The Drug trade and Jamaica’s national security
From Davor Bailey, 2013 (Edited)
In order to assess the notion that illegal drug trafficking or trade poses a security threat, we must first define what exactly illegal drug trade is and what security is.
The illegal drug trade is a global black market, dedicated to cultivation, manufacturing, distribution, and sale of those substances which are subject to drug prohibition laws. (drugrehab.co.uk)
As for security, traditional realism views it purely in the military sense; however with the closer of the cold war, there as arisen some criticism to this view. What has occurred as a result is a shift from this narrow perception of security to a more multidimensional and expanded concept; what is known a neo-realism.
“This new expanded approach though debated, now goes beyond the prosecution of purely military threats to include other threats such as, [biotech disease], Global warming, and the drug trade.” (Griffiths 2003)
Security can also be seen as the Protection and preservation of freedom from external military attack and coercion, and from internal subversion and erosion of cherish political, economic and social values.
According to the West Indian Commission;
“nothing poses greater threat to civil society in Caribbean countries than the drug problem, nothing exemplifies the powerlessness of regional governments more.” (Griffith 1997)
That is the magnitude of damage that drug and trafficking holds for the Caribbean community. Its danger is multi-layered. At the base is the human destruction implicit in drug addiction; but, implicit also, is the corruption of individuals and systems by the sheer enormity of the enticement of the profit from the drug trade in relatively poor societies. On top of all this lies the implications of governance itself, at the hands of both external agencies engaged in international [trade and] prohibition and the drug baron themselves, the dons of the modern Caribbean, who threaten governance from within.
Thus the drug problem is an increasing one and according to Rosenau it is also an interdependent one. He posits that interdependent issues are different from conventional issues in that they span national boarders and therefore cannot be addressed, much less resolved by the actions of singular national governments.
“The production and trafficking of popular illicit drugs; cocaine, marijuana, opiates, and methamphetamine, generate a multi-billion dollar black market in which Latin American criminal and terrorist organizations thrive.” (Griffiths 1997)
These groups challenge state authority in source and transit countries where governments are often fragile and easily corrupted. The Caribbean in general is in the center of this illegal and extremely dangerous situation due to its central location between the South American sources and North American markets. Therefore this drug problem creates a serious security threat for countries within the region as they battle to keep their borders safe from the myriad of criminal consequences of the drug trade. Now in examining how exactly the drug trade threatens the security of Caribbean countries; we will examine the arenas or activities through which its effects are manifested; these include activities such as the trade in firearms, corruption and the uprooting of social values through drug addiction.
The illegal trafficking of firearms and drugs carried out by domestic and transnational gangs are the leading cause of crime in Caribbean nations. The prevalence of firearms trafficking has increased in tandem with the growing drug trade, and as drugs flow north from the drug supplying countries of South America, firearms flow south from the United States. This trade aids in the funding and upkeep of dangerous criminal gangs that are often times engaged in gruesome murders and at times even challenges the state’s security forces and the security of the country involved.
According to the Association of Caribbean Police Chiefs, in 2010 there were approximately 1.6 million illegal firearms in Caribbean countries, they outlined as well that countries such as Trinidad and Tobago, Jamaica, Guyana and Barbados have all seen increases in violent crimes involving the use of illegal firearms. In Jamaica for example of the 12,954 homicides committed over the last 10 years in Jamaica, 9,231 were committed with illegal firearms secured through the drugs for guns trade.
According to the UNODC, the Caribbean has 30 homicides per 100,000 people. This is largely a product of the pervasive gang activities throughout the region, and perpetuated by lucrative drug and arms trafficking, through which local gangs have grown into transnational criminal organizations and one of the Caribbean’s most formidable security threats.
“Jamaica has approximately 202 gangs with 2,645 members which are responsible for 80% of homicides and other serious crimes. Tobago with 80 gangs totaling 1,200 members are estimated to be responsible for the majority of crimes. Even in the Bahamas, which enjoys the highest GDP per capita among CARICOM countries, homicide rates are rising, and 44% of homicides can be attributed to drugs.” (Griffith 1997)
In the Caribbean, the wide-scale breakdown in the rule of law is largely related to the transnational trade in illegal drugs (Griffith 1997, Bryan 2000). According to M. W. Collier 2002,
“the desires of Caribbean governing elite to share in the spoils of the illegal international drug trade are decreasing the rule of law as evidenced by the skyrocketing crime and violence rates across the region.”
This illustrates the enormity and reach of the adverse effects that the drug trade posses to regional security, as it threatens the validity and integrity of the state through its infiltration of agents attached to the state.
“This mixture of drugs and corruption creates a vicious cycle of crime and violence that allows the illegal drug trade to flourish.” (Munroe 1999)
In many Caribbean countries drug money payoffs made to government officials, police officers, and justice system officials cause these officials to “look the other way” as the drug gangs go about their business. In Jamaica for example drug dons are often times affiliated to particular political representatives who receive resources from these dons to secure votes. In return the drug dons are allowed to operate almost unimpeded in their respective localities.
The trafficking and abuse of drugs in the region affect nearly all aspects of our lives. The economic cost alone is immense. The damage caused by drug abuse and addiction is reflected in an overburdened legal system, strained healthcare system, lost productivity, and environmental destruction. In the United States,
“…data show that in 2008, 14.2 percent of individuals 12 years of age and older had used illicit drugs during the past year. Marijuana is the most commonly used illicit drug, with 25.8 million individuals 12 years of age and older (10.3%) reporting past year use. … In 2008, approximately 5.3 million individuals aged 12 and older reported past year cocaine use, 850,000 reported past year methamphetamine use, and 453,000 reported past year heroin use.”(U.S Department of Justice)
The consequences of illegal drug use are widespread, it results in permanent physical and emotional damage to users as well as negatively impacting their families, co-workers, and many others with whom they come in contact. Drug use negatively affects the health of those who consume it and often times lead to serious ailments and diseases.
“In many cases, drug users die prematurely from drug overdoses or other drug-associated illnesses.” (drugrehab.co. uk)
In addition some users are also parents, whose deaths leave their children in the care of relatives or state facilities.
Now if we consider this threat that the drug trade posses from a neo-realist perspective, we must understand the importance that Neo-realists, namely, Waltz places on the interaction between states in the international system. Waltz defines the role of interacting units (states) as the major actors within in a system. He notes that,
“as the interacting units of an international political system/s, states are responsible for setting the terms of the intercourse, whether by passively permitting informal rules to develop or by actively intervening to change rules that no longer suit them.”(Waltz 1979)
Waltz argues that given the anarchic nature of the international system each states must ensure its own survival and interest through cooperation or conflict if necessary as no other state will do it for it. This is manifested through the co-operative relationship that Caribbean countries have formulated between themselves and the U.S. in order to curb the drug threat. These relationships or agreements inclusive of the Shiprider Agreement, Operation Buccaneer and Operation Prop Lock are entered into as a means to enhance their own individual security and not the collective.
Waltz posits that all states possess similar goals but each is endowed differently in its capability to attain such a goal. This disparity is what Waltz terms as the distribution of capabilities which serves as the mechanism for gauging the power and influence of each state. Now as it relates to the cooperation between the hegemonic U.S- which is highly endowed in terms of resources and influences it has in the international system in comparison to the Caribbean; it makes cooperation inevitable if regional governments want to curb the drug [trade and] threat.
In terms of
counter drug trafficking initiatives in the case of Jamaica for example are made through multi-national cooperation with hegemonic powers such as the U.S. over the past 30 years the U.S as provided anti drug assistance to Jamaica and the Caribbean through USAID regional programs, the State Department Western Hemisphere regional program. The United States government has also provided training and material support to strengthen Jamaica’s counterdrug capabilities and improve the country’s capacity to investigate, arrest, and prosecute [selected] organized crime.
In terms of bilateral agreements or treaties; to date there as been four important ones, these included operation buccaneer which lasted for 20 years starting in 1980. It saw the U.S assisting Jamaican law enforcers in locating [rival] drug crops and destroying them. Another initiative initiated in 1995 was “Operation Prop Lock” which Jamaican authorities receiving compensation for seizing American drug transporting aircraft in Jamaican airspace.
In 1999 Jamaica entered into what dubbed “operation frontier”. This agreement saw the U.S assisting the Jamaican authorities to secure speed boats and helicopters to be used to pursue [rival] drug transport vessels heading into the U.S.
“These counter-drug operations reflected a core issue behind the notion of cooperation. They demonstrated that mutual rewards arising from cooperation were more beneficial than unilateral action in achieving the desired outcome of curbing drug trafficking.” (Haughton 2008)
In conclusion, the trade in illegal drugs poses a [trade and] threat to regional security as it fosters the perpetuation of dangerous crimes and violence, corruption and disruption in societies and social values. Theoretically, I have found neo-realism to be quite relevant in explaining the actions of states within the Caribbean region, specifically Jamaica, in their efforts to combat the drug [trade and] threat. Active measures to counter this drug [trade and] threat are most times multilateral as Caribbean countries lack the immense resources needed to counter large-scale drug trafficking. Jamaica has embarked on a number of bi-lateral initiatives with the United States to this end. However these initiatives are more to aimed at preventing certain drugs from entering the U.S than entering Jamaica and as such, Jamaica remains prone to the negative side effects of the trade.
Source: https://davorbailey.wordpress .com/2013/01/04/the-drug-trade-and-jamaicas-national-security/