Caribbean Security Outlook – June 2018
- Puerto Rico (17%), Dominican Republic (13%) and Trinidad and Tobago (10%) were the countries which counted the highest number of incident reports.
- Most of the incidents were criminal-related (72.5%), followed by natural hazards (10%) and incidents of diverse nature (5%).
- Narco-trafficking remains sustained in the area. While Antigua and Barbuda maintained its role as a regional distribution hub, Jamaica re-emerged as a cannabis production centre.
- An ongoing gangs feud in the Puerto Rican capital of San Juan has increased the number of murders in the Caribbean, affecting the district of Santurce in particular.
- Social tensions and protests in the Dominican Republic have been increasing, highlighting unaddressed social grievances, especially in the major urban centres.
- The security landscape in the Bahamas continues to deteriorate, with criminal and security incidents increasingly spreading towards the touristic islands of the archipelago.
- Region-wide floods and an ongoing dispute between Antigua and Barbuda are relevant trends which will affect regional security in the upcoming months.
In June, security incidents in the Caribbean remained stable, mirroring the trends emerged in May. Criminal-related incidents are consistent across the region, involving murders (29%), assaults (12%) and armed robberies (11%). The incidence of drugs-trafficking reports as well did not variate. Jamaica (28% of the total related incidents) and Antigua and Barbuda (22%) lead the list, with the former being a cannabis production centre while the second consolidating its role – already outlined in previous reports – of regional distribution hub.
The worsening of the weather conditions has led to a decrease in the human trafficking reports across sea-routes (-75%). Hurricane Alberto, the first storm of the season, has already impacted Cuba, the Dominican Republic and Guyana, causing multiple floods across the countries.
The past month did, however, highlight a consistent variation over the geographical distributions of reports. While traditionally Trinidad and Tobago has been the most criminality-affected country in the region, this month it registered a relevant decrease in incidents. This pushed Puerto Rico and the Dominican Republic at the front of the list, recording a combined share of 30% of the total security incidents in the Caribbean. Concurrently the Bahamas, which in the past months has been experiencing a deterioration of its security landscape, continued to follow this trend, outlining the lack of specific measures to address the situation.
Most of the incidents reported in June in the country were connected with firearms. The combined share of murders, assaults and shootings encompass over 72% of all the reports, highlighting the violent nature of the incidents.
Most of the criminal events are concentrated in the capital city of San Juan while only sparse incidents are reported from the rural areas. In the capital city, June has shown a concentration of murders in the old district of Santurce. This area, locked between the port and the city’s two airports, has traditionally been a territory of criminal gangs involved in narco-trafficking activities. From February, the district did not record any report of violent activities, thus suggesting that the spike in murders of the last month is the consequence of an ongoing skirmish between local criminal groups.
While Puerto Rico features a more diverse security landscape, with several different criminal-related incidents, crime in the Dominican Republic is less diversified. Most of the reports regard murders (43%) – often the product of gangs’ feuds. Additionally, such incidents appear to be evenly spread across the country, involving both major urban centres and rural communities.
While in June there has been a net decrease of social tensions with Haiti, new social grievances emerged nation-wide. Numerous demonstrations outbroke across the country during the past month. A major strike in Bonao paralyzed the city, calling for the intervention of security forces to ensure security and order. Concurrently, in San Juan - as well as in Santo Domingo - citizens took to the streets to protest the lack of maintenance of roads and infrastructures and the multiple electrical failures experienced in some districts. It is unlikely that such protests will escalate in further riots, but they nevertheless highlight several unaddressed social grievances which should be tackled by the central government.
Since last April, the Bahamas have been experiencing a slow but steady deterioration of their security environment, with an increase of violent crimes such as murders and assaults, as well as armed robberies. Most of these new incidents occur in the capital Nassau on the New Providence island, and rarely affect the touristic areas of the archipelago. Nevertheless, in the second half of the month and in the beginning of July, a few armed robberies were reported also on the islands of Exuma and Eleuthera, traditionally reserved to touristic activities.
The incapacity of the government to address the situation could prove to be extremely damaging for the country’s economy. If the trends experienced in the past months continues, it is likely that crime in the Bahamas will spread towards touristic areas of the country, negatively impacting an industry which contributes to almost 47% of the Bahamas GDP.
During May, Jamaica had experienced a partial decrease in its reported crimes due to the implementation of States of Emergency (SOEs) in the most criminality-affected parishes. Although the measure proved to be adequate in the short time, its medium-term effectiveness is decreasing. In June - notwithstanding the extension of the SOEs and the implementation of curfews in both greater Kingston and Annotto Bay - crime in Jamaica has been sharply rising again. As suggested in the previous reports, criminality slowly relocated towards the North-Western regions of the island where the SOEs measures are not in place. Additionally, reports of corrupted police officers – accepting bribes to avoid searching vehicles and residences – challenge the actual efficiency of the solution.
Concurrently, June offered an interesting overview over Jamaica’s involvement in the regional narcotrafficking routes. Over 1,500 Kg of cannabis were seized in different incidents occurred in the SouthEastern shores of the island, suggesting that local producer export the narcotics towards Central American countries, where they can then be distributed towards Northern America. Although cannabis consumption is illegal in Jamaica, a waiver on the consumption and production prohibition is issued to Rastafari practitioners. This de facto allows the cultivation of cannabis-related products, which are illegally exported towards distribution centres.
Floods and Hurricane Season
The starting of the hurricane seasons and the first intense rains caught the countries affected unprepared. The first storms hit Cuba, the Hispaniola island, Puerto Rico and Guyana, affecting urban and rural areas alike. In rural areas, rivers overflowed their shores, flooding nearby villages such as in the Wakenaam Island, in Guyana, and the Matanzas province in Cuba. In urban centres, floods were caused by the lack of maintenance of the draining systems often used as landfills for local rubbish.
In Cuba over 1,800 people had to leave their houses because of the inundations. At the same time, floods in cities disrupted business activities and civilian life, with a consequent economic loss in already fragile areas. Better prevention and awareness is needed to minimize the impact of future storms.
The Month Ahead
Regarding the upcoming month of July, three trends are likely to emerge: the continuation of hurricane-related challenges, an increase in criminal reports in Trinidad and Tobago and a possible increase in social tensions in Antigua and Barbuda.
As the hurricane season enters its most intense weeks, heavy rains and floods are likely to affect most of the Caribbean countries. The reported security incidents in teh Caribbean for June and a rising concern of local news media over the issue suggest that most of the countries are not ready to address the challenges of the upcoming storms, and major disruption is to be expected in the next two months.
In Trinidad and Tobago, the fall in reported incidents appears to be a normal variation in the data, untriggered by specific national dynamics. For this reason, July is likely to report a renewed increase in security incidents, as the country re-aligns itself to its historical average.
Finally, an ongoing dispute between the central government of Antigua and Barbuda, and the Barbadian Council could exacerbate, renewing social grievances between the two islands. The National government is reclaiming public lands and structures in Barbuda currently directly administrated by Barbudans. Local residents – supported by the Barbuda Council – refused to allow a direct administration of these structures, triggering a harsh response from Prime Minister Browne, who increased the number of police forces deployed on the island. This first stage of the confrontation will likely be resolved through mediation, but it nevertheless exposes a rising conflict within the state.