On September 13, the US Senate Caucus on International Narcotics Control, headed by California Democrat Dianne Feinstein and Iowa Republican Chuck Grassley, released an assessment on organized crime and security in the Caribbean (.pdf).
Citing a recent increase in violence in the region, the Senators warned of a potential “security crisis” in the Caribbean, arguing that the US must do more to support these countries in the fight against drug trafficking.
In addition to expressing support for the Caribbean Basin Security Initiative (CBSI), created in 2011, and for Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) operations, the report makes three principal recommendations: first, the US should create more Sensitive Investigate Units (SIUs), or highly vetted, DEA-trained police units, in Caribbean nations. Second, the US should provide the full criminal history of deportees sent back to the Caribbean so that these countries are better prepared to deal with future criminal activity. Finally, the US should work with partner nations in the Caribbean to create or improve legal tools needed to combat drug trafficking, such as wiretapping and asset forfeiture laws.
InSight Crime Analysis
As the report admits, drug trafficking in the Caribbean is minimal compared to in Mexico and Central America; only an estimated 5% of the cocaine destined for the United States passes through the region.
There have been some recent signs however, that traffickers are turning back to the Caribbean to move their product northwards. As a February 2012 United Nations report noted, there has been a marked increased in gang violence in the Caribbean, likely linked to drug trafficking activity. Additionally, aerial surveys by the US Military’s Southern Command have shown an increase in maritime trafficking events on the Caribbean side of the Central American isthmus.
As the report acknowledges, this potential shift back to the Caribbean is a result of the increased pressure on land routes through Central America and Mexico, a phenomenon known as the “balloon effect,” where pressure in one area simply pushes traffickers (or drug crops) into another.