The hard copy Trinidad Guardian of April 28, 2014 carried a blazing front page headline “Crime gangs Unmasked” but the question is what did the article on the inside reveal of value to those deeply concerned with understanding this reality of daily life in T&T? The article insists that there are two grand gangs in T&T today: the Muslim Gang and the Rasta City Gang. Both gangs are apex gangs which sit atop the pyramid of gangs in T&T today according to the report and the leadership of both gangs command and exercise control over the sub-units of both apex organisations. The first question arises is if there is a commission of leaders with a dominant leader responsible for managing gang business on a daily basis? Does this commission collect taxes from the underlings and enforce a business plan and discipline throughout the ranks of the gang to those lowest levels on the ground? This is not the reality on the ground.
Muslim v Rasta is the expression of a war for hegemony that broke out in Laventille in the decade of the 1980’s and has since gone through several phases of evolution to its present configuration. In 2014 it is a Brand as Gaza v Gully. In its evolutionary development there were instances of internecine warfare where Muslin and Rasta fell upon each other in a battle for dominance of turf that was in fact much more brutally intense than the war for turf between Rasta and Muslim. Then in the decade of the 1990’s and the first decade of the 21st century the most dominant leaders of the Rasta faction were not practising, believing Rastafarians. Rasta then became a description for those opposed to Muslim hegemony over specific areas/spaces of T&T. Those opposed to the rule of specific maximum leaders who were opposed to Muslim hegemony became Muslim as an expression of opposition not as an expression of acceptance and submission to Islamic discourse. Persons then bought into the Rasta v Muslim conflict without clarity as to what constitutes the conflict and their contributory role in it. Armed with illicit guns violence and mayhem flooded the spaces where this dance of the mythic enemy took place. The decade of the 1990’s witnessed the rise of the powerful maximum gang leaders on both sides of the mythic divide. What is noteworthy is that these maximum leaders did business across the divide and it was third tier leaders and lower through reckless acts of violence that were supposed to challenge the maximum leaders within the so-called groupings and across the grouping that led to the bout of warfare that continues to today whilst consuming the maximum leaders. It is then the lack of organisational discipline in the first place that commenced the wave of internecine and extra group violence and it is the lack of organisation and discipline that resulted in the extermination of as much as three tiers/ranks that existed under the maximum gang leaders.
With the shattering two streams survived: those who were connected to the illicit trades continued to grow in strength and wealth and those not connected banded together in small groups looking for living by controlling strips of the vast territory once dominated by the deceased maximum leaders. Those connected always knew that the wealth is in trafficking to the US and Europe and the incessant violence is bad for business. The strategy calls for establishing operations outside of areas incessantly under the gun. Before the arrival of the affiliates of the Mexican cartels in T&T the drug of choice was ganja and it still is. Those not connected sought a supply of ganja from the connected and ganja became the unifying cement to a new matrix between connected and unconnected but those left out started the ganja wars where the most common reason for gangland killings was ownership of ganja. You have it I want it I take it then the gun response and the spiral of violence. The Mexican cartel affiliates bring supply of product, access to trafficking pipelines, distribution structures in the consuming markets, access to a gun supply and military training and a franchise that yields wealth only imagined before. In exchange there must be discipline and order as defined by the Mexican cartels. The unconnected who choose to attack Mexican cartel operations will be dealt with graphic violence Mexican cartel style. A new unequal war has then started in T&T and Mexican cartels don’t care about Muslim v Rasta. Pax Mexicana