Unfortunately for those aiming to stop the drug exodus from the Caribbean islands into the United States and the drug trade in the region, it has often been the case that many of these governments were corrupt, encouraging thus money laundering and drugs for their own high profits, to the degree that they were themselves part of the chain. Additionally, in many countries, the democracy is unstable and unable to cope with its own, day-to-day problems, let alone fight drug trade. I am thinking here for example of the situation in Haiti, where a bloody civil war has been going on for several years, but the case is not singular.
What if governmental corruption and encouragement of the drug trade had not taken place in Bahamas much throughout the 70s and 80s?
In an investigation by the Royal Commission of Inquiry, the Prime Minister Pindling was found to have spent between 1982 and 1984 seven times more money than he had actually earned. Much of the officials of his government, as well as the Police Force and the Customs Department were found to be involved at some degree in the drug trade. If this had not happened, the drug trade would have not secured such a steady ground in Bahamas. Indeed, when making this assertion I have several reasons to back me up. As I have mentioned in the brief description of the scandal, many of the high ranking officials were involved in the trade. As it was, there was no better encouragement for the drug dealers to use the island in there trade. A strong and incorruptible government would have set the basis for a serious customs control, a police force that could operate anything that went past the customs and a government ready to enforce severe laws for those participating in the trade and even harsher laws for the officials involved. This would have probably wiped Bahamas off the drug trade map. As it was, Pindling won the 1987 elections, blaming the United States for its inability to control the drug problem. Many of the former officials involved in the scandal were rehabilitated and the drug trade continued.
2. What if the political situation in Haiti was not as inflammatory and chaotic as it has been for several years?
The political scene of Haiti meant that law enforcement and drug trade control were affected by the chaos that ruled the country in the last years. A strong government would have meant a powerful government that would have been able to fight the drug cartels and the drug trade. As such, it is obvious that Haiti is in no condition to oppose the increasing influence of the dealers and that the void of power characteristic in the country will not be able to be a significant counterweight to the trade. Indeed, we should analyze the facts from the following perspective: there is no rule, no order, no actual power- how can Haiti hope to cope with the drug trade issue when it is clear it cannot handle its own, internal political problems.
3. What if the drug dealers were not able to influence to such a degree many of the officials and elections in these countries?
As was the case especially in the 1980s, many of the governmental elections in these countries were influenced by the strong money coming in from the South American cartels, especially the Columbian one. These facilitate the election of officials that would not only close their eyes to the drug trade, but fully cooperate and participate to it. I have mentioned the Bahamas case here above, but there are many others. In 1985, a Miami jury convicted Chief Minister Norman Saunders from the Turks and Caicos Islands for narcotics transactions. The Trinidadian government and many officials from the country were also involved in drug trade.
If the drug dealers' political power would have been cornered from the very beginning, these would have had no influence on the choice of the Caribbean peoples and would not have been able to use the islands to their own interest. In many of these countries, political power was equivalent to a friendly eye towards the drug trade. More so, the political system itself was threatened by the drug trade in many of these islands.
Scenario 2: The islands' economic issues
The countries in the area had a once-dominating sugar industry and were unprepared for the challenges the end of the 20th century brought about. There was a general fall in world prices, as well as an increasing inefficiency in production throughout the area. Average unemployment stood at around 20% and, as one of the information websites on the Caribbean Islands points out, "islands were incapable of producing most capital goods required for economic growth and development; imports of such goods helped generate balance of payments deficits and increasing levels of external indebtedness."
1. What if unemployment did not stand at 20% and even more throughout most of the 80s and 90s?
Unemployment is a sign of economic recession, because it means that there are less profitable businesses, more companies are firing people because they can no longer afford them, etc. However, we should acknowledge that the people who are unemployed need to have some means of providing for themselves and for their families. We should bear in mind that 20% is an extremely large figure: it means that 1 out of every five working person did not have a place to work.
It is fairly obvious that these people would turn to crime in order to provide a fair living and the drug trade provided an excellent environment for this: it was most common in these islands, it was even encouraged by the government (tacitly, but still in an obvious manner) and it have provided a profitable material basis for these. In my opinion, unemployment provided the lower workforce needed in a drug trade, people who were willing to transport the drugs from one part of the island to the other, people who would provide for lesser jobs, etc. Had there not been such a high rate of unemployment within these islands, the drug dealers and traders would have lacked the necessary workforce to use in their trade and, additionally, they would not have benefited from the cheap workforce available.
2. What if the Caribbean Islands had not endured a certain economic depression following a drop in sugar prices?
For one thing, the Caribbean Islands lacked one of the most important things in an economy: diversity. The people here based there whole economy on the exploitation of sugar canes and it was obvious that a drop of prices here would collapse whole economies in the area. How did this encourage the drug trade? Well, it was obvious that an unhealthy economy was a proper ground where drug trade could evolve. I have already mentioned how unemployment contributed to the development of drug trade. The economic depression provides the same argumentation: a poorer country meant a country where people could turn to less worthy and moral (not to mention legal) activities such as contributing to the drug trade. Had the countries in the area had a prosperous and efficient economy, the issue of turning to drug trade would probably have never appeared and the Caribbean Islands would have had to be avoided.
3. What if the 'normal' trade issues that have appeared within the NAFTA and with the United States had never come along?
As members of NAFTA, many of the islands within the Caribbean area were subject to the economical wars that occurred between the European Union and the United States. One of the notable ones was the so-called "bananas war," which caused pressure from the Untied States on the issue of preferential access for regional bananas into the European Union market, to the extent that the former Dominican prime minister said that "if the United States did not want the Caribbean to grow bananas, it must decide whether it wants farmers to grow marijuana instead." The pressure on some of the Caribbean products may have turned some of these states to be more sympathetic towards the drug trade, because, if the 'normal' trade was somewhat kept back, due to the economic organizations many of the Caribbean Islands were part of (specifically NAFTA). As part of these economic treaties, the Caribbean countries had to follow the rules sustained by the organizations, which sometimes may have come against their specific economic needs. As such, they were more likely to turn to drug trade. Had the United States proved a more open position to the islands' needs, they may have found trade self-sufficient and would not have had to turn to the drug trade as a subsidiary source of revenue.
Scenario 3: Tourism and tourism related problems
1. What if the Caribbean Islands had not been a tourist location?