Letters & Opinion

Caribbean Gangsters Paradise Part 2: Illegal gun trade shooting-up regional gang violence

Earl Bousquet
Chronicles Of A Chronic Caribbean Chronicler By Earl Bousquet

During the Easter weekend, I cautiously welcomed the repeated news reports of apparent return to normalcy in Saint Lucia after families in Vieux Fort, with relative peace and calm restored, had started burying their dead.

Also, heavily-advertised was a Family Fun Day planned for one of the town’s multipurpose courts, to encourage trust in the restored calm that had seen schools and businesses reopen after a sustained period of violence that had taken over 21 lives and instilled fear and anxiety island-wide.

The Police Commissioner had also, just ahead of the weekend celebrations, welcomed “the positive difference” made by the increased financial and material assistance got from government, including drones, scanners, bulletproof jackets, more vehicles and more officers being recruited.

She also welcomed the presence of the regional Special Services Unit (SSU) contingent in the town and elsewhere, as her officers moved “to take back our streets…”

But just as I started feeling my unease might have been (gladly) misplaced, I was proven wrong – and right.

Not to my surprise: late Easter Sunday night and later on Easter Monday, four more persons were killed in Vieux Fort — in less than 24 hours — including a mother and her grandchild, in a neighborhood often visited by police pursuing gangsters and investigating other criminal activities.

By Tuesday morning, the buzz — at home and abroad — was that ‘criminals’ in Saint Lucia were bent on giving the island ‘a bad new reputation’ as ‘the most-violent in the OECS’ and giving currency to the unenviable impression of the island as the Caribbean’s latest Gangsters Paradise.

But this is by no means an isolated Saint Lucia problem, as recognized and signaled over a month ago by Grenada’s Prime Minister Dickon Mitchell.

Addressing parliament in March (while Saint Lucia’s suspected gang-related death toll was only seven), PM Mitchell cited the age-old maxim ‘When your neighbor’s house is on fire, wet yours…’ to tell fellow MPs that with Saint Lucia’s experience, “We cannot take our own safety and security for granted…”

He also said it was not new to the Caribbean Community (CARICOM), citing Guyana, Jamaica, Trinidad & Tobago among member-states that have also seen their own unfair share of different types of gun-related crime, over time.

Directly addressing one of the main sources of the matter, PM Mitchell blamed “the rise in access to illegal firearms” across the region and urged urgent regional attention to upscaling the collective CARICOM fight against the worsening proliferation of illegal guns into the region.

The illegal gun trade “must be tackled at all levels,” he said, because “proliferation of firearms and guns from North America is something to be openly and roundly condemned…”

The Grenada leader promised his administration will act soon to try to prevent illegal firearms entering the island, by taking urgent steps “to strengthen the security forces’ ability to detect and collect firearms.”

Government will also amend the Firearms Act, he said, “to introduce significantly-stiffer penalties for persons found with illegal firearms.”

PM Mitchell urged “full regional commitment to help Saint Lucia overcome its security challenges…”

The Grenada PM would later have reason to also sound the alarm about gang warfare having apparently arrived on the Spice Isle’s steps, following a death in February involving a suspected foreign assassin that nurtured national nervousness and anxiety.

With easier access to more sophisticated weapons than law enforcement in most CARICOM nations with gang violence experiences, gangsters have upgraded to more brazen and fearless acts of violence in their warfare of criminality affecting communities and neighborhoods, resulting in more lives being cut-short in their prime — and more frequently by bullets.

Indeed, everywhere crime comes to the fore in such deadly ways (and not only in CARICOM), citizens at home and abroad, across the region and the global Diaspora, understandably react in ‘Shock and Awe’ and much horror, while fellow citizens facing the real fire and fury at home are forced to adjust to unprecedented realities.

Many Caribbean citizens abroad offer well-meaning but ineffective long-distance solutions, most based on or conditioned by their long exposure to metropolitan approaches and successes in their adopted countries, or simply the stuff seen on fictional police and crime TV series like ‘CSI’, ‘Miami Vice’ and their modern equivalents.

Interestingly (and significantly), the gangsters have also adopted many of the movieland styles now available free and anytime on their cell phones and through Netflix or You Tube.

But the end results are nothing like the movies, as it’s real people being robbed of their lives — and leaving grieving families forever mourning.

Today’s upgraded crime-fighting and gangster movies (produced mainly in the North America and Europe) only reflect the related upgrades in sophistry of gang and other related violent crimes, which are in several (if not most) cases comparatively worse (per head of population) than anywhere in the Caribbean.

Indeed, gun crimes and mass killings (including of victims of gang violence) is a continuing epidemic in the USA, where successive presidents and administrations have been unable to curb gun crime, thanks in great part to the powerful gun lobby, especially the National Rifle Association (NRA), whose influence extends beyond America’s borders, all the way to the UK, Canada and Australia.

But if Saint Lucians and Caribbean citizens were to believe we are alone in this gun crime quagmire, we’d better think again.


When I tuned to the world news headlines Monday morning, CNN’s headline report was that Americans were waking-up to another mass shooting…

Americans are no less bewildered about gun crime, this year having already seen several school shootings, one involving a child shooting a teacher in February, another featuring a former female student returning to her alma mater on a killing spree last month and Easter Monday’s shooting that took four lives, shooting the number of mass shootings across the USA in 2023 to 146.

PART III: Don Gorgon!

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