According to the New York Times, reporting on information
from a United States and British law enforcement conference held in
Miami in July 1987, a widespread Jamaican criminal organization
consisting of about twenty gangs of illegal aliens was operating in
fifteen metropolitan areas in the United States and trafficking in
firearms and drugs between Florida and Jamaica. A United States
government official described the gangs as the fastest growing and
most violent of the criminal groups operating in the United States.
Between 400 and 500 homicides in the United States in the previous
two years were attributed to these self-described "posses." Seaga
government officials have stated publicly that many of the guns in
Jamaica were flown in by narcotics traffickers from Florida and
other Gulf Coast locations and landed on illegal airstrips or
Marijuana production in Jamaica, especially western Jamaica,
has increased dramatically since the mid-1960s, even though
production of the drug has been illegal since 1913. As the major
illicit drug activity on the island, cannabis cultivation has been
of particular concern to the Seaga government. By the mid-1980s, an
estimated 20 percent or less of the marijuana produced in Jamaica
was consumed locally; the rest was smuggled to other countries.
Jamaica was supplying an estimated 10 to 15 percent of the total
amount of marijuana smuggled into the United States each year.
Marijuana traffickers included members of every ethnic group in
Jamaica, as well as "United States citizens," according to the
minister of public utilities and transport. Moreover, the minister
reported in late 1984 that more than 50 percent of the people
involved in marijuana also were involved in cocaine. Jamaica was
rapidly becoming a major cocaine transshipment point for Latin
American suppliers to the North American market.
The Jamaican government has been firmly committed to reducing
marijuana cultivation. In 1972 a special JCF narcotics squad began
combatting the growing use and illegal export of drugs. After three
police members were killed and mutilated by marijuana growers in
December 1983, the government began cracking down harder on
cultivators by stepping up eradication and confiscation efforts.
Although limited by a lack of equipment and other resources, the
thirty-three-member squad and JDF Eradication Units carried out
many successful operations against marijuana traffickers in the
mid-1980s. The security forces also have attempted to damage
illegal air strips with explosives (twenty-three damaged in 1986),
but in many cases they were quickly rebuilt by the traffickers.
In the mid-1980s, the United States urged Jamaica to undertake
large-scale eradication using "slash-and-burn" methods and chemical
weed-killers, but these proposals met with growing resistance in a
country where marijuana is referred to as "the poor man's friend."
In May 1985, the Jamaican government asked for increased United
States assistance in combatting drug production and in assisting
farmers to introduce alternative high-yield crops. Seaga also
announced in December 1986 that the country would begin herbicidal
backpack-spraying in order to avoid jeopardizing United States
economic aid to Jamaica. The 1986 eradication figures of 2,756
hectares were a record, but that year smugglers exported twice as
much marijuana to the United States as normal. In the mid-1980s,
the United States increased aid to Jamaica's narcotics interdiction
and eradication programs, earmarking more than US$2.6 million in
1986 for this purpose, as compared with US$45,000 in 1985.
The narcotics squad has cooperated with United States law
enforcement officers. Jamaican authorities have alerted United
States authorities about vessels and small aircraft suspected of
carrying narcotics directly from Jamaica or in transit from other
Latin American countries. The United States Coast Guard has stopped
and searched those carriers whenever possible. Commercial airlines
flying between the United States and Jamaica incurred millions of
dollars in fines in the 1985-87 period as a result of substantial
quantities of marijuana being discovered aboard their aircraft.
In 1986 a total of 4,123 persons, including 782 foreigners (608
Americans, 78 Canadians, and 50 Britons) were arrested for various
breaches under Jamaica's Dangerous Drugs Act. Measures used by the
security forces to reduce the extent of trafficking included road
blocks, surveillance of air and sea craft, and the use of trained
dogs at international airports and sea terminals.
Data as of November 1987