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Column 072913 Brewer

Monday, July 29, 2013

Security Failures in the Caribbean are Posing Serious Threats

By Jerry Brewer

Defining the existing risks and threats to the nations of the Caribbean Basin and the United States needs to be more than mere words that scare, intimidate or simply cause one to turn the page and look at something more pleasant.

The dialogue must expand beyond astronomical homicide rates, gang and gun violence, illicit drug trafficking, kidnapping, extortion, human trafficking, and related violence.

What might the other threats consist of and how do they correlate?

Actually, all of these have the potential to undermine hopes for socio-economic development, while they continue to increase corruption at many levels of government -- including the police and military.  This form of criminality is driven by the spokes emanating from a hub of corrupt officials that grease the corridors for illicit behavior.

Within these powerful hidden enclaves of greed and power there are networks of facilitators, service providers and professionals in a blend of illegitimate and legitimate businesses that have actually crippled the development and progress of many nations within the region. Some have professed near social collapse and failed state status.

And it is within these diseased environments of criminality where governments and crime apparently embrace, where transnational organized crime flourishes with worldwide markets that far exceed the gross national product of many nations. This criminal convergence manifests itself through financial and cyber-crimes, and key sectors of economies that encroach upon and influence law and judicial sectors.

Enforcement and security is impacted beyond simple corruption with the quasi-legal facilitation by professionals providing opportunities and legal loopholes, as well as avenues for the laundering of massive illicit proceeds into a free market. The expertise of these unscrupulous and often complicit professionals hinders and undermines true justice.

Nations, especially in the Caribbean Basin that have thrived for decades with proceeds from tourism, have witnessed depleted government revenues from taxes and customs, slow economic growth, and decreased foreign investment due to organized crime.

Consequently, today more than ever, citizens and visitors alike must be shielded by a skilled and effective security infrastructure to help nations and jurisdictions across the hemisphere to reach their full economic and growth potentials. Defining and developing regional joint priorities and strategies to increase security and the safety of the public, while promoting social justice and justice sector reforms, must be top priorities. Too, there must be a keen focus on education, training and anti-corruption initiatives.

Drug traffickers from Venezuela have severely impacted anti-narcotics officials in the Dominican Republic. The National Drugs Control Agency (DNCD) exposed an alliance between military personnel and business interests in October of 2012, with 15 arrests that included the owner of a domestic airline.  The Dominican Republic was used as a hub for drug trafficking that included payments to military and air traffic controllers. Six airplanes were also seized as part of the operation.

The corridor between the Dominican Republic and Puerto Rico has given rise to a more focused drug interdiction surveillance, mainly intended to monitor go-fast boats and other vessels.

Although the Royal Bahamian Police Force boasts of an aggressive crime prevention plan to "reduce violence and driving [sic] down the fear of crime," they clearly do not have sufficient resources to effectively patrol their vast chain of islands.

Over 4,000 keys, spanning the 4,800 kilometers of Cuban coastline, provide cover for speedboats and fishing vessels.

Puerto Rico and the US Virgin Islands have been labeled "high intensity drug trafficking areas (HIDTA)." As well, much of the drug interdiction concentrated on Venezuela and Colombia has shifted to drug air transportation routes from the Dominican Republic to the eastern Caribbean.  Puerto Rico is a major commercial gateway to the US, both in terms of frequent air traffic and freighter shipments to mainland destinations.

Police Corruption in Puerto Rico has been rampant. The Justice Department recently pledged $10 million to the Puerto Rican government "to combat police corruption, extrajudicial killings and civil rights violations."  Justice Department officials reported that from January 2005 to November 2010, there were more than 1,709 arrests of officers for charges that range from theft to murder and drug trafficking.

Transnational organized crime networks are diversifying and always expanding. They continue to destabilize countries and corrupt officials as they leave a trail of death and violence. They are primarily motivated by huge profits, power and prestige. These crime groups operate through fluid networks rather than more formal hierarchies, which provides them increased flexibility, low visibility, diversity and longevity.

The Caribbean Basin must be a strategic security priority, in which threats and risks have to be defined and properly assessed. Regional cooperation will improve the economic viability of the region, as well as the quality of life.

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Jerry Brewer is C.E.O. of Criminal Justice International Associates, a global threat mitigation firm headquartered in northern Virginia.  His website is located at http://www.cjiausa.org/.


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