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Volume 63 / Social Sciences

GOVERNMENT AND POLITICS: THE CARIBBEAN AND THE GUIANAS (EXCEPT CUBA)


CLIFFORD E. GRIFFIN, Associate Professor, Department of Political Science, School of Public and International Affairs, North Carolina State University
JOAN F. HIGBEE, Specialist in Caribbean Area, Hispanic Division, Library of Congress

THE CARIBBEAN, over the past four and a half decades, has effectively traded its role as the central nervous system of global economic activity that revolved around plantation slavery, King Sugar, Queen Cotton, and Prince Tobacco (item #bi2007003403#) for its new position as the most tourism-dependent region in the world. Essentially, the Caribbean is tourism (items #bi2007003410#, #bi2007003416#, #bi2007003415#, and #bi2007003414#). Over this same period, the countries of the region also have put in place well-developed state institutions, including regularly held, free elections (items #bi2006001950#, #bi2005002179#, #bi2007003408#, and #bi2007003405#); strong and independent judiciaries; a regional supreme court (items #bi2007003406#, #bi2007003419#, and #bi2007003420#) and increasingly well trained police forces.

These achievements, notwithstanding, Caribbean destinations have come under an international microscope in recent years following a number of incidents involving cruise ship visitors and other tourists. Extensive media coverage has been given to the 2005 disappearance of American teenager, Natalee Holloway, while on vacation in Aruba, which is considered one of the safest Caribbean destinations. And, on 27 May 2000, New York travel writer, Claudia Kirschhoch, disappeared without a trace while in Jamaica. These disappearances, strongly suggestive of criminal overtones, have taken place against a backdrop of organized armed gang activity in the region.

Informing and influencing perceptions and concern over rising crime and violence is the role of the media as reflected in the following sample of headlines from regional newspapers: "New Anti-Crime Unit—PM Outlines Ways to Curb 'Rampant Criminality,'" Jamaica Gleaner Sept. 4, 2000; "Murders, Rapes and Armed Robberies Up in the Bahamas," AP July 5, 2002; "Gunmen Shoot Bank Guards," Guyana Chronicle, July 21, 2002;"4 Charged With Yacht Killings (St. Vincent)," Barbados Nation July 14, 2002; "Child Prostitution Widespread in Jamaica," Jamaica Gleaner July 21, 2002; "KIDNAPPINGS," Trinidad Guardian July 29, 2002; "Armed Shootout With Police In City," Guyana Chronicle, Aug. 18, 2002; "Guard Killed for His Gun," Trinidad Express, Sept. 1, 2002; "Exodus of the Rich," Trinidad Guardian, Sept. 9, 2002; "Crime Wave Swamps Caribbean Tourist Destinations," CDNN, Oct. 13, 2005; "Savagery Untold!" Jamaica Gleaner Oct. 23, 2005; "Ransom Demands Made For 48 Victims," Trinidad Express Oct. 23, 2005; "SRP is Murder Victim Number 307," Trinidad Guardian Oct. 23, 2005; "Gunmen Go On Rampage in Jones Town, Arnett Gardens," Jamaica Observer Oct. 18, 2005; "Gangs in Schools Government Worried—JTA Wants Cameras and Metal Detectors," Jamaica Gleaner April 3, 2006; "Crime Risk to Caribbean Growth," BBC News Online, May 3, 2007. From Antigua and Barbuda to Guyana, and from Jamaica to Trinidad and Tobago, as well as to countries in between organized crime activities manifest themselves in the form of kidnappings for ransom, murder, extortion, protection rackets, drug trafficking, gun running, prostitution, domestic violence, and trafficking in stolen automobile and automobile parts, and human trafficking. Organized armed violence, therefore, is increasingly part of the social and political landscape of Caribbean (items #bi2007003418# and #bi2007003404#).

To complicate matters, victims frequently complain that local police are slow to respond and/or do not thoroughly investigate crimes. The insinuation is that a large percentage of criminal cases are left unresolved. However, according to the Miami Herald, of the millions of Americans who traveled abroad in 2004, the US State Department listed some 2,000 as missing (MiamiHerald.com, 25 July 2005). Therefore, it is not necessarily a lack of concern or even ineptitude on the part of local police officials, nor are these disappearances necessarily the result of foul play. Nevertheless, when crimes against tourists or visitors receive the level of media coverage given to the Holloway case, governments and other key stakeholders in the travel and hospitality industry are forced to allocate scarce resources to convince tourists and visitors that the destinations in which the victimization occurred are indeed safe. However, as S. Crystal argues, such sensational reporting has the tendency to take a relatively few crime incidents against tourists and create the impression that a particular destination holds a high level of risk for travelers (see "Welcome to Downtown USA," Meetings and Conventions, 28:3, p. 42–59).

Governments, tourism industry officials and other key stakeholders in the Caribbean do acknowledge that rising crime rates may adversely affect the region's tourism industry. Likewise, travel and hospitality officials within and outside the region are concerned that the incidence of crimes against tourists is rising despite the recorded data indicating a monotonic decline in recent years. This perception is driven in part by the fact the thousands of cruisers

Studies indicate that direct expenditure by the yachting sector contributes more than cruise ship tourism to national income ranging from 8 million dollars annually in St. Vincent and the Grenadines to 200 million dollars in the British Virgin Islands. See, for example, LC/CAR/G.737, 2003.

throughout the region tune to the 8:15 a.m. daily broadcasts of the Caribbean Safety and Security Net (CSSN) on SSB channel 8104.0 Khz, where they receive and report on incidents of crime or other types of victimization. The CSSN is affiliated with the Caribbean Cruising Association (CCA), whose database, which covers the period beginning 1997, contains over 500 incidents of victimization against cruisers, including theft, armed robbery and murder ( http://www.caribcruisers.com/security/).

There is also concern over the increasing number of tourists and visitors to the Caribbean who engage in various acts of criminality against other visitors as well as against the state. Regarding crime against other tourists and visitors, data indicate that tourists and visitors not only steal valuables belonging to other tourists and visitors, but they also engage in acts such as sexual assault and rape. And with regard to crimes against the state, Grenadian authorities, for example, indicate that tourists committed 141 crimes between 1998 and 2003. Of these crimes, 122 (84.7 percent) were drug related, while a smaller percentage involved stealing, money laundering, and assault. Therefore, perhaps no other complex phenomenon is more threatening to the two-generation-old democratic political system in the Caribbean than organized armed violence. What, then, explains rising and increasingly pervasive crime and violence in the Caribbean? This essay posits that two dynamic and interrelated factors that drive crime and violence in the Caribbean. Factor number one is the existence of a sometimes loose, sometimes tight relationship between the dominant political parties and organized crime gangs in the region, which maintain extensive links with international counterparts. And factor number two is the region's role as a transshipment point for illicit drugs, which fuels organized gang activity, the central criminal entities. Much of this crime and violence is proving worrisome for tourism, the mainstay of many of these economies. This pattern of crime and violence must be understood as part of the global economic and political forces that impact and impinge upon economic and social relations and political stability in the region.

That the economic viability of many countries in the region, generally, and the maintenance and enhancement of the region's position within the global tourism and travel industry, specifically, demands that the region commit itself to the interrelated issues of safety and security for national and international consumers of the various aspects of the national enterprise is slowly being acknowledged by regional leaders. They are increasingly aware of their vulnerabilities.

On the one hand, for example, their proximity to the US and the prevalence of numerous "soft targets," including hotels, cruise ships, airliners, and industrial sites such as Point Lisas Industrial Estate in Trinidad and Tobago, oil refineries in the Netherlands Antilles and St. Croix, as well as numerous oil storage facilities throughout the region, make the Caribbean a potential hot spot for political crimes (terrorism). Political crimes, therefore, are potentially damaging to economic viability of the region. On the other hand, there is the issue of crime of opportunity and harassment, which directly affects the tourism economy, and whose management lies within the capability of the governments in the region.

Above all, a major challenge for governments is addressing the growing number of "un-civil" society groups of organized gang activity loosely and not-so-loosely affiliated with the dominant political parties. These "covert networks" are criminal gangs, whose interests center most often on destruction or on enriching themselves at the expense of social and political stability. These groups are the result of a corruption of the political system whereby overt political entities seek short-term political gain by circumventing the overt political route to power. Once created, these entities are almost always impossible to contain thereby posing a threat to the stability of the political system that created them.

Given that the countries in the region are highly dependent on tourism, and given that crime and violence threaten to divert tourism flows and revenues and undermine democracy and stability, the time has come for these countries to increase their levels of cooperation and coordination in managing the effects of crime and violence. The openness of these economies and the implementation of the Caribbean Single Market and Economy (CSME) that now facilitates the flow of goods, services, and people for licit and illicit purposes calls for the implementation of a new and more robust crime-fighting architecture—a Caribbean Police System (CARIBPOL)—to serve the needs of the region. With regard to tourism specifically, an intelligence-led, region-wide Visitor Safety and Security Network is but one strategy. [CEG]

In 2006, René Préval was elected to a five-year term as President of Haiti. This followed the termination of Jean-Bertrand Aristide's presidency in 2004, and the interim government of Prime Minister Gérard Latortue and President Boniface Alexandre. In the course of official ceremonies on May 14, 2006, Préval became, in the subsequent words of a Haitian government Web site, "the country's 55th President." From a historic point of view, he became an elected president, heir to a complex chain of titles and a "struggle" for power at the genesis of Haiti." That history began with the assassination of Jean-Jacques Dessalines through the efforts of Alexandre Pétion and Henri Christophe: the first coup d'état (item #bi2006003322#). Indeed 2006 saw the election of a wide range of local officials, yet insecurity ensured the presence of the United Nations Stabilization Mission in Haiti (MINUSTAH). The Haitian National Police (HNP) remained responsible for law enforcement reinforced by CIVPOL, the civil policing contingent of MINUSTAH.

"Shalom, 2004" (item #bi2007003006#), written by Jean-Bertrand Aristide, was published in Pétionville as Haiti approached the 200th anniversary of its independence and as it was admitted to CARICOM. The large disconnect, present from the inception of this work, between the ceremonial language of Aristide's text and the devastating reality of the Haitian people gives resonance to writers concerned with the lack of stable institutions in Haiti. Both Clinton in Haiti (item #bi2007003003#) and Haiti, Rising Flames From Burning Ashes (item #bi2006003322#) examine the impact of seminal events and controlling interests upon Haiti's turbulent history and social infrastructure. Haïti et le développement (item #bi2007003005#) focuses upon the roles that agriculture and industry must play in the development of the country. The search for fresh perspectives that focus the mind may be seen in Communication et état de droit (item #bi2007003002#). Here, the work of Jürgen Habermas is used to reflect upon Haiti and the political sphere, communicative action, social theory, and the rule of law. The broader issue of the French Antilles produced works concerned with critical environmental concerns (item #bi2007000588#), historic strategic interests (item #bi2006000565#) and social paradox (item #bi2006000845#). [JFH]


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