Tuesday, Nov 19, 2019
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Latin American drug cartels: the biggest threat of the Caribbean

Dear Editor,

Despite how much safer the Caribbean region is on matters of economic stability and less serious forms of crime compared to Central America. However, the larger set of Caribbean nations are plagued by rampant crime between petty and serious offences, more complex street gangs, compromised officials exposed to corruption and wasted funds on security forces and failed youth reform programs. Those countries are being destabilized by mere criminal gangs controlling the streets and corrupt officials who lay in bed with major gang leaders.

The problems from Jamaica, Haiti, The Bahamas, Barbados, and Trinidad and Tobago are beginning to spread to other countries in terms of rampant criminal activities and too many times we ask questions rather than simply investigating the plague of corruption and crime.

Yet, more people are killed by the hundreds.

While the issue can be connected to the lack of care for the young men and women who were left to survive alone on the streets, the other issue is the introduction of drug trafficking and extreme government corruption by the Colombian drug cartels and the modern day Mexican cartels.

The Bahamas was ground zero of cocaine smuggling because the Medellin Cartel owned Norman’s Cay and smuggled tons of cocaine from the island without any questions asked. Although the cartel had controlled Norman’s Cay for four years, the controversy doomed Sir Lynden and the PLP’s reputation for years and furthermore, the amount of money earned from cocaine smuggling enticed the local street gangs to compete for the trust of cocaine kingpins and drug cartels, resulting in a massive surge in homicides and other violent crimes in the country.

With the introduction of OPBAT, the cocaine smugglers were outnumbered and outmatched against the efforts of the Bahamian government and the DEA and the Medellin Cartel was forced to pull back smuggling operations in the Caribbean. Saving The Bahamas from being transformed into a narco-state.

Unfortunately, the damage to The Bahamas was already done, as the gangs here have grown too powerful and well connected with gun runners, making them more powerful and numerous than our police and defense force combined.

Worse, the Mexican drug cartels began to target other troubled Caribbean countries to expand their influence. Jamaica’s criminal gangs shifted from being just political bodyguards and hitmen, to drug smuggling groups and enterprises.

Haiti’s problems with gangs and rogue paramilitary units were amplified by more drug smuggling with illegal firearms being used to sell to others. Trinidad and Tobago’s proximity to Venezuela and Colombian rogue paramilitary groups in that country makes them highly or almost extremely vulnerable to drug smuggling and corrupting influence by cartel kingpins.

Latin American drug cartels have evolved over the last few decades to dominate Central America and the billions of dollars made from illicit cocaine, meth and Fentanyl has turned these simple smugglers into terrorist organizations who reign supreme over several Mexican states and the local government.

Why did I use the word terrorism?

Because for these drug cartels to survive the way they did, they try to bribe every government official to let their activities slide, and when they didn’t obey the cartel sicarios, they kidnap or kill the politician, other times throw their severed heads and bodies out on sidewalks. The Los Zetas and the Gulf Cartel ventured into extorting money from local businesses, when these business owners fail to pay cartel lieutenants, they’re marked for death along with their families. Many times, the sicarios park up to the business and open fire at the owner, killing multiple bystanders and turning the incident into a mass shooting.

The cartels set up narco-banners at public places or next to the corpses of victims, threatening civilians and law enforcement about retaliation attacks or shifting blame to other corrupt officials or rival cartels.

The drug lords have also refined their skills in psychological warfare. They’ll bribe local newspapers and news broadcasters, and warn them to avoid leaking the full scope of the cartels’ activities to the press and to U.S. news stations. If someone does expose them, then you guessed it, that person dies in the most horrible fashion they can think of.

In cartel-controlled towns, they mask their horrid crimes by playing Robin Hood. They organize community outreaches, gift donations and give out a false image of being saints when they commit human atrocities almost every other month of the year.

Then the testimonies of various investigators, police officers and even individuals formerly involved with drug lords tell international news reporters about how much terrible things they saw, how kids were caught in the crossfire, the power to hire ex-military instructors to train the sicarios into an elite force. All while the kids of cartel kingpins safely relax and flex their falsely earned wealth on Instagram with guns, cars, mansions and exotic animals.

Despite all of this, they’re still labelled as a typical criminal organization.

Many State Department officials and Homeland Security agents say that in order to make the list of being a foreign terrorist organization, the group must have extreme ideologies to threaten a local government to change to the group’s own ideals. Since they see that the Mexican cartels have no ideologies, they can’t be labeled under the FTO blacklist.

While the cartels have no extreme ideological motivation.

Their own business model is an extremely dangerous venture that has killed thousands of Mexicans and Americans on their journey to become the biggest player in the global illicit drug trade.

Having 28,000 people dead in 2017 and 33,000 dead last year shows clear evidence that these cartels have transformed Mexico into an identical clone of Afghanistan in terms of how far the cartels have destabilized the country, which is the same as how Al-Qaeda and the Taliban destabilized their own country.

The cartels will sometimes go out of their way to commit mass shootings and even bombing out homes, town halls and even a U.S. Embassy in 2008 using a set of grenades, torture hundreds and slaughter hundreds or thousands in months in a race to be the top player in Mexico. That is more than enough to have all drug cartels to be labeled as terrorists and every activity they commit will be labeled as terrorism.

Fortunately, President Donald Trump has decided to put this issue into the light and plans to label all active drug cartels as full on terrorist organizations under an executive order.

Under both the FTO designation and the Kingpin blacklist, Federal Agencies will have the authority to freeze bank accounts and investigate, blacklist and arrest company employees suspected of aiding a terrorist organization through receiving money from the terrorists without reporting the discovery to the police, directing your money in your bank account to aid terrorism, harboring a known terrorist suspect and leaking sensitive information to known terrorist cells. With both bills in place, U.S. Federal Agencies would have triple the amount of success convictions and successful operations against the cartels.

Additional military, intelligence and diplomatic assets will be utilized against the narco-terrorists such as with diplomatic pressure to extradite high risk cartel lieutenants and drug lords to the U.S. and other countries with reliable prosecution courts and secure prisons, due to the corrupt judicial courts that will manipulate the evidence to free cartel sicarios from custody and ensure immunity from being arrested again. If certain government individuals refuse to hand over cartel sicarios or extremists that have been recognized as a high priority threat, then those politicians can be held accountable for harboring terrorists and can be placed under an investigation.

If multiple political individuals are found supporting a drug cartel and refuse, then the U.S. should have a necessary reason to use diplomatic restrictions against that country until officials agree to work with the U.S. and turn the sicarios in.

Intelligence on people related or involved in supporting any drug cartels can be stored in a secure location and safe from any tampering. If there’s a court session involving terrorists or supporters of terrorism, then the gathered phone recordings, computer files and other evidence can greatly increase the chances of a successful conviction.

With how the Mexican cartels have military grade training and equipment. Further use of military force can be made necessary to curb the narco-terrorists’ activity. Strategic placement of troops, utilizing Special Forces to capture high risk drug lords, money launderers and kingpins, and ensuring the destruction of drug labs, dirty money banks, smuggling rings and the entire drug cartel.

Maybe all of those methods I mentioned won’t come true but I hope Trump can put these measures in place soon.

Because once the border wall goes up, the amount of drugs will change direction and head straight for the Caribbean. Unlike the U.S.-Mexico border, it’s impossible to put up a seawall.

The Caribbean’s military power is painfully too weak to put up against even a single drug cartel, having multiple drug cartels in the Caribbean competing for smuggling routes will destabilize the entire region and the problem will resemble Afghanistan. It is inevitable at this point, the Mexican cartels will use the Caribbean and if the sicarios themselves emerge onto the streets of Kingston, Port-au-Prince, Nassau and Port of Spain. It will turn bloodier, along with the current street gangs helping various cartels to smuggle drugs up to the U.S.

We still have a good chance to prevent that from happening. For starters we should work with the U.S. as CARICOM and all of us should fight to weed out the street gangs and politicians working with the drug cartels.

For my recommendations to CARICOM: We should adapt our own version of the Foreign Terrorist Organization and the kingpins blacklist systems, and the Mexican drug cartels and the rogue Colombian paramilitary groups must be placed under the blacklist immediately. It will be made law in many Caribbean countries to ensure full awareness of the situation, one of those measures is placing a terrorist watchlist and communication between other countries. If any signs of narco-terrorists are sighted in one country, then CARICOM officials can place that individual on the watchlist and if the terrorists are on a plane traveling to the next country, then the military and police officials can inform the other country to place troops on high alert to find and capture the sicarios.

More money should be invested in restructuring law enforcement and military forces to 21st century standards, along with naval frigates, helicopters and an effective command structure. They can be used to prevent a good percentage of crime, conduct counter-narcotics and counter-terrorism, prevent many cases of money laundering and ultimately secure the region, then youth reform programs and better economic practices can curb people away from being career criminals.

For my recommendations to the U.S. Embassy officials, the U.S. State Department and the U.S. Department of Defense: The foreign military funding program should include much more than just a tiny boat and a few parts.

The program should include more pieces of military hardware for soldiers and more serious training to prepare for the threats ahead. With assigning the Mexican cartels as terrorist organizations, more Federal agents must be placed in U.S. Embassies and to use new measures to weed out cartel sicarios and local gang members, local companies and bankers who support narco-terrorists.

The State Department and the White House should support stronger diplomatic relations to CARICOM to ensure healthy cooperation between bilateral security agreements between one country and the U.S.

Furthermore, the Department of Defense should use military contractors to aid more vulnerable Caribbean nations in buying weapons and other more critical military hardware for the countries to fight off the threats. The U.S. Navy’s 4th Fleet should be involved in securing the Caribbean and fighting against cocaine traffickers, along with Air Force assets to keep watch over the boats in the sea, the U.S. Marine Corps and Special Operations units deployed on land to capture narco-terrorists and gang members involved with supporting drug cartels in their activities in the region.

As much as we think of how safe we are in the Caribbean, things change on regional and national security levels. If we keep acting ignorant we’ll lose if the Mexican cartels revive the Caribbean drug trade. The border wall will change things for the kingpins, and once they set their sights to the Caribbean, we’ll be in grave danger. It’s better to understand the threat and put up a single big investment to finally spare the region of the biggest threat rather than throw and waste money on useless investments and remain ignorant. We must win in the long run.

– Ammaka Russell

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