The illicit drug trade is a business with the objective of making money by those involved; it is part of our, Trinidad and Tobago's (T&T), economy. It is in three bits; the producers, the transportation section that takes the product to the major markets and the distribution/sales in those markets.
T&T is part of the transportation section, drug trafficking, (it has its own small cocaine drug sales) though it produces some marijuana. T&T is a trans-shipment centre, given that it is easy to get the drugs into the country, for example via its unprotected borders, and its well developed transportation system to the major markets, the US and Europe, are reliable. Hence the drug related activities in T&T are about receiving the drugs, payment for handling and shipping them on to the various destinations.
Therefore, our drug traffickers are not monolithic; they form part of the international networks that produce, ship and distribute/sell the drugs. Our gangs are the foot soldiers of the local sub-network and interface with the international network via nodes – Mr Manning’s Mr Big! This expertise has made it easy to include human trafficking in the products for sale, for trans-shipping.
Hence, the various on-shore handlers in T&T relate to the international drug syndicates in conducting a service for a fee. This network is highly dynamic and robust since it can be changed, reconfigured easily, depending on the difficulties that may arise or presented by the authorities or whomsoever.
The immediate question then is why does this trafficking present any threat to national security or the security of the person in T&T? In particular, why is there any violence attached to this illicit business since the on-shore participants, the gangs, should simply be about receiving the goods, secluding them and on-shipping them (besides direct conflict with the authorities on land or sea in so doing).
In a licit business the courts are there to settle any breach of contract or dispute among the participants in the business. This facility is not available to this illicit business. Hence these disputes, for example non-payment for goods and services, or stealing of goods, are settled by violence. Also violence is used to intimidate the population at large to ensure that they do not pass on information to the authorities and punish those who do. Further, as in all businesses, there is competition among the gangs to service the drug networks, again resulting in violence.
The services performed by the on-shore gangs provide money and guns to the local participants. This capacity spills over into the other activities of the gangs; robbery, personal conflicts, turf wars, and increases their ability to even confront the police; shootouts in front of police stations etc. Hence many acts of crime may involve the use of guns but are not directly related to drugs.
Still, the kind of violence in trafficking countries is enhanced by the social and economic conditions that exist therein. For example the traffickers, the gangs, may come from social environments that are subject to such economic inequity, single mothers have to go to work leaving children virtually unattended, poor education opportunities, that the members of the gangs feel trapped in such circumstances and are prone to violence even without the influences of the drug trade. The trafficking simply magnifies the inherent violence of the socially and economically dispossessed.
Another national security impact of the drug trade, of trafficking, given the money available, money that increases as the difficulty to bring the goods to market increases, is the ability to bribe the authorities in the country to facilitate the trade, even to bypass customs. Bribes coupled with the threat of the violence that can be meted out by the players force the authorities to participate, providing safe passage for the products even trough customs.
Thus, the trafficking increases real corruption in the country, a situation that is mirrored in the CPI. Possible this is one reason why T&T appears to be in freefall in this Index.
The final demand in the markets for illicit drugs seems to be uncontrollable; hence the attempt to control the supply at the producers end and the supply chain. The US has been involved in this supply chain fight for over fifty years, yet the illicit business is thriving, given the poverty at the production end, the social and economic inequity on the supply route and the tremendous economic power of and the ability to inflict deadly violence by the participants in the drug networks.
The fundamental question I posed to the Senate many years ago is whether T&T has the capability and capacity to protect the national security, to protect individual security, given the inherent social and economic inequities on-shore, given the monetary and violent power of the drug networks involved, locally and internationally. We have seen the immense damage that has been done in Mexico.
This is not simply a country problem, though some of the local economic and social failings magnify the impact of the drug trade. T&T has to seriously evaluate its capacity and capability to ensure national and individual security within its boundaries. New York City tackled its murder/crime rate by taking suspects off the streets and incarcerated them if even for minor infractions.
In T&T we are finding it almost impossible to find the perpetrators of the escalating murders and those arrested face a judiciary that is hung up on its backlog. If our institutions have already been infiltrated by the activities of the drug trade, then God help us!
Mary K King