JAMAICA: Cocaine shipments increasing

One of the boasts in the ruling People’s National Party (PNP) election manifestos is a significant reduction in the cocaine trade. It says that transportation of cocaine to the US through Jamaica “fell from 20% to 2% between 2004 and 2006”. A report released by the US-based Council on Hemispheric Affairs (COHA) in late July is not as sanguine.

According to COHA, the US has been purposely understating the role of Jamaica in the drug trade because of Jamaica’s alignment with US foreign policy objectives, such as support for its Haiti policies and its strategy within the Organization of American States (OAS). It says that cocaine shipments from the island are increasing, and that more than 63% of all arrests at US airports for cocaine possession involve passengers on flights from Jamaica.

The Jamaican criminal gangs are working from the dominant Mexican and Colombian drug trafficking organizations (DTOs), and, according to the US Department of State, while the volume of cocaine going to Jamaica from Mexico and South America was believed to be decreasing in 2005, the trend was once again upwards in 2006. Another negative pointer is that seizures of cocaine in Jamaica fell from 152.85kg in 2005 to 109kg in 2006, suggesting that the gangs are using increasingly sophisticated – and successful – methods to protect their merchandise.

Corruption was highlighted as a serious problem, and COHA points out that despite the government’s policy of investigating credible reports of public corruption there has been no prosecution of high-profile government officials with connections to the drug cartels in the past year. “Internal venality” is cited as a reason for police failures, and the report concludes that “the country’s anti-drug forces have been overwhelmed by the corruption, intimidation, and violence seen throughout the island”.