It may sound like a plot from "Miami Vice." But it's a real and worsening scenario fueled by crackdowns in Mexico and Colombia, a tightening of the southwestern US border, and changes in cocaine consumption around the world.
To combat it, the Obama administration in May launched the Caribbean Basin Security Initiative with $45 million for 2010. Born amid discussions between Caribbean leaders in 2007, it is seen as an extension to US initiatives in Latin America to seize and eradicate drugs.
Those past US efforts seem to be paying off. According to the United Nations' 2010 World Drug Report, cocaine seizures more than doubled worldwide from 2000 to 2008, when 711 metric tons of cocaine were captured – an estimated 42 percent of the overall supply. (A decade ago, the UN report states, only about 24 percent of the global supply was interdicted.)
The thing about the $88 billion industry is that it's like playing whack-a-mole: Squeeze cartels in Mexico, and they pop up in the Caribbean. Squash shipments from Colombia, and they shift to Venezuela. In that analogy, the Caribbean's misfortune is that it's stuck in the middle.
"As you are successful in [Mexico and Central America], you see drug trafficking pushed toward the Caribbean," Makila James, director of the US State Department's Office of Caribbean Affairs, tells the Monitor. "Our partners in the region say crime is increasing at a rapid rate, and they're deeply concerned."