What the report states
Trinidad and Tobago
Trinidad and Tobago’s location, porous borders, and direct transportation routes to Europe, West Africa, Canada, and the United States make it an ideal location for cocaine and marijuana transshipment. Drug production and use in Trinidad and Tobago (TT) centers on marijuana, but other drugs, including cocaine, heroin, solvents, pharmaceuticals, and ecstasy, are also available.
The Government of Trinidad and Tobago has long struggled to effectively coordinate and adequately fund its counternarcotics efforts. Interdiction efforts are robust and continuing, but overall seizures in 2012 were down from 2011. Treatment efforts for cocaine addiction, including crack cocaine, place a significant burden on rehabilitation facilities. Many state-supported drug prevention and treatment programs must raise additional operating funds from local and international donors. Sustainability, corruption, and gaps in legislative and organizational implementation remain challenges to the country’s efforts to curb the trafficking and use of illegal narcotics.
B. Drug Control Accomplishments, Policies, and Trends
1. Institutional Development
Trinidad and Tobago’s drug control institutions continue to be challenged by deficiencies in staffing, organization, funding, and interagency communication. Barriers to interagency communication persist as supply-side operational units only work together on specific cases and do not trust one another due to allegations and rumors of corruption. Operational units are also heavily dependent upon international donors for physical assets such as cars, computers, or tactical equipment that repeatedly go unfunded by government budget streams.
The National Drug Council (NDC) and National Alcohol and Drug Abuse Prevention Programme (NADAPP) received funding increases in TT’s 2013 budget. These funds will be used to expand demand reduction programs, public awareness campaigns, and usage studies. Furthermore, the NDC, working closely with the Organization of American States’ Inter-American Drug Abuse Control Commission (OAS/CICAD) and the Canadian High Commission, launched a pilot drug treatment court for chemically dependent offenders in September and plans to open two more pilot courts in the first half of 2013. The NDC is also leading the revision of the National Anti-Drug Plan (2008-2012) of Trinidad and Tobago.
Trinidad and Tobago’s mutual legal assistance treaties with the United States, Canada, and United Kingdom remain in force. The United States also maintains a maritime law enforcement agreement, an extradition treaty, and a narcotics control and law enforcement letter of agreement with Trinidad and Tobago. Several pieces of anti-crime legislation progressed on the path to proclamation in 2012, most notably regarding asset forfeiture, electronic monitoring, and the admission of DNA into evidence.
2. Supply Reduction
Marijuana is the only known locally produced illicit narcotic. Producers are small farmers, often families seeking additional income. Crop production may be interspersed among other crops or planted intermittently among dense vegetation in the mountainous regions. There is no average field size or large controlling syndicate, but local producers compete with imports from St. Vincent and the Grenadines, Jamaica, Grenada, and Guyana.
Other illicit substance operations – primarily cocaine, but also small amounts of heroin and ecstasy – are trafficked through the country by international organized crime groups operating in Trinidad and Tobago, exploiting its close proximity to Venezuela and weaknesses at ports of entry. The main destination for these substances is the European market.
Law enforcement entities in Trinidad and Tobago seized 146.3 kilograms (kg) of cocaine and 2.26 metric tons of marijuana in 2012 and made five major seizures at seaports during the year. National seizures and interdictions, however, were down for the year in comparison to 2011, while trends in importation, production, and usage are conjectured to have remained static. The root cause for the decrease in seizures is unknown, but may be attributable to cyclical variations in trafficking methodologies, which commonly result in seizure reductions for a period of time.
Similarly, narcotics prosecutions, convictions, and extraditions continued to remain low relative to the scale of drug trafficking in Trinidad and Tobago. While 4,027 people were arrested for possession and another 468 for trafficking, only 58 small scale traffickers were convicted during the year.
3. Drug Abuse Awareness, Demand Reduction, and Treatment
Most information on drug-use trends in Trinidad and Tobago is anecdotal, as empirical evidence on usage trends is limited. The National Alcohol and Drug Abuse Prevention Programme, in cooperation with the National Drug Council, plan to conclude secondary school and prison-based usage surveys in early 2013.
The primary drug used in Trinidad and Tobago is marijuana, with cocaine, including crack cocaine, the second-most frequently used drug. Use of ecstasy, solvents, pharmaceuticals, and heroin has been reported. Rehabilitation providers are particularly concerned by the increasingly younger age of initiation into drug usage and the growing availability of heroin.
The rising price of drugs, specifically of the so-called “black” cigarettes that combine tobacco and marijuana with cocaine, indicates that the middle and upper classes are increasingly involved in recreational drug use. Given the close-knit nature of Trinidad and Tobago society, wealthier or politically affiliated persons would seek or send family members to treatment in Antigua, Barbados, or the United States. On Tobago, the main tourist destination, visitors are partly responsible for the demand.
There are 10 substance abuse residential rehabilitation programs that are publicly and privately supported, providing less than 200 beds for a population of 1.2 million. Only one facility, with 14 beds, specifically addresses the needs of female addicts and their minor dependents. There is no residential rehabilitation program specifically designated for minors, so most are placed in delinquent youth homes operated by religious organizations or receive out-patient treatment. Non-governmental organizations, religious groups, and hospitals also provide treatment options, as well as inpatient, outpatient and prison-based modalities that last from several weeks to two years.
Drug prevention efforts include school education at all levels; training for educators; anti-drug media campaigns; and special event outreach. Outreach programs are performed by the NADAPP in conjunction with rehabilitation facility counselors and members of the police services. The government is working to strengthen its programs with the assistance of OAS/CICAD.
The Government of Trinidad and Tobago neither encourages nor facilitates illicit production or distribution of drugs nor the laundering of proceeds from the sale of illicit drugs. No charges of drug-related corruption were filed against senior government officials in 2012. Media and anecdotal reports of corruption in the ranks of the Police Service, Defense Force, Customs and Excise Division, and port employees are common.
C. National Goals, Bilateral Cooperation, and U.S. Policy Initiatives
The United States government’s regional security partnership, the Caribbean Basin Security Initiative (CBSI), began in 2010 with goals of reducing illicit trafficking, increasing public safety and security, and promoting social justice. Trinidad and Tobago’s CBSI programming focuses on law enforcement, military strengthening, youth development, juvenile justice, and demand reduction. In 2012, the United States trained hundreds of military and law enforcement personnel, with specific courses on tactical event management, the use of intercept software for law enforcement intelligence gathering, and canine handler training. Training was also provided to Trinidad and Tobago’s Coast Guard to boost maritime law enforcement capacity.
Regional projects are also underway in maritime and aerial domain awareness; law enforcement information-sharing; law enforcement capacity-building; corrections reform; criminal justice reform; preventing financial crimes; demand reduction; and reducing illicit trafficking in firearms.
The entities and individuals working to combat narcotics in Trinidad and Tobago face considerable challenges and insufficient support from political leadership. Additional reforms are necessary to expedite case prosecution, revise outdated laws, and establish an evidence-based criminal justice system as fundamental prerequisites for raising conviction rates and deterring traffickers. Insufficient interagency cooperation and information sharing remain concerns. The Government of Trinidad and Tobago should take concrete steps to address these issues in order to improve the country’s narcotics control efforts in the coming years.