Trinidad & Tobago has declared a limited state of emergency in areas across the country. The Caribbean nation has seen increasing violence related to drug trafficking and its Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar says the response is necessary to help subdue the recent rash of killings that left 11 people dead in three days.
Giving her Sunday address to the nation, Persad-Bissessar said that she would be instituting a 9 p.m. to 5 a.m curfew in cities and towns and calling upon 5,000 members of the military to help enforce it. The Prime Minister stressed that the curfew would be instated for the next 15 days, during which police will have broader powers to search suspects, their residences and possessions as well as more discretion on making arrests.
While many within Trinidad & Tobago have questioned the legality of the state of emergency, Foreign Minister Surujrattan Rambachan claims they have been highly effective. So far 58 gang leaders have been arrested. Rambachan says that those worried about the state abusing their powers are not weighing the risks, telling The New York Times, the curfews and broader police powers were “a limited intervention to deal with gangs and get guns off the streets.” According to The Guardian, over 100 people have been detained since the state of emergency was imposed.
Though the violence in Trinidad and Tobago has sent the nation into lockdown mode, it is not the only one. Last month, a beheading of a mother and daughter in Spanish Town, Jamaica was said to be linked to police seizures of narcotics. Many policymakers point to the spikes in violence in the Caribbean as warning that emphasis needs to refocused on drug trafficking in the region.
In recent years, much of U.S. aid has be directed to Mexico where 95 percent of drugs destined for America came from. 60 percent of those drugs passed through Central America before Mexico and as such lawmakers directed their resources to locking down land and air trafficking. The pattern of drug related violence across the Caribbean suggests that traffickers looking to move narcotics have found more holes in port security and are moving their shipments by sea.
But will lockdown become the tactic of governments across the Caribbean? It certainly may trend that way. On the island of St. Kitts and Nevis, lawmakers are urging their Prime Minister to implement a state of emergency similar to the one in Trinidad & Tobago in response to their country’s own increase in drug related murders.