Trinidad and Tobago Declares Drug War Emergency

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The Caribbean nation of Trinidad and Tobago, less than 10 miles from the coast from Venezuela, declared a temporary “state of emergency” in light of concerns over increased drug-related violence.

The emergency measures, which will impose a curfew in six crime “hotspots” (see map below), will last 15 days, Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar said Sunday. Police will be able to make arrests without charges and hold the detainees for up to 24 hours without bail. Detainees may be held for up to 72 hours if police say they are suspected gang members.·

Trinidad and Tobago has one of the fastest growing murder rates in the Caribbean: homicides rose nearly 400 percent over the past decade. So far this year the island has registered 264 murders; many of them believed to be related to the drug trade. The government moved to declare emergency rule after a spate of murders over the weekend left 11 people dead.·

Most of the trouble spots identified by the government are located on the island’s west coast, the favored landing area for go-fast boats arriving from Venezuela. According to the U.S. State Department, drug shipments from Venezuela and other Caribbean islands usually arrive in Trinidad and Tobago via small cargo fishing boats, known as pirogues. Security forces on the island do a poor job of screening maritime traffic, and as a result large-scale cocaine busts are rare: cocaine interdiction actually dropped 49 percent from 2009, according to U.S. statistics.

Trinidad and Tobago is also located outside the Caribbean’s hurricane belt, meaning during the summer months drug traffickers have an easier time transporting their wares by boat to the island, instead of other transhipment points located further north.


View Trinidad and Tobago in a larger map.

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