Barbados and the six independent member countries of the Organization of Eastern Caribbean States (OECS), Antigua and Barbuda, Dominica, Grenada, St. Kitts and Nevis, St. Lucia, and St. Vincent and the Grenadines, are collectively referred to in this report as the Eastern Caribbean (EC).
The region hosts abundant transshipment points for illicit narcotics primarily from Venezuela destined for North American, European and domestic Caribbean markets. Local and international law enforcement believe traffickers are increasingly using yachts for drug transit, though “go-fast” boats, fishing trawlers, and cargo ships continue to play major transit roles. Homicide rates throughout the region declined in 2015 from the previous year, continuing a two-year trend, but the overall crime rate (including drug related violent crimes) has increased. Many homicides resulted from turf wars between organized groups fighting to control local drug distribution. Cannabis consumption and cultivation remains common in many EC states, though very little is produced in Barbados.
Seven consecutive years of declining macroeconomic growth leave EC law enforcement capacity increasingly beleaguered. EC governments have made some improvements to still antiquated criminal codes. Political leaders, however, have largely failed to address public concerns about official corruption.
B. Drug Control Accomplishments, Policies, and Trends
1. Institutional Development
EC countries are parties to the Inter-American Convention Against the Illicit Manufacturing of and Trafficking in Firearms, Ammunition, Explosives and Other Related Materials. All have an Extradition Treaty and a Mutual Legal Assistance Treaty in force with the United States. Several have become signatories to Inter-American Conventions such as the Convention Against Corruption, the Convention on Extradition, the Convention on Mutual Assistance in Criminal Matters, and the Convention Against Terrorism.
The United States and Canada jointly fund an $11.25 million project to refurbish two aging Maritime Patrol Aircraft, which are owned and operated by the Regional Security System (RSS), a treaty based, collective defense organization of which the EC countries are members. These aircraft are used for counternarcotics purposes. The first of the two refurbished C-26A Maritime Patrol Aircraft was returned to the RSS in June 2015. Since then, the aircraft has conducted hundreds of flight hours (routine flights and flights based on intelligence) leading to the interruption of numerous drug trafficking operations and the arrest of dozens of suspected drug traffickers. Delivery of the second refurbished C-26A Maritime Patrol Aircraft to the RSS is scheduled for 2016.
In 2014 and 2015, EC countries demonstrated their commitment to drug control through multiple measures. Grenada, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, Antigua and Barbuda, and Dominica passed several new laws that will facilitate the prosecution of narcotics cases, including comprehensive civil asset forfeiture laws with a dedicated forfeiture fund to attack transnational organized crime by seizing illicit assets. The laws require that forfeited funds be channeled to support police, prosecutors, RSS contributions, victim restitution, and drug abuse prevention and treatment. In 2015, Barbados passed “Interviewing the Suspects” legislation which requires the police to comply with human rights standards when interrogating suspects. The Government of Dominica has committed its limited resources and personnel to establishing the first vetted counternarcotics unit in the EC, "Strike Force.” The United States agreed to partner with Dominica and has provided training and some equipment for the initiative. The selected unit is semi-operational but will be fully operational in 2016 pending further training and the receipt of specialized equipment.
2. Supply Reduction
Venezuela-based drug traffickers use the region’s many uninhabited islands to move cocaine shipments up the island chain for onward transit to North America and Europe. Cannabis cultivation is the highest in the mountainous regions of St. Vincent, St. Kitts, and St. Lucia. Barbados authorities reported increased marijuana and cocaine shipments transiting from Trinidad and Tobago in 2015, though they also reported reduced drug landings due to successful maritime interdictions. Antigua and Barbuda observed an increased flow of cocaine and cannabis from Jamaica via St. Martin. St. Vincent continues to be a primary source for cannabis cultivation in the EC, with most plants being grown for export. The St. Vincent Drug Squad reported a surge in the transshipment of cocaine in 2015. St. Vincent also reported a trend in “men and women being sent to Venezuela for payment…as guarantors for the dealers.” Over the first nine months of 2015, drug seizures in the EC increased over 2014 and totaled approximately 6.65 metric tons (MT) of cocaine and 1.11 MT of marijuana, according to statistics shared with U.S. authorities.
3. Public Information, Prevention, and Treatment
Marijuana is the most widely used illegal drug in the region, though abuse of over-the-counter drugs is also on the rise. Barbados has drug prevention programs, but has not passed a National Drug Strategy. The Government of Barbados established its Drug Treatment Court in February 2014; it currently monitors 14 active clients. St. Kitts and Nevis has several programs credited by its own officials as successful. Grenada operates several programs through its Drug Control Secretariat. Dominica’s National Drug Master Plan for 2014-2017 remained pending government ratification at the close of 2015. Barbados, Grenada, and St. Lucia have drug rehabilitation clinics. Barbados has one that specifically serves youth.
As a matter of policy, the region’s governments do not encourage or facilitate the illicit production or distribution of narcotic or psychotropic drugs or other controlled substances, or the laundering of proceeds from illegal drug transactions. No senior government officials in the EC were prosecuted for engaging in or facilitating the illicit production or distribution of controlled drugs or laundering of proceeds from illegal drug transactions. Nevertheless, many observers believe that drug-related corruption remains a problem in the region, and has allowed some trafficking organizations to elude law enforcement. The United States funded the establishment of an RSS Polygraph Corps, which certified 27 polygraphists from the EC in December 2014. Regional governments use the new corps of polygraphists to monitor sensitive police and other institutions. Eastern Caribbean governments have established bilateral agreements that allow the polygraph examiners from one EC country to conduct polygraph examinations in another EC country.
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 EC citizens, primarily through the Caribbean 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 justice. The EC governments and RSS participate fully in CBSI.
All EC countries have bilateral maritime counternarcotics agreements with the United States that include provisions such as use of shipriders, pursuit and entry into territorial seas, overflight, and ship boarding authorization.
CBSI programs strengthen the capacity of law enforcement institutions to detect, interdict, prosecute, convict, and incarcerate regional criminals. CBSI programs support information sharing networks, joint interagency operations, and regional training initiatives to promote interoperability. CBSI funding also has been used for crime prevention programs that help at-risk youth pursue education, vocational training, and employment.
Demand reduction is another area of U.S. cooperation with the Eastern Carribbean. The United States supports the Organization of American States’ Inter-American Drug Abuse Control Commission in its technical support to the government’s drug treatment and prevention systems, including training and support to treatment facilities.
The United States encourages EC countries to continue to embrace CBSI partnership and to fulfill their budgetary commitments to the RSS. The United States also encourages EC countries to support programming to increase regional counternarcotics operations and build regional capacity, through joint training and cooperation. The United States further encourages the seven countries to continue to pass legislation to modernize their criminal codes and implement regional best practices to combat transnational organized crime.