Jamaica remains the largest Caribbean supplier of marijuana to the United States and local Caribbean islands. Although cocaine and synthetic drugs are not produced locally, Jamaica is a transit point for drugs trafficked from South America to North America and other international markets. In 2013, drug production and trafficking were both enabled and accompanied by organized crime, domestic and international gang activity, and police and government corruption. Illicit drugs are also a common means of exchange for illegally-trafficked firearms entering the country, exacerbating Jamaica’s security situation.
Drugs flow from and through Jamaica by maritime conveyance, air freight, and human couriers, and to a limited degree by private aircraft. Drugs leaving Jamaica are bound for the United States, Canada and other Caribbean nations. However, marijuana and cocaine are also trafficked from Jamaica into the United Kingdom, Belgium, Germany, and the Netherlands. Jamaica is emerging as a transit point for cocaine leaving Central America and destined for the United States, and some drug trafficking organizations exchange Jamaican marijuana for cocaine.
Factors that contribute to drug trafficking include the country’s convenient geographic position as a waypoint for narcotics trafficked from Latin America; its lengthy, rugged and difficult-to-patrol coastline; a high volume of tourist travel and airline traffic; its status as a major transshipment hub for maritime containerized cargo; inadequate educational and employment opportunities for at-risk youth who engage in crime; and a struggling economy that encourages marijuana cultivation in rural areas.
The government and law enforcement authorities are committed to combating narcotics and illicit trafficking. However, their efforts were only moderately effective in 2013 because of a lack of sufficient resources; corruption; an inefficient criminal justice system; and the inability of lawmakers to adopt meaningful legislation to combat corruption and gangs. Lawmakers increased their discussion of loosening Jamaica’s law prohibiting the personal use of marijuana.
B. Drug Control Accomplishments, Policies and Trends
1. Institutional Development
Cooperation between the Governments of the United States and Jamaica against narcotics and related transnational crime remained strong in 2013. The United States’ primary Jamaican partners are the Jamaica Constabulary Force (JCF, police), the Jamaica Defence Force (JDF, military), Jamaica Customs, and the Financial Investigation Division of the Ministry of Finance.
The United States and Jamaica are bilateral parties to both a mutual legal assistance treaty and an extradition treaty. The countries have a strong extradition and mutual assistance relationship, and the extradition treaty was actively and successfully used in 2013. Both governments have a reciprocal agreement to share forfeited criminal assets and a bilateral law enforcement agreement that governs cooperation in the interdiction of the maritime flow of illegal drugs.
The Commissioner of Police, with support from the Minister of National Security, continued to take a strong public stance against police corruption and make steady progress toward reform of the institution, which has suffered from decades of endemic corruption.
Progress in combating narcotics, illicit trafficking and corruption was also hobbled by an underfunded, overburdened and sluggish criminal justice system with limited effectiveness in obtaining criminal convictions. The conviction rate for murder was approximately five percent, and the courts continued to be plagued with a culture of trial postponements and delay. This lack of efficacy within the courts contributed to impunity for many of the worst criminal offenders and gangs, an abnormally high rate of violent crimes, lack of cooperation by witnesses and jurors, frustration among police officers and the public, a significant social cost and drain on the economy, and a disincentive for tourism and international investment.
2. Supply Reduction
An estimated 15,000 hectares (ha) of marijuana is grown in all 14 parishes of Jamaica, generally in areas inaccessible to vehicular traffic on small plots in mountainous areas and along the tributaries of the Black River in Saint Elizabeth parish. The police and military, supported by the United States, employed teams of civilian cutters to cut growing plants, seize seedlings and cured marijuana, and burn them in the field. Because Jamaican law prohibits the use of herbicides, only manual eradication was conducted in 2013.
Eradication of marijuana decreased in 2013, with the destruction of 247 ha of growing cannabis, 1.9 million seedlings, and 285 kilograms (kg) of seeds – down from 711 ha, 2.58 million seedlings and 785 kg of seeds destroyed in 2012.
Jamaica prohibits the manufacture, sale, transport, and possession of MDMA (ecstasy) and methamphetamine, and regulates the precursor chemicals used to produce them. Jamaica does not produce precursor chemicals and relies on countries exporting goods to conform to international standards governing export verification. The importation and sale of pharmaceutical products and chemical substances are regulated and reinforced with fines or imprisonment. Other controls monitor the usage of pharmaceutical products and chemical substances including register controls, inspections, and audits. In 2013, precursor chemicals continued to move through Jamaica to Central America and were concealed in shipping containers that passed through the Port of Kingston. The chemicals included methylamine hydrochloride and mono-methylamine, both of which are utilized in the manufacture of methamphetamine.
Smugglers continued to use maritime shipping containers, ships, small boats, air freight and couriers to move drugs from and through Jamaica to the United States. One common practice of traffickers was to transport cocaine in large fishing vessels to a point several miles off the Jamaica coast, where small fishing canoes then carried the drugs to shore. Traffickers used the same system in reverse to ship marijuana south to the Caribbean and South America. The JDF Air Wing lacked a fixed wing aircraft capable of detecting and tracking such fishing vessels, and the JDF Coast Guard lacked swift and reliable vessels to intercept them.
In 2013, authorities seized 30.9 metric tons (MT) of cannabis, 80.9 kg of hash oil and 22.6 kg of hashish, compared to 66.8 MT of cannabis, 42.2 kg of hash oil and 2.99 kg of hashish in 2012. Seizures of cocaine increased to 1.23 MT in 2013 from 338.3 kg in 2012, and seizures of crack cocaine increased to 4 kg in 2013 from 1.4 kg in 2012. High-profile organized criminal gangs continued to successfully operate within Jamaica. Gangs are sometimes afforded community tolerance or protection and, in some cases, support through police corruption.
3. Drug Abuse Awareness, Demand Reduction, and Treatment
Marijuana was used by 13.5 percent of the population in 2013, making it the most-abused illicit drug among Jamaicans, while cocaine abusers remained less than 0.1 percent.
The Ministry of Health’s National Council on Drug Abuse (NCDA), working through the primary care system and mental health clinics, provides assessment, counseling and treatment services for substance abusers.
The Jamaican government operates one detoxification center located at the University Hospital of the West Indies (UHWI) in Kingston, and offers services for dual diagnosis clients through UHWI and Kingston’s Bellevue Hospital (a mental health institution). In collaboration with the Organization of American States’ Inter-American Drug Abuse Control Commission, Jamaica offers a university-level certificate program for drug professionals in drug addiction and drug prevention. The UN Office on Drugs and Crime works directly with the Jamaican government and non-governmental organizations on demand reduction.
The Ministry of Health (MOH) regulates precursor pharmaceuticals, including the importation of pseudoephedrine, both in powder and final product forms. The NCDA, the Pharmacy Council, and the MOH are working to expand awareness among health professionals on the potential danger of pseudoephedrine and ephedrine when they are diverted to produce methamphetamine.
As a matter of policy, the Jamaican government does not encourage or facilitate illegal activity associated with drug trafficking or the laundering of proceeds from illicit drug transactions. Jamaican law penalizes official corruption; however, corruption remains entrenched, widespread, and compounded by a judicial system that has a poor record of successfully prosecuting corruption cases against high-level law enforcement and government officials.
In 2013, anti-corruption measures within the police, Jamaica Customs, Tax Administration Jamaica, and the Office of the Contractor General continued to show encouraging signs. Additionally, the U.S.-supported non-governmental organization National Integrity Action helped focus increased public and government attention on the need for continued anti-corruption reforms.
The police Anti-Corruption Branch (ACB) showed continued success in identifying and removing officers engaged in corrupt and unethical behavior. Since the ACB’s reorganization with international support in 2008, 490 police personnel have resigned or been dismissed for corruption or ethical violations, with 36 of those removed in 2013. Another 50 officers faced criminal corruption charges during the year. Police success was due partly to mechanisms that allowed it to dismiss corrupt or unethical officers when evidence was insufficient to justify criminal prosecution. For example, all police officers between the rank of Constable and Inspector (97 percent of JCF personnel) are required to sign five-year employment contracts that the JCF can decide to not renew if an officer is suspected of corrupt or unethical behavior. In addition, vetting and polygraph examinations are required for all promotions above the rank of inspector (three percent of JCF personnel).
There was some legislative action toward creating a National Anti-Corruption Agency, which is required by the Inter-American Convention against Corruption to which Jamaica is a signatory. Legislation to establish such an agency has been pending before Parliament since 2008, but efforts by legislators from both political parties have stalled the proposal. In 2013, the Minister of Justice worked with stakeholders to redraft the bill and organize legislative support for advancement of the proposal.
C. National Goals, Bilateral Cooperation and U.S. Policy Initiatives
The United States supports a wide range of efforts designed to address crime and violence affecting Jamaican citizens, primarily through the Caribbean Basin Security Initiative (CBSI). CBSI is a security partnership between the United States and Caribbean nations that seeks to substantially reduce illicit trafficking, advance public safety and citizen security, and promote social justice.
Consistent with CBSI, supporting Jamaica’s transformation into a more secure, democratic, and prosperous partner is a major U.S. policy goal. The primary source of U.S. funding for these efforts is through the Caribbean Basin Security Initiative. Narcotics trafficking, corruption, and related crime undermine the rule of law, democratic governance, economic growth, and the quality of life for all Jamaicans. Success in combating crime depends on a comprehensive approach that recognizes the link between drugs, gangs, organized crime, poverty, unemployment, lack of educational opportunities, and government corruption.
U.S. support to Jamaica includes training, equipment and logistical assistance for: marijuana eradication and narcotics interdiction; combatting cyber-crime, preventing money laundering and financial crime, lottery scams, and organized crime; disrupting gang operations; forfeiting criminally-acquired assets; enhancing border security at air and sea ports; and the maritime law enforcement capabilities of the JCF and the JDF Coast Guard. The United States also funds projects to improve the effectiveness of the courts, the National Forensic Sciences Laboratory, and the Financial Investigation Division of the Ministry of Finance. Indirect support for law enforcement occurred through projects to build community-police relations, improve police training facilities and techniques, enhance police anti-corruption efforts, and implement education and workforce development programs targeting at-risk youth who are susceptible to narcotics and gang influence.
Through strong leadership, stable democratic institutions, and support from the United States and other international partners, Jamaica continued to make slow but steady progress in combating narcotics trafficking, corruption and organized crime in 2013.
Success stories included the JCF Anti-Corruption Branch, which continued to make progress in eliminating corrupt and unethical police officers; the National Forensic Sciences Laboratory, which showed dramatic improvement in its ability to process crime scene ballistic evidence; the JCF Major Organized Crime and Anti-Corruption Task Force, which significantly reduced Jamaica lottery scam operations that targeted retirees and the elderly in the United States; the Financial Investigation Division of the Ministry of Finance that, with new organization and leadership, ramped up its efforts to curb money laundering and seize criminally-acquired assets; and the Independent Commission on Investigations, which was successful in establishing its legal authority to prosecute police officers who illegally injure or kill citizens in the course of their duties.
The momentum of progress gained within Jamaica’s law enforcement agencies, however, is being obstructed by the inability of prosecutors and the courts to keep apace and secure prompt convictions. The United States will therefore continue to support efforts to reform and strengthen Jamaica’s criminal court system.