the rest of Europe. Between them, Spain, Portugal, the Netherlands and Belgium accounted for close to 70% of all cocaine seized in Europe in 2008, but less than one quarter of the cocaine use.” (UNODC, 2010).

Criminal organizations in the Dutch Caribbean in the 1990s were working together with organizations in Cali and Medellin.

The European administered territories in the Caribbean and South America are mentioned as transit destinations for human trafficking to Europe and the United States. Going through these countries reduces the risk of being intercepted. Once in Europe these women and transgender individuals are exploited indoors or on the streets depending on the destination (UNODC, 2010).

Crime in the Caribbean is on the rise. “Countries such as Jamaica, St. Lucia, Antigua, the Bahamas, Bermuda, St. Kitts and Nevis and most recently Aruba struggle to agree on a forward plan to combat their increasing crime rates.” (Daniel, 2012; UNDP, 2012) Much of the crime is gang related. This type of crime is often related to TOC (UNDP, 2012). The Caribbean confronts a paradox. “Why is it that, despite the democratization process experienced in the region in the last 20 years, citizen security levels, as well as the justice and security institutions in the region, are going through a crisis? Why is it that, despite the structural and institutional reforms promoted by countries in the region in order to construct governance mechanisms which are more transparent, horizontally and democratically, the justice and security institutions are overwhelmed and confidence in them is shattered?” (UNDP, 2012)

Islands in the Caribbean are struggling with Good Governance, corruption, crime and organized crime. Often this is related to their condition as Small Island Developing States. This refers to the small scale, scarcity of the resources and the effects of climate change. The emergence of crime is rooted in the following causes: poverty, unemployment, social marginalization and inequality, the illegal drug trade, corruption, the trafficking of firearms, the deportation of criminals, and the effectiveness of the existing criminal justice systems and consequent waiving of sanctions (Lashin, 2005, Sluis 2004, p. 127).

But TOC is also a distinctive factor influencing Good Governance.

To successfully fight TOC corruption must be pushed back. “Despite all the initiatives and new legislations, the progress in the fight against corruption has been very limited. As seen, corruption pollutes the highest levels of government and society in many countries in Latin America. Corruption spreads to the public and private sectors and the majority of the countries are ill-equipped to confront it. The difficulty of consolidating democratic institutions and the lack of an efficient, strong and accessible judicial system only continue to exacerbate this problem.” (Nagle, 2002). But the case of the Dutch islands is unique.

Curaçao is part of Europe because of its constitutional status of being an autonomous country within the Kingdom of the Netherlands. Curaçao is attractive for TOC because of the logistics that link it to Europe via the Netherlands, making the movement of people, goods and money very efficient. This creates a situation that people, goods and money are, in a way, already in Europe when they enter Curaçao.

The islands are working on solutions with limited success. It is not a coincidence that the islands confront similar problems and that governments are unsuccessful in the battle against crime. That is why cooperation seems natural.

But because Curaçao is part of the Kingdom of the Netherlands, the government of the Netherlands in very much involved in fighting TOC. The majority of the judges are Dutch and have little or no attachments with the locals. The same holds true for the Attorney General’s Office. This makes the judicial system independent.

The island remains attractive for TOC but this is counterbalanced by collaboration with the Netherlands and the United States. The Dutch islands of Curaçao, Bonaire, Aruba and Sint Maarten have done a lot over the years to fight TOC. In 1996 the Dutch Caribbean Coast Guard became operational. In 1997 a Financial Intelligence Unit became operational. In 2000 the Forward Operating Location was started. In the period between October 2009 and September 2010, in Curaçao and Aruba 145,000 kilo cocaine, 3,000 kilo marihuana and 60.8 kilo heroin were confiscated. The total value of these drugs was 3.1 billion dollars. In October 2012 Curaçao approved a law stating that all Ministers need to be screened before they can be appointed.

Based on the cases presented in this paper one might conclude that these Caribbean SIDS are the ones that organized crime has penetrated and are difficult to clean up. However, the opposite is true. These cases can be described because TOC has been disclosed to the greatest extent and the authorities are achieving success in fighting these organizations. In other SIDS organized crime may be present but unrevealed.

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