BASSETERRE, ST. KITTS – The United States Department of State has listed St. Kitts and Nevis among the Eastern Caribbean states, that host abundant trans-shipment points for illicit narcotics primarily from Venezuela destined for North American, European and domestic Caribbean markets.
The 2016 International Narcotics Control Strategy Report (INCSR) authored by the Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement regards 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, as the Eastern Caribbean (EC).
“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,” it said, adding: “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,” said the Report.
It added that the St. Vincent Drug Squad reported a surge in the trans-shipment 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.”
According to statistics shared with U.S. authorities, the Report pointed out that over the first nine months of 2015, drug seizures in the Eastern Caribbean increased over 2014 and totalled approximately 6.65 metric tons (MT) of cocaine and 1.11 MT of marijuana.
Although St. Kitts and Nevis recorded a 10 percent increase in murders up from 28 in 2015 to 31 in 2016, the U.S. State Department report noted that 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 Eastern Caribbean states, though very little is produced in Barbados,” said the report.
The U.S. Department of State report also noted that consecutive years of declining macroeconomic growth leave Eastern Caribbean law enforcement capacity increasingly beleaguered.
It said that Eastern Caribbean governments have made some improvements to still antiquated criminal codes and political leaders, however, have largely failed to address public concerns about official corruption.