Violent crime threatening to kill Caribbean paradise
THE recent murders of three medical doctors and a high profile racing figure in Jamaica serve as a fresh reminder that the countries of the Caribbean are seriously threatened by a tsunami of violent crime.
In the case of Jamaica, we await police determination of the motives for these recent murders. But generally, the roots of this wave of violent crime in the region are not economic deprivation because, with the exception of Haiti and Guyana, per capita incomes are very high in countries such as The Bahamas and Trinidad and Tobago.
Transnational crime spawned by international narcotics trafficking is a major contributing factor in producing countries such as Jamaica and Belize and in trans-shipping countries such as St Vincent.
It is worthy of note that this past weekend, five people were murdered in St Lucia and a similar number in St Vincent. While this is not unusual in Jamaica and Trinidad and Tobago, this number of murders is not just alarming but could lead to the end of the existence of civilised society as we know it in these very small nations.
It is possible that a small group of well armed and financed criminals could very easily take control of a small island developing state. These states are at risk of becoming "narco-states" in which the police are outgunned, the judiciary is corrupted by bribery and politicians are co-opted and compromised by cash. The capacity to defend their borders from infiltration by criminal elements is almost non-existent in small islands which are highly indebted and fiscally constrained.
Violent crime not only undermines the quality of life but it has the potential to destroy the tourist industry which is the most important economic activity in most Caribbean islands, especially the smallest ones in the Eastern Caribbean. Crime leads to a significant loss of production, deters investment, propels migration of skilled people, discourages returning residents, incurs government costs for policing and imprisonment, and increases the cost of every good and service produced.
Since the Caribbean countries are increasingly incapable of maintaining law and order, it's now time to mobilise further external assistance. Any request directed to the United States, Great Britain and Canada should be met because it is in their national interest to help control violent crime in the Caribbean. It is demand in these countries which is the driver for the narcotics trafficking.
These countries should increase their material, financial and technical assistance. They should do more to prevent the flow into the Caribbean of illegal arms made in these countries. Above all, these countries should reduce the number of criminals deported to the region. Many of these deportees introduce criminal expertise and strengthen the links to transnational crime networks.
The governments and peoples of the Caribbean must stamp out violent crime if Caribbean life as we have known is not to disappear. This would truly be paradise lost.