HomeNewsAnalysisUS Releases New Plan for Caribbean Drug Trafficking
ANALYSIS

US Releases New Plan for Caribbean Drug Trafficking

CARIBBEAN / 26 JAN 2015 BY ELYSSA PACHICO EN

The White House's new strategy to confront drug trafficking in US Caribbean territory, the first federal plan of its kind, comes amid concerns over increased drug trafficking and gang violence in the region.  

The new strategy lays out six objectives for combatting drug trafficking and transnational organized crime in Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands, a mix of "hard" and "soft" approaches that range from reducing youth drug use to running more effective interdiction operations.

The document makes the case for why the US Caribbean merits the same kind of counternarcotics plan typically reserved for the southwest. The year 2013 saw the highest documented flow of cocaine through the Caribbean since 2003, with 91 metric tons seized. There has also been an increase in other types of drugs smuggled through Puerto Rico, as evidenced by the island's first ever dismantling of a methamphetamine trafficking organization in 2013. 

The rise in drug trafficking has been accompanied by a rise in financial crime: about a third of all earnings in Puerto Rico's underground economy -- an estimated $5 billion -- may be related to drug trafficking, the document states. 

 SEE ALSO: Coverage of Puerto Rico

And even as violence levels have dropped in Puerto Rico -- from a record 1,164 murders in 2011, to just 681 in 2014 -- the document notes that there is a "strong nexus between drug trafficking and violent crimes," and that most drug-related crimes in Puerto Rico have to do with trafficking rather than consuming drugs. 

The document credits several initiatives -- including one that targets illegal firearms, and another involving special groups of vetted local prosecutors and law enforcement agents known as "strike forces" -- with having lowered Puerto Rico's murder rate. 

InSight Crime Analysis

One of the more intriguing details of the strategy is that one federal agency, the US Customs and Border Protection, plans to introduce a smartphone app that would allow its agents to more quickly access relevant databases. Other types of technology -- including a mobile app used to send anonymous tip-offs to police -- have been credited with bringing about improvements in Puerto Rico's crime levels. There is already a glut of apps developed by civilians and non-governmental organizations meant to address citizen security in Latin America, and now it appears that at least one US federal agency is developing one meant for exclusive use by officials. 

In general, the new Caribbean counternarcotics strategy stays away from making the delivery of security equipment a central focus of the plan, as once characterized the US Merida Initiative for Mexico. Instead, it fits in with the broader shift seen under the Obama government, toward a more humanistic counternarcotics policy that emphasizes prevention and treatment at home, along with rhetoric that emphasizes a more "flexible" approach overseas.

 SEE ALSO: Coverage of the Caribbean

Arguably one of the biggest challenges for local authorities in Puerto Rico will be breaking the hold that street gangs have over public housing projects. Puerto Rico's Housing Security Office has said that 300 of the island's 333 public housing projects are controlled by drug trafficking organizations, according to the document released by the White House. Some of these gangs have reportedly brokered alliances with local political organizations, a phenomenon seen elsewhere in the Caribbean, most prominently in Jamaica

The successful implementation of the US strategy in Puerto Rico could yet make the island a less attractive place for transnational drug trafficking groups. But there are plenty of other sites in the Caribbean where these groups could fix their attention, including the Dominican Republic, which is currently struggling to rein in drug-related corruption.  

share icon icon icon

Was this content helpful?

We want to sustain Latin America’s largest organized crime database, but in order to do so, we need resources.

DONATE

What are your thoughts? Click here to send InSight Crime your comments.

We encourage readers to copy and distribute our work for non-commercial purposes, with attribution to InSight Crime in the byline and links to the original at both the top and bottom of the article. Check the Creative Commons website for more details of how to share our work, and please send us an email if you use an article.

Was this content helpful?

We want to sustain Latin America’s largest organized crime database, but in order to do so, we need resources.

DONATE

Related Content

CARIBBEAN / 21 OCT 2013

Recent incidents of intense violence in Trinidad & Tobago's capital, Port-of-Spain, have drawn attention to the nation's rampant gang problem.

CARIBBEAN / 10 APR 2013

A current high-ranking State Department official and former ambassador to Colombia has predicted that drug traffickers will revive trafficking routes…

CARIBBEAN / 29 MAR 2019

While Colombia bears the brunt of the Venezuelan exodus in terms of sheer numbers, several islands of the Caribbean, like…

About InSight Crime

THE ORGANIZATION

Gender and Investigative Techniques Focus of Workshops

26 NOV 2021

On November 23-24, InSight Crime conducted a workshop called “How to Cover Organized Crime: Investigation Techniques and A Focus on Gender.” The session convened reporters and investigators from a dozen…

THE ORGANIZATION

InSight Crime Names Two New Board Members

19 NOV 2021

In recent weeks, InSight Crime added two new members to its board. Joy Olson is the former executive director of the Washington Office on Latin America…

THE ORGANIZATION

Senate Commission in Paraguay Cites InSight Crime

12 NOV 2021

InSight Crime’s reporting and investigations often reach the desks of diplomats, security officials and politicians. The latest example occurred in late October during a commission of Paraguay's Senate that tackled…

THE ORGANIZATION

Backing Investigative Journalism Around the Globe

5 NOV 2021

InSight Crime was a proud supporter of this year's Global Investigative Journalism Conference, which took place November 1 through November 5 and convened nearly 2,000 journalists…

THE ORGANIZATION

Tracking Dirty Money and Tren de Aragua

29 OCT 2021

InSight Crime was delighted to support investigative reporting in the Americas through a workshop with our friends at Connectas, a non-profit journalism initiative that facilitates collaboration…