Caribbean Region Outlook - February 2018
- The region presents a very diversified security environment, mainly due to specific characteristics of the islands (i.e. island size, political administration, legal system)
- 69% of the incidents this month were criminally related. Murders (24%*), robberies (14%*) and shootings (10%*) lead the list. Drugs related offences as well are prominent in the region (9%*).
- Most of the security incidents were concentrated in the 4 bigger countries of the region: Trinidad and Tobago (38%), Puerto Rico (11%), Jamaica (10%) and Dominican Republic (7%).
- Cuba is an exception in this pattern, presenting a low level of incidents. Possible explanations rely both on the relatively less violent social culture and on the widespread press censorship from the regime.
- No significant variations have been observed on the rate of incidents throughout the month, suggesting a lack of specific trends in this period.
As criminality is unevenly spread in the region, so are the murders reported by local authorities. An overwhelming majority of these incidents is concentrated in Trinidad and Tobago (28% of the total murders), especially in the region surrounding Port of Spain. Most of the murders should be attributed to gang activities and clashes.
Although not at the same levels, Jamaica as well experienced a relevant number of murders in the past month (16% of the region’s total), mostly concentrated in the capital Kingston and in the Northern Part of the island. Other incidents are divided between Puerto Rico and the Dominican Republic, as well as few occasional incidents in the minor islands of the archipelago.
Trinidad and Tobago and Guyana outperform other countries in the region witnessing 65% of the total incidents – 34% and 31% respectively. The cause for such high criminality rates is linked to gang-related activities, and the poor security infrastructure in both countries. In Guyana an unresolved dispute over security guards’ salary payments in the Western Berbice Area may decrease the levels of security.
Puerto Rico as well should be highlighted for its armed robbery incidents (13% of the region’s total), especially in the city of San Juan and in the Eastern area of the island.
Unlike the previous categories of incidents, shootings reports are diffused throughout the Caribbean. Although they seem to be more concentrated in Trinidad and Tobago (22%), Puerto Rico (18%) and Jamaica (13%), smaller islands as well – such as Bahamas, Dominica and Saint Vincent and the Grenadines – experienced them (constituting a total of 27% of the shooting reports). Such incidents suggest a two-fold problem widespread in the Caribbean. On the one hand, the presence of numerous criminal gangs increases the probability of clashes for the control of illegal resources and areas of influence. On the other hand, the ease of access to firearms makes shootings during confrontations more likely.
Drugs trafficking as well is present across the whole region. Most of the reports regarded possession of narcotics with intent of supplying (78%) although only a minority of them (21%) related to attempts of internationally drug smuggling throughout the archipelago or further abroad
Three further sets of issues should be considered: protests, degradation of the environment and fires.
Just short of 50% of the demonstrations reported this month in the Caribbean degenerated into street riots and clashes with authorities. In Haiti students’ protests against a professors’ strike escalated into a two days of street fights between pupils of different institutions.
In Trinidad and Tobago, two different incidents showed the weaknesses of police forces. Major riots outbroke in Port of Spain after the killing of a local resident during a police operation. For two days local authorities had to fight with the protesters to re-establish order in the Eastern areas of the capital. Similarly, demonstrators against lack of infrastructure blocked the access of Lengua Road a major road in the central area of the country, requiring authorities to forcefully intervene.
Environment degradation is a second problem in the region, although its incidence during the month has not been prominent. Specifically, landslides due to erosion affected a residential area in Southern Trinidad and Tobago, and a major transit road in Dominica. In the medium term, environment degradation affects both infrastructure – eventually impairing economic potential – and the population, increasing the chance of protests as in Trinidad and Tobago.
Lastly, fires in the region occupy a still-relevant percentage of the overall incidents of the month (4%). Occurring across all the islands, fires have produce significant damage to residential areas and infrastructure. In Haiti, three fires destroyed important markets and an orphanage. In Saint Maarten and the Cayman Islands landfills fires temporarily disrupted the normal functioning of public institutions nearby. While in Antigua and Trinidad and Tobago the blazes burnt down businesses and residential areas.
The Month Ahead
In the upcoming weeks incidents are likely to mirror the same issues that have emerged in February. Minor disease which started spreading in late February, such as the Hand, Foot and Mouth Disease may gain momentum in the Cayman Islands and Trinidad and Tobago. Nevertheless, they do not represent a threat for the population.
Additionally, some countries in the region – namely Cuba, Grenada and Antigua and Barbuda – are expected to hold parliamentary elections. No major tensions have emerged so far, suggesting a smoother political transition.