CMC – A report by the International Narcotics Control Board (INCB) has found that Jamaica remains the largest illicit producer and exporter of cannabis herb in Central America and the Caribbean.
The INCB 2014 report released here, showed that the island accounts for approximately one third of cannabis herb produced in the Caribbean.
It said that increased production of the drug has been noted in other countries, in particular Dominica and St Vincent and the Grenadines.
“Jamaica has also become a hub for the trafficking of cocaine, owing to the displacement of trafficking routes as a result of the strengthening of drug trafficking countermeasures in Latin America,” the report stated, noting that the problem is compounded by the “fact that Jamaican criminal groups are using the elaborate networks originally established to traffic cannabis and cocaine as well.
The report, which examines the global trade in illegal drugs, noted that in Jamaica, drug trafficking takes place at airports through drug couriers, baggage and air freight and at seaports via containers, cargo vessels, underwater canisters attached to ship hulls, shipping vessels and speedboats.
“Illicit drugs are traded for money, guns and other goods, and much of the proceeds are used to foster criminal activities. The ports of Kingston and Montego Bay, which are used for the bulk movement of containerized shipments of cannabis herb and cocaine to Europe and North America, continue to experience serious issues involving corruption, violence, intimidation and the circumvention of legal controls”.
The INCB said that in addition, illicit drugs are often attached to the bottom of shipping vessels destined for Guyana, Suriname and Trinidad and Tobago.
It noted that in 2013, Jamaica had the Caribbean’s second-highest reported murder rate, behind the much smaller Saint Kitts and Nevis, with 1,197 homicides, up nine per cent from 1,099 in 2012.
In 2013, the Jamaica government eradicated 247 hectares of cannabis plant, compared with 711 hectares the previous year.
“The total area of cannabis plant cultivation in Jamaica was estimated at 15,000 hectares, out of total arable land of approximately 120,000 hectares. Statistics indicate that 30,900 kg of cannabis were seized in 2013, compared with 66,832 kg in 2012.
“Cannabis trafficking organizations in Jamaica focus on trafficking directly to Canada and the United Kingdom, as well as to the Bahamas, the Cayman Islands, the Dominican Republic and Haiti, for onward shipment to Europe and North America.
“There has also been a significant increase in shipments of cannabis herb to Barbados, Guyana, Suriname, Trinidad and Tobago, and Curaçao, in some cases in exchange for cocaine trafficked back to Jamaica,” the report stated, adding that “heroin and “ecstasy” have entered the Jamaican domestic market in small amounts only during the past few years”.
It said that with respect to cocaine, official statistics indicate that 1,230 kg of cocaine were seized in Jamaica in 2013, compared with 338 kg in 2012.
“Organized criminal groups from South and Central America and local groups continue to take advantage of the country’s weak State and police structures. Corruption, along with porous maritime borders, with isolated beaches and coastal villages, and the country’s status as a popular tourist destination and major container trans-shipment point, further facilitate the trafficking of illicit drugs between Jamaica and North America, Europe and elsewhere in the Caribbean.”
The report notes that while Barbados is not a major producer of illicit drugs, cannabis cultivation has been found in sugarcane fields, gullies and enclosed yards near private homes.
“Cocaine continues to be trafficked using private boats, cargo vessels, yachts, shipping vessels and “go-fast” boats. Shipments of illicit drugs may be transferred at sea at predetermined Global Positioning System (GPS) coordinates for retrieval by local vessels at sea.”
It said the shipments are later unloaded on deserted beaches in Barbados.
“The majority of cocaine is believed to be sourced from Colombia, trafficked through the Bolivarian
Republic of Venezuela, Trinidad and Tobago and/or Guyana before entering Barbados, and then further trafficked to Europe and/or North America. There are no reports of production, trafficking or consumption of methamphetamines or other designer drugs.”
According to the Caribbean Human Development Report of the United Nations Development Programme, Barbados is one of two countries, Suriname being the other, out of seven countries surveyed where the homicide rate, including gang-related killings, has not increased substantially in the past 12 years.
The report notes that Belize is a trans-shipment country for cocaine and precursor chemicals used in the production of illegal drugs, including synthetic drugs.
In 2012, Belizean authorities seized and destroyed 19.1 tons of cannabis, 156 tons of precursor chemicals, 114.9 kg of cocaine, 1.4 kg of “crack” cocaine and 4.9 kg of crystalline methamphetamine.
Law enforcement entities in Trinidad and Tobago seized 110 kg of cocaine and 3.7 tons of cannabis between January and September 2013. A total of 328,600 mature cannabis plants were destroyed during the same period.
The reported notes that the other Caribbean countries surveyed were Antigua and Barbuda, Guyana, Jamaica and St Lucia.
It said that the development and successful implementation of initiatives for the prevention and treatment of drug abuse in Central America and the Caribbean are largely restricted by the limited resources and institutional capacity of countries in the region.
“Given those constraints, governments have had to strike a balance between competing developmental priorities and the need to adopt drug abuse prevention and treatment measures.
“In Central America and the Caribbean, use of cannabis and cocaine remains high; with the exception of amphetamine-type stimulants, the use of other illicit substances remains low. The estimated average prevalence of cocaine in Central America and the Caribbean, at 0.6 per cent and 0.7 per cent, respectively, is higher than the global average,” the report added.