Our Readers' Opinions
December 9, 2016
The solution to red rain

Editor: Murders committed with illegal guns are taking a catastrophic toll on the island of St Vincent and if the hemorrhaging from violence does not get under control fast, anarchy will follow.  Crime with guns in the Caribbean, including in St Vincent and the Grenadines (SVG), as some data have shown, is bursting at the seams with alarming fatalities. The explosion of drugs and illegal guns entering SVG is causing an uptick in murders and innocent civilians are getting caught in the crosshairs.  {{more}}

Understandably, mounting death from illegal weapons worry politicians and citizens alike, but worrying is not a catalyst for the magnitude of fatalities from illegal fire arms. When an island of 133 square miles, with a population about 110,000, has 34 murders already committed and the year has not ended, this is madness. The time for political correctness is over and an urgent need to address the root of the problem is now.

If a tree is infected, it has to be treated at the roots. Leaders have to be honest about the problems and be willing to take measures to fix the violent epidemic that is permeating the island and not allow hollow words that are expedient for political purposes. In 2007, there was a report which noted that murder rates in the Caribbean, at 30 per 100,000 population annually, are higher than any other region of the world. This disturbing phenomenon can stump the growth of the island’s economy, and impede social development.  So, leaders have an obligation not only to protect law-abiding citizens, but to create a tranquil atmosphere to reduce anxiety from investors in the island and the tourist industry. If the bleeding does not stop, other fissures from gun violence could spring up; for example, injuries resulting from gun violence will have profound impact on public health systems, as well as social and economic problems for the country.  What is the cause of the increase of guns in SVG?

I am not an expert in criminology, but the demand for narcotics can cause a surge of illegal guns and the side effect is violence.  People who are marginalized or economically deprived may be tempted into selling drugs. I also think some ships that are coming in ports are engaging in illegal activities all along the Caribbean archipelago and the Americas. Young people who are on the fringes of economic prosperity need more social outreach because they are disproportionately represented in the incidence and severity of gun violence.  They can be perpetrators of violent crimes, as in many countries and SVG is no exception; so, great help is needed with the youths.  If an analysis is done, it will expose a variety of risk factors which contribute to the prevalence of youth violence, including poverty, youth unemployment, large-scale migration from other islands, drug trafficking, a weak education system, ineffective policing, the widespread availability of weapons, drug and alcohol use, and the presence of organized gangs and the list goes on and on.  I will continue to be a resilient advocate for a solution for a better SVG.

Finally, in the distribution of drugs and guns, I look at South America as the tree and the branches are the Caribbean islands.  This scenario is a metaphor, but the consequences are very real, and dangerous. The region might be porous and the presence of gangs, drug dealers, and other illicit actors with large financial resources creates a high demand for arms that filters through the archipelago. Also guns may be coming in through the customs and airport if security is lapse.  Another area guns can get into the island is by sea.  We have a very small underfunded coastguard that patrols a lot of dark areas.  A more frequent symposium with Caribbean regional partners should be established. The collaboration can network between immigration, security and police to track criminals. Also the US deports people who have committed serious crimes. These deportees should be in a registry and monitored. Innocent civilians being cut down by illegal guns should not be the new normal; the island that once prided itself as one of the safest is under siege by violence. I am not implying that my ideas have not been tried before; some times the authorities might have to use draconian measures similarly to Duterte’s principle (the president of the Philippines), or to a lesser degree, job empowerment for the youths.

Kendal Coombs