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Caribbean Islands-Narcotics Crime

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According to the New York Times, reporting on information from a United States and British law enforcement conference held in Miami in July 1987, a widespread Jamaican criminal organization consisting of about twenty gangs of illegal aliens was operating in fifteen metropolitan areas in the United States and trafficking in firearms and drugs between Florida and Jamaica. A United States government official described the gangs as the fastest growing and most violent of the criminal groups operating in the United States. Between 400 and 500 homicides in the United States in the previous two years were attributed to these self-described "posses." Seaga government officials have stated publicly that many of the guns in Jamaica were flown in by narcotics traffickers from Florida and other Gulf Coast locations and landed on illegal airstrips or deserted roads.

Marijuana production in Jamaica, especially western Jamaica, has increased dramatically since the mid-1960s, even though production of the drug has been illegal since 1913. As the major illicit drug activity on the island, cannabis cultivation has been of particular concern to the Seaga government. By the mid-1980s, an estimated 20 percent or less of the marijuana produced in Jamaica was consumed locally; the rest was smuggled to other countries. Jamaica was supplying an estimated 10 to 15 percent of the total amount of marijuana smuggled into the United States each year. Marijuana traffickers included members of every ethnic group in Jamaica, as well as "United States citizens," according to the minister of public utilities and transport. Moreover, the minister reported in late 1984 that more than 50 percent of the people involved in marijuana also were involved in cocaine. Jamaica was rapidly becoming a major cocaine transshipment point for Latin American suppliers to the North American market.

The Jamaican government has been firmly committed to reducing marijuana cultivation. In 1972 a special JCF narcotics squad began combatting the growing use and illegal export of drugs. After three police members were killed and mutilated by marijuana growers in December 1983, the government began cracking down harder on cultivators by stepping up eradication and confiscation efforts. Although limited by a lack of equipment and other resources, the thirty-three-member squad and JDF Eradication Units carried out many successful operations against marijuana traffickers in the mid-1980s. The security forces also have attempted to damage illegal air strips with explosives (twenty-three damaged in 1986), but in many cases they were quickly rebuilt by the traffickers.

In the mid-1980s, the United States urged Jamaica to undertake large-scale eradication using "slash-and-burn" methods and chemical weed-killers, but these proposals met with growing resistance in a country where marijuana is referred to as "the poor man's friend." In May 1985, the Jamaican government asked for increased United States assistance in combatting drug production and in assisting farmers to introduce alternative high-yield crops. Seaga also announced in December 1986 that the country would begin herbicidal backpack-spraying in order to avoid jeopardizing United States economic aid to Jamaica. The 1986 eradication figures of 2,756 hectares were a record, but that year smugglers exported twice as much marijuana to the United States as normal. In the mid-1980s, the United States increased aid to Jamaica's narcotics interdiction and eradication programs, earmarking more than US$2.6 million in 1986 for this purpose, as compared with US$45,000 in 1985.

The narcotics squad has cooperated with United States law enforcement officers. Jamaican authorities have alerted United States authorities about vessels and small aircraft suspected of carrying narcotics directly from Jamaica or in transit from other Latin American countries. The United States Coast Guard has stopped and searched those carriers whenever possible. Commercial airlines flying between the United States and Jamaica incurred millions of dollars in fines in the 1985-87 period as a result of substantial quantities of marijuana being discovered aboard their aircraft.

In 1986 a total of 4,123 persons, including 782 foreigners (608 Americans, 78 Canadians, and 50 Britons) were arrested for various breaches under Jamaica's Dangerous Drugs Act. Measures used by the security forces to reduce the extent of trafficking included road blocks, surveillance of air and sea craft, and the use of trained dogs at international airports and sea terminals.

Data as of November 1987

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