Measures taken by authorities to combat drug-trafficking; involvement of police officers in drug-related criminal activity (2003-2005) [VCT100499.E]

According to United States (US) government sources, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines was the "largest producer [and exporter] of marijuana in the Eastern Caribbean" and a "storage and transhipment point for narcotics, mostly cocaine, transferred from Trinidad and Tobago and South America" in small boats (International Narcotics Control Strategy Report 2005 Mar. 2005; US Sept. 2003). Moreover, the International Narcotics Control Strategy Report 2005 mentioned that the drug trade's influence on the national economy "made some segments of the population dependent on marijuana production, trafficking and money laundering" (Mar. 2005). In June 2005, the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) reported that "an estimated 2,500" farmers aged between 15 and 45 cultivated marijuana throughout the country (16 June 2005; see also St. Vincent June 2003). The Associated Press (AP) reported that "[s]ome farmers have begun to grow marijuana in an attempt to recover lost income after tropical storms destroyed their crops" (17 June 2005).

State efforts to combat drug trafficking include legislation, eradication, seizure of drug shipments, and the apprehension of suspects involved in the drug trade (International Narcotics Control Strategy Report 2005 Mar. 2005; OAS 2004; St. Vincent June 2003). According to a 2003-2004 evaluation of progress in drug control, published by the Inter-American Drug Abuse Control Commission (CICAD) of the Organization of American States (OAS), Saint Vincent has ratified a number of international conventions, including the 1988 United Nations (UN) Convention against Illicit Traffic in Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances (OAS 2004, 1; see also International Narcotics Control Strategy Report 2005 Mar. 2005). However, the CICAD report also noted that Saint Vincent "has not enacted any legislation or regulations in accordance with the international conventions that were signed" during the period of evaluation, and has not ratified other agreements such as the 2000 UN Convention against Transnational Organized Crime (OAS 2004, 2).

The Special Services Unit (SSU) of the Royal St. Vincent Police Force is largely responsible for marijuana eradication efforts (St. Vincent June 2003, 13). According to information provided by Saint Vincent authorities, the SSU carries out drug "eradication exercises" three to four times a year and also conducts larger joint operations with US law enforcement (ibid.). Statistics published by the US State Department's Bureau for International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs show that St. Vincent law enforcement personnel eradicated 108,758 marijuana plants in 2002 (International Narcotics Control Strategy Report 2002 Mar. 2003), 36,000 plants in 2003 (International Narcotics Control Strategy Report 2003 Mar. 2004) and 175,025 plants in 2004 (International Narcotics Control Strategy Report 2005 Mar. 2005).

Vincentian authorities indicated that law enforcement measures to combat drugs are coordinated mainly by the police, customs and coast guard (US Sept. 2003). Statistics outlining the number of drug seizures made by law enforcement varied (OAS 2004, 6; International Narcotics Control Strategy Report 2005 Mar. 2005). For example, in 2004, the CICAD noted that law enforcement seized 9,694 kilograms (kg) of cocaine and 460,328 kg of marijuana (OAS 2004, 6), while the International Narcotics Control Strategy Report 2005 stated that by the end of November 2004 police had seized 28 kg of cocaine and about 2,027 kg of marijuana (Mar. 2005). According to the CICAD, while a "system for exchanging operational information among national entities and international counterparts" exists, there reportedly "is no formal mechanism to evaluate the effectiveness of this system" (OAS 2004, 6). In addition, the CICAD reported that the government of Saint Vincent noted a "lack of coordination between relevant and responsible agencies" related to information exchange on drug control measures (ibid.).

Apprehension of suspects connected to the drug trade was another measure law enforcement used to combat narcotics trafficking (International Narcotics Control Strategy Report 2005 Mar. 2005; OAS 2004, 6). In the mid 1980s the police reportedly created a drug squad to execute search warrants and conduct random raids and operations with "information received from local intelligence" (St. Vincent June 2003). In 2004, the International Narcotics Control Strategy Report 2005 noted, 375 individuals (Mar. 2005) were arrested for drug-related offences, in comparison to 340 persons in 2003 (International Narcotics Control Strategy Report 2003 Mar. 2004). Additionally, the CICAD reported that in 2004 a total of 261 suspects were charged and 170 convicted for drug trafficking and possession, in comparison to 682 charged and 494 convicted in 2003 (OAS 2004, 6).

News articles of May and June 2005 reported on an international dispute in which Barbados accused Saint Vincent of doing a poor job in combating drug trafficking (BBC 16 June 2005; FBIS 15 June 2005; ibid. 7 May 2005). In particular, the Barbadian Prime Minister Owen Arthur claimed Saint Vincent was not doing enough to curtail the flow of marijuana that was reportedly threatening Barbados' national security (ibid. 15 June 2005; BBC 16 June 2005). Vincentian Prime Minister Ralph Gonsalves "angrily refuted the allegations" and Deputy Police Commissioner Cyril Doyle noted that "marijuana-related arrests" occur daily in Saint Vincent (ibid.). However, Commissioner Doyle also mentioned that law enforcement faced a difficult task in trying to patrol all the islands that make up St. Vincent and in accessing the "mountainous areas where the marijuana is grown" (ibid.). Another factor that hindered law enforcement of marijuana was the perception of sympathy that many, including the police, have towards people who grow marijuana because of the country's difficult economic conditions (ibid.). While Prime Minister Gonsalves noted that "contrary to popular belief," the majority of citizens in Saint Vincent are against drug trafficking, he did acknowledge that many people were tolerant of personal marijuana use (FBIS 7 May 2005).

Information regarding police involvement in drug-related criminal activity was scarce among the sources consulted by the Research Directorate. In 2004, the CICAD stated that the government was unable to provide information about its efforts to address acts of police corruption related to the drug trade (OAS 2004, 10). However, Freedom House did mention that after US authorities had accused "high-level government officials [of being] involved in narcotics-related corruption," in 1995, the Vincentian government has reportedly made greater efforts to cooperate with the US to curtail drug trafficking (23 Aug. 2004). One element of this improved bilateral collaboration was the endorsement of a 1996 extradition treaty with the US (Freedom House 23 Aug. 2004). Subsequently, US authorities have reportedly "received good cooperation" from St. Vincent law enforcement (International Narcotics Control Strategy Report 2005 Mar. 2005). For example, the International Narcotics Control Strategy Report 2005 described Saint Vincent police as "extremely cooperative in executing search warrants pursuant to a U.S. MLAT [mutual legal assistance treaty] that resulted in approximately U.S. $350,000 worth of confiscated property" (ibid.).

AP also reported that the US had made helicopters available to assist local law enforcement access areas of difficult terrain where the majority of marijuana is grown (17 June 2005). In addition, Prime Minister Gonsalves noted in June 2005 that his government was in the process of purchasing US$1.5 million "worth of equipment to help the coast guard combat drug trafficking" (AP 17 June 2005).

This Response was prepared after researching publicly accessible information currently available to the Research Directorate within time constraints. This Response is not, and does not purport to be, conclusive as to the merit of any particular claim for refugee protection. Please find below the list of additional sources consulted in researching this Information Request.

References


Associated Press (AP). 17 June 2005. Duggie Joseph. "St. Vincent Denies Barbadian Leader's Allegations that It is Soft on Marijuana." (Factiva)

British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) Caribbean. 16 June 2005. "Vincy Ganja Swamping Barbados." http://bbc.co.uk/caribbean [Accessed 11 Aug. 2005]

Foreign Broadcast Infromation Service (FBIS). 15 June 2005. "Highlights: Caribbean Islands Press 15 Jun 05." (WNC/Dialog)

____. 7 May 2005. " Highlights: Caribbean Islands Press 6 May 05." (WNC/Dialog)

Freedom House. 23 August 2004. "Saint Vincent and the Grenadines." Freedom in the World 2004. http://www.freedomhouse.org/research/freeworld/2004/countryratings/stvincent-grenadines.htm [Accessed 15 Aug. 2005]

International Narcotics Control Strategy Report 2005. March 2005. United States (US) Department of State, Bureau for International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs http://www.state.gov/g/inl/rls/nrcrpt/2005/vol/html/42365.htm [Accessed 3 Aug. 2005]

International Narcotics Control Strategy Report 2003. March 2004. US Department of State, Bureau for International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs http://www.state.gov/g/inl/rls/nrcrpt/2003/vol1/html/29834.htm [Accessed 16 Aug. 2005]

International Narcotics Control Strategy Report 2002. 31 March 2003. US Department of State, Bureau for International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs http://www.state.gov/g/inl/rls/nrcrpt/2002/html/17945.htm [Accessed 16 Aug. 2005]

Organization of American States (OAS). 2004. Inter-American Drug Abuse Control Commission (CICAD). "Saint Vincent and the Grenadines." Evaluation of Progress in Drug Control 2003-2004. (OEA/Ser.L/XIV.6.1 MEM/INF.2004 Add.28) http://www.cicad.oas.org/MEM/ENG/Reports/Progress_2003-2004/Hemispheric%20-%20ENG.pdf [Accessed 3 Aug. 2005]

Saint Vincent and the Grenadines. June 2003. National Drug Information System. Annual National Report 2002. http://www.unodc.org/pdf/barbados/st.vincent_grenadines_report_2002.pdf [Accessed 10 Aug. 2005]

United States (US). September 2003. Drug Enforcement Administration. Drug Intelligence Brief: The Drug Trade in the Caribbean: A Threat Assessment. http://www.usdoj.gov/dea/pubs/intel/03014/03014.pdf [Accessed 9 Aug. 2005]

Additional Sources Consulted


Internet sites, including: Amnesty International, Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC), European Country of Origin Information Network (ECOI), Factiva, Human Rights Watch, United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), World News Connection (WNC).