Framing the War on Drugs – Trinidad and Tobago (TnT)

Governments the world over face a problem with drugs and the benefits of the trade. Illegal drugs are as much a business as any other, and the criminal organizations typically have defined structures, pay scales, and most importantly take greater risks, yielding higher profit margins. Here in a nutshell is the crux of the solution… the benefits of  any action should be objectified (stated goals), and framed against the backdrop of  “increasing the risk of success” and/or “reducing the profit margins” of the drug trade.

The impact of the drug trade on society is crippling, and this can be seen by an increase in the number of murders per year. [1][2]

Comparison of Annual Number of Murders in Trinidad & Tobago

 

 

Although NYC has a population of 8.18 mil[3] (vs 1.32mil for TnT)[4], they share a comparable number of murders, ( with the caveat that the number of NYC murders peaked at 2245 in 1990). [5] The 2010 NYC numbers represent a drop of 76% from the 1990 high, and by the same token a 76% drop from the TnT peak of 550 in 2008 would result in an expectation of 131 murders, (objective).

 

Trinidad and Tobago is not a poster child for the war against drugs, and there are many international experiences to glean experience from.

 

Veronica Guerin (5 July 1958 – 26 June 1996) was an Irish crime reporter who was murdered on 26 June 1996 by drug lords, an event which, alongside the murder of Detective Garda Jerry McCabe three weeks earlier, helped establish the Criminal Assets Bureau [6], (integral in the confiscation of unexplained wealth of druglords).

 

In New York City (NYC) the main success factors were the New York City Police Department‘s adoption of CompStat (use of Computer/Comparative Statistics, broken windows policing (increased police presence)) and improved gun possession reform. [7]

 

In 2007 Dominican President Leonel Fernández borrowed $93.7 million from Brazil and purchased eight Super Tucanos, the fast and agile single-engine turbo prop manufactured by Brazilian aerospace corporation Embraer. Fernández “took a lot of heat for it,” says Eduardo Gamarra, a U.S.-based advisor to the President. “That’s a lot of money for the country.”Today the heat is off: the Super Tucanos turned out to be an unusually worthwhile drug-war investment. Since taking delivery of the planes in 2009, the Dominican Air Force says it has driven away drug flights to the point that they no longer enter the country’s airspace. Other Latin American countries, including Colombia, which has used the Super Tucano to take out drug-trafficking Marxist rebels, and Peru, where the plane has shot down the kind of drug flights that used to evade aerial interdiction, report similar success.[8]

In Mexico over 22,000 people have been killed since the start of the war against narcotraffic, from Dec. 2006 to Mar. 2010 (when president Calderon started his term).[9]

What the data shows is different strategies combining technology, the military, police, legal reform, the press, and public angst are all critical components in the fight against drugs.  Understanding the efficacy of the strategies involved requires an analysis of these components, their synergies, and their  strengths or weaknesses at any given time within each sovereign nation.

 

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