The Dutch Caribbean consists of the six entities of the former Netherlands Antilles: Aruba, Curacao, St. Maarten, Bonaire, St. Eustatius, and Saba. In 2010, the Netherlands Antilles dissolved as a political unit: Curacao and St. Maarten acquired the same “autonomous country” status within the Kingdom of the Netherlands as Aruba, which became an autonomous entity in 1986. The three smallest islands, Bonaire, St. Eustatius and Saba (BES), became part of the country of the Netherlands in a status similar to municipalities.
Aruba, Bonaire, and Curacao (often referred to as the ABC Islands) are located 30 to 40 miles north of Venezuela and continue to serve as northbound transshipment points for cocaine originating from the Guajira Peninsula in Colombia and from the Maracaibo, Venezuela area. Cocaine is primarily transported via fishing boats and inter-coastal freighters for transshipment to the United States, other Caribbean islands, Africa, and Europe. St. Maarten, the Dutch half of the island of the same name (the French side is called Saint Martin), is located in the Eastern Caribbean and is a transshipment hub for cocaine, heroin, and marijuana destined for Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands as well as Europe.
B. Drug Control Accomplishments, Policies, and Trends
1. Institutional Development
Aruba, Curacao, and St. Maarten have a high degree of autonomy over their internal affairs, with the right to exercise independent decision-making in a number of counternarcotics areas. The Kingdom of the Netherlands is responsible for the islands’ defense and foreign affairs, and assists the Governments of Aruba, Curacao, St. Maarten, and the BES islands in their efforts to combat narcotics trafficking through its support for the RST (Dutch acronym for “Special Police Task Force”). The RST maintains its headquarters in Curacao and has its largest presence there.
In 2012, both Curacao and St. Maarten adopted the BOP (Dutch acronym for “law on special investigative techniques”), which governs the use of techniques such as electronic surveillance and the infiltration of criminal organizations by the police on those islands. The BOP was already in effect in Aruba. No new counternarcotics programs were initiated in 2014. Although the BOP law has been authorized, local authorities are reluctant to use it to infiltrate criminal organizations because it is relatively new.
The Netherlands extended the 1988 UN Convention against Illicit Traffic in Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances, the 1961 UN Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs, the UN Convention against Transnational Organized Crime, the 1971 UN Convention on Psychotropic Substances and the 1981 Netherlands-U.S. Mutual Legal Assistance Treaty to the former Netherlands Antilles and Aruba. Additionally, the former Netherlands Antilles and Aruba adopted the Agreement Regarding Mutual Cooperation in the Tracing, Freezing, Seizure and Forfeiture of the Proceeds and Instrumentalities of Crime and the Sharing of Forfeited Assets, which was signed by the Kingdom of the Netherlands in 1994.
Aruba’s police force, the Korps Politie Aruba (KPA), continues to evolve into a regional leader in the fight against narcotics trafficking and international criminal organizations. The KPA is at the forefront in collecting and sharing intelligence with regional law enforcement partners. Despite systemic problems of prison overcrowding and insufficient resources, the KPA continues to investigate trafficking organizations effectively. The Organized Crime Unit of the KPA conducted several successful investigations in 2014, which led to multi-kilogram (kg) cocaine and heroin seizures and the arrest of multiple subjects.
Curacao has vastly improved its effectiveness and efficiency in addressing endemic drug-related crime, violence, and corruption. In August 2013, the Korps Politie Curacao (KPC) appointed an interim police chief who has greatly enhanced the leadership and stability of the KPC, which in turn has led to successful counter narcotics operations. Permanent candidates for this position were under review at the end of 2014. The KPC has made dramatic strides in aggressively countering the narcotics trade in Curacao. The local price per kilogram of cocaine has increased due to increased narcotics seizures in Curacao.
St. Maarten is co-located on a single island with French St. Martin. This division provides unique challenges for law enforcement investigations. Colombian and Dominican-based drug-trafficking organizations (DTOs) have expanded their base of operations into St. Maarten believing that law enforcement is less prevalent than in their respective countries. However, regional law enforcement agencies have increased cooperation. In 2014, authorities successfully investigated several DTOs that were transporting hundreds of kilograms of cocaine from St. Maarten to the United States and Europe. These investigations included unprecedented cooperation from the Korps Politie St. Maarten (KPSM), RST, and French, Dutch, British and U.S. authorities. In addition, the KPSM, in cooperation with U.S. authorities, seized approximately 800 kg of cocaine arriving on commercial air carriers, 2.25 metric tons (MT) of marijuana at the Port of St. Maarten, and several hundred thousand dollars in drug proceeds and assets (including an airplane) from a Dominican and Colombian based DTO operating in St. Maarten.
Bonaire, St. Eustatius, Saba
The National Office for the Caribbean in the Netherlands Ministry of Interior Affairs and Kingdom Relations assumes the responsibilities of law enforcement, security, and other administrative functions on behalf of the Government of the Netherlands for Bonaire, St. Eustatius, and Saba islands.
2. Supply Reduction
Authorities seized approximately two MT of cocaine in the entire Dutch Caribbean in 2013 (the most recent year for which comprehensive statistics are available), considerably more than the 1.55 MT seized in 2012. This was the result of increased intelligence sharing and cooperation between law enforcement organizations.
3. Drug Abuse Awareness, Demand Reduction, and Treatment
The United States continues to support demand reduction programs with local schools and community-based youth organizations.
Currently Curacao, Aruba, and St. Maarten are in discussion with the Kingdom of the Netherlands regarding the process and method for public integrity screening of high-level government officials.
C. National Goals, Bilateral Cooperation, and U.S. Policy Initiatives
The objectives of U.S. counternacotics policy in the Dutch Caribbean are to promote counternarcotics cooperation between law enforcement and military partners, and to reduce illicit drug trafficking. The U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration works with their island counterparts to advance joint investigations, both within the Dutch Caribbean and the United States.
The Kingdom of the Netherlands supports counternarcotics efforts by continuing to support U.S. Air Force Forward Operating Locations in Curacao and Aruba. U.S. military aircraft conduct counternarcotics detection and monitoring flights over the southern Caribbean Sea. In addition, the Dutch Navy regularly conducts counternarcotics operations in the region and is a member of Joint Interagency Task Force South. In 2014, over four metric tons of cocaine were seized through operations conducted from Dutch naval assets with embarked U.S. Coast Guard law enforcement detachments.
Just a few years into their new status, Curacao and St. Maarten are still establishing counternarcotics organizational structures among their various agencies. It is imperative that both islands embrace regional cooperation and intelligence sharing efforts. Both Curaçao and St. Maarten can look to Aruba as an example of how this is accomplished.