Transnational Organised Crime and Murder 2019: Jamaica and Trinidad and Tobago
In 2019 the murder toll in T&T has surpassed that of 2018 becoming the second largest annual murder toll in the history of T&T with the toll of 2018 in third place. The first place is 2008 with 550 murders with a murder rate of 42.3 per 100,000, the second place is 2019 with 533 murders as at December 29, 2019 with a murder rate of 38.2 per 100,000 and in third place 2018 with 516 murders. The murder decade of T&T is the second decade of the 21st century in congruence with the revolutionary changes in the nature of the illicit trades of the Caribbean basin that were rolled out in this decade.
A comparison with the murder rate of Jamaica 2019 is enlightening given the common embrace by the oligarchies of both states of militarized policing and the trail blazing path of Jamaica in operationalisation of this discourse in the Caribbean island chain in this second decade of the 21st century. In 2019 Jamaica as at December 28, 2019, the murder toll was 1, 326 murders with a rate of 44.9 per 100,000 whilst T&T with less that half of the population of Jamaica has a 2019 murder rate of 38.2 per 100,000 indicating that T&T can well be on its way to presenting a new, unique model of violence in the social order of a Caribbean island state premised on the sheer scale and intensity of violence and crimes against the person in T&T. In Jamaica the communities of the working class, working poor and the underclass, characterized by the corrugated zinc/galvanized sheeting fences, dominate the geography of murder whilst the middle classes and especially the oligarchs are literally geographically, spatially and operationally living in another Jamaica. In T&T there are no spaces which exonerate its inhabitants from gangland T&T which points to the evolution of an operational instrument very much like Sao Paulo, Brazil. In Jamaica the parish of St James is the tourist capital and the command and control centre of illicit drug trafficking in Jamaica where both industries co-exist as the gun violence is concentrated in spaces under the occupation of poor, underclass Jamaica whilst the tourist trade continues practically unaffected. There is then a border in Jamaica where the oligarchy, what their own and the engines of the economy that operationalise their domination is buffered, insulated and vaccinated from the violence that engulfs poor Jamaica. In Jamaica this buffer zone is not only constructed and policed by the Jamaican State but also by Jamaican transnational organised crime. The parish of St Jame s is in this decade the murder capital of Jamaica and acts of murder, gun violence and other crimes which flouted the long hegemonic rule of the no-go zone openly indicate that a new order of the illicit trades is now hegemonic in Jamaica. In the operational reality of St James this assault on the hegemony of the no-go zone brought the expected responses from the two states of Jamaica: licit and illicit. The licit state unleashed militarized policing rooted in a state of emergency (SoE), in response to the 2018 murder toll of 1, 283 persons, in St James and in the adjoining parishes of Westmoreland and Hanover. Other state of SoEs exist in St Catherine, Clarendon and St Andrew South as the response to placing a specific space under a SoE is to seek alternate opportunities free of such an encumbrance. But the murder toll in 2019 in St James was higher than that of 2018 and in the island as a whole having 43 more murders than in 2018. In times past in Jamaica politicized Jamaican organised crime would have intervened to break the back of the present criminal insurgency by immersing it in a cauldron of wars of the political tribes combining with the state agencies to easily break the back of the insurgency. But in the 21st century transnational Jamaican organised crime fully integrated into the operational landscape of the MTTOs simply have no interest in playing the old game of political tribal wars as social control. Under the Sandokan model Jamaican organised crime in conjunction with the oligarchs and the State immersed the criminal insurgency in an assault that embraced the licit and illicit operational worlds choking the life out of it. But in the second decade of the 21st century Jamaican transnational organised crime is in fact generating the criminal insurgency as the new business model has established on the ground the new division of the illicit world of the have and the have nots. Jamaican transnational organised crime dominates the illicit drug trade of Jamaica, they control operational space in the ports and airports and those in Jamaica not affiliated to them are starved of supply and squeezed of operational space in which to earn. Those in the zinc-fenced communities with a penchant for graphic violence, indiscipline and poor earning skills are simply squeezed out. The have nots then constitute the army of the criminal insurgency where those excluded from the booming illicit trades of Jamaica, especially the export trades, wage war on the poor and underclass communities by attacking persons in those communities marked as assets of the new order or simply dispensing murder and mayhem without strategy, rhyme nor reason. The death dance of an old, illicit order marked for extinction. Whilst in Montego Bay the capital of St James parish the criminal insurgency moves publicly to destroy the buffer zone of the oligarchs which is the potent indicator of the nature of this war and its origin. The murder and the mayhem in the zinc fenced communities make no strategic sense in the war as Jamaican transnational organised crime depends on foreign consumer markets to earn through illicit exports not the control of spaces of the Jamaican poor. Jamaican transnational organised crime does not hesitate to protect its interests, police its hegemony on the ground which it expresses through instruments of power as The Cleansing presently underway in Jamaica which is no respecter of spaces and its occupants and when strategically necessary will relentlessly assault the hallowed buffer zones, the no-go zones of the oligarchy as illustrated by events in Spanish Town over a period of years.
The Jamaican politicians have embraced the discourse of militarized policing but the present JLP government is brandishing it as a the cudgel to break the back of the criminal insurgency rooted in a series of SoEs thereby seeking to normalize the SoE as an everyday instrument of policing in Jamaica. But in the application of this militarized policing Jamaican transnational organized crime flourishes as their hegemony on the ground is enhanced never challenged. The fact that six SoEs and two zones of special operations (ZOSOs) failed to reduce the murder toll in 2019 to a level beneath that of 2018 indicates that these are just holding actions, crime suppression at best as there is no dismantling of organised crime groups on the ground to change the power relations of the illicit world, whilst transnational organised crime groups remain sacrosanct. This is then political action with a view towards winning the next general election.
Brigadier Radge Mason of the Jamaica Defense Force (JDF) in an interview published in the Jamaica Observer online states: “The current situation the country faces is that we are in the top five most murderous countries in the world. These enhanced security measures aim to treat with these situations. They are not solutions in themselves. It is an interim measure to cause some greater efficiencies to mature.” In the context of the parishes under SoEs it is only Jamaican transnational organised crime groups that are realizing efficiencies as the Jamaican Constabulary Force (JCF) is now publicly exposing its factions and power relations to the gaze of the public as militarized policing stresses policing, the judiciary and the prisons, with no commensurate benefits reaped on the ground. This is the model that has captured the imagination of the politicians of T&T going into the third decade of the 21st century.
In T&T, transnational organised crime has established its new order rooted in its new business model on the ground and is policing its hegemony via the instrument of The Cleansing. The power relations between the have and have not is superseding the longstanding wars between factions of gangland driving the murder toll to levels on a consecutive annual basis never seen before. The most intense generator of violence in the illicit trades, the ganja wars, are presently mutating to reflect the new order of transnational organised crime on the ground with heightened intensity. Whilst transnational organised crime is increasing the volume of illicit drugs transshipped through T&T to the EU, USA and Africa and expanding the range and volume of drugs available of local wholesale and retail markets.
The ruling politicians of T&T have responded with a drive to legislate a punitive assault on crime whilst the state agencies are crippled by inertia, incapable of responding as needed to the threat at hand. The approach to crime reduction is illustrated by the Police Service where under a new police commissioner appointed in August 2018 it remains business as usual, where interventions previously tried and failed are brought back under different names and re-applied without success. In this operational scenario the necessary deep seated regeneration of state institutions now vitally necessary is perpetually postponed. In this operational reality there is then no obstacles presented by the state to the hegemony of transnational organised crime in T&T hence there is only uncertainty as to the murder toll in 2020 and thereafter as our destiny is in the hands of transnational organised crime and their business model not the State of T&T. As the escalating murder toll arose from changes in the power relations of the illicit trades, any deescalation in the murder toll which will be eagerly claimed by the agents of the state, will be the product of the evolution of the power relations of the illicit trades under the hegemony of transnational organised crime. The government of Venezuela reported a murder rate of 20 per 100,000 persons in 2019 illustrating potently that the present business model of the MTTOs can in fact so immerse a social order with a tsunami of product and its trafficking imperative to foreign markets that peace reigns in the illicit world. You simply give them the pound of flesh they demand in return. Pax Mexicana!