Monday, March 14, 2011

Haiti - The Caribbean's hot spot for drug traffickers

By Rebecca Theodore

If drug control is fundamental in maintaining a healthy society and in preventing the suffering and harm caused to individuals and society by drug abuse and drug trafficking, then its threat to the security and stability of Haiti presents a frightening picture.

While the International Narcotics Control Board continues to uphold its mandate of strengthening international action against drug production, trafficking and drug related crime and providing information, analysis and expertise on drug issues; critics on the other hand point to its failure in effectively policing both licit and illicit drugs in Haiti.

Rebecca Theodore was born on the north coast of the Caribbean island of Dominica and resides in Toronto, Canada. A national security and political columnist, she holds a BA and MA in Philosophy. She can be reached at rebethd@aim.comCannabis and cocaine and the likes thereof are not the only substances classified as drugs. The availability of analgesics for the treatment of pain on unregulated markets in Haiti is now suffering an adverse backlash where illicitly manufactured pharmaceutical products that contain narcotic drugs and psychotropic substances are readily available.

Thus, the drug situation in Haiti again proves that understanding drug-control measures are not only dependent on a society’s culture, but that drug abuse and trafficking will always be in conflict with the respect of the rights and freedom of others and in meeting the requirements of health, public order and the general well-being of a democratic society.

The exceptional prospect to build a drug-free world by the International Narcotics Control Board fades in the face of mounting concerns in Haiti. The transshipment of cocaine, cannabis and medical and scientific drugs continue to pose a noteworthy menace because, in a country where more than three-quarters of the population live in wretched poverty, compressed with the inability of the state to uphold the rule of law, the temptation to earn easy money from the drug trade is always going to be a threat to stability.

Moreover, natural disasters always pose new challenges to drug prevention efforts in the Caribbean. The magnitude of the destruction that occurred on January 12, 2010, favours Haiti for illicit financial transactions and pervasive corruption, as it is the practice of criminals to exploit regions weakened by war or torn by conflict and natural disasters. It is this dislodgment effect that now leads to the rise in demand for both licit and illicit drugs in Haiti and an increase in drug-related crime.

This is also where the question of a supply of powerful medicines used in medical care comes into effect and positions a serious public problem, because drugs for medical and scientific purposes are now available without a prescription in Haiti. The scale of this abuse and trafficking is staggering and it is now a very destructive problem because dangerous drugs used for medical and scientific purposes are counterfeited in the hands of amateurs and find their way on the internet, proving that licit drugs used for illicit purposes can be manufactured anywhere.

It must be remembered that we live in a society where pharmacological explanations are sought and endorsed for problems ranging from overweight to excessive gambling, enhanced sexual and athletic performance and behavioral and emotional challenges. Drugs are a quick fix to complex physical, emotional, and even social problems and the new challenges that are emerging in Haiti has dangerous consequences for the world at large, as a problem in one part of the system has a disturbing and far reaching effect on the other because there are no codes of conduct and ethical guidelines on the correct handling of these deadly drugs.

It follows that if the goal of the United Nations International Drug Control Program is to eliminate the illegal drug trade worldwide, then its approach to the drug problem in Haiti yields disappointing results because development needs security to succeed. Responses to criminal justice and security reform, the strengthening of state mechanisms in dealing with criminal networks, must be taken into account as these are the factors that aid in eliminating the destructive mission of drug abuse and trafficking.

If the International Narcotics Board is concerned with the health and safety of humankind then special attention must be paid to the many actors of civil society and providers of humanitarian assistance in addressing the drug problem in Haiti, because it is not only cannabis and cocaine, but fentanyl, morphine and oxycodone compounded with pervasive corruption, poverty and high unemployment that now registers Haiti as the Caribbean’s hot spot for drug abuse and trafficking.

It is imperative that the International Narcotics Board implement measures of a broader social policy approach to reduce the demand for both licit and illicit drugs in Haiti. Such measures should be wide-ranging, multifaceted, synchronized and cohesive with the social, political and economic well-being of the Haitian people.

March 14, 2011