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World : North America : Trinadad and Tobago
 
Trinadad

Columbus landed in Trinidad in 1498, and the island was settled by the Spanish a century later. The original inhabitants--Arawak and Carib Indians--were largely wiped out by the Spanish colonizers, and the survivors were gradually assimilated. Although it attracted French, free Black, and other non-Spanish settlers, Trinidad remained under Spanish rule until the British captured it in 1797. During the colonial period, Trinidad's economy relied on large sugar and cocoa plantations. Tobago's development was similar to other plantation islands in the Lesser Antilles and quite different from Trinidad's. During the colonial period, French, Dutch, and British forces fought over possession of Tobago, and the island changed hands 22 times--more often than any other West Indian island. Tobago was finally ceded to Great Britain in 1814. Trinidad and Tobago were incorporated into a single colony in 1888. In 1958, the United Kingdom tried to establish an independent Federation of the West Indies comprising most of the former British West Indies. However, disagreement over the structure of the federation and Jamaica and Trinidad and Tobago's withdrawal soon led to its collapse. Trinidad and Tobago achieved full independence in 1962 and joined the British Commonwealth.

Trinidad and Tobago's people are mainly of African or East Indian descent. Virtually all speak English. Small percentages also speak Hindi, French patois, and several other dialects. Trinidad has two major folk traditions: Creole and East Indian. Creole is a mixture of African elements with Spanish, French, and English colonial culture. Trinidad's East Indian culture came to the island with indentured servants brought to fill a labor shortage created by the emancipation of the African slaves in 1833. Most remained on the land, and they still dominate the agricultural sector, but many have become prominent in business and the professions. East Indians have retained much of their own way of life, including Hindu and Muslim religious festivals and practices. Various ethnic and religious groups lived together peacefully, generally respecting one another's beliefs and practices. However, at times, racial tensions appeared between Afro Trinidadians and Indo-Trinidadians, each of which make up approximately 40 percent of the population. Indo-Trinidadians and persons of European, Middle Eastern, or Asian descent dominated the private sector. Indo-Trinidadians predominated in agriculture as well. Afro-Trinidadians were employed heavily in the civil service, police, and armed forces. Some Indo-Trinidadians asserted that they were excluded from equal representation in the civil service due to racial discrimination. Some Indo-Trinidadians also denounced the use of the Trinity Cross as the nation's highest award, claiming that its Christian motif was not representative of a multi-religious society.

The islands came under British control in the 19th century; independence was granted in 1962. The country is one of the most prosperous in the Caribbean thanks largely to petroleum and natural gas production and processing. Tourism, mostly in Tobago, is targeted for expansion and is growing.

CIVIL DISORDER

The first political party in Trinidad and Tobago with a continuing organization and program--the People's National Movement (PNM)--emerged in 1956 under Dr. Eric Williams, who became Prime Minister upon independence and remained in that position until his death in1981. Politics have generally run along ethnic lines, with Afro-Trinidadians supporting the PNM and Indo-Trinidadians supporting various Indian-majority parties, such as the United National Congress (UNC) or its predecessors. Most political parties, however, have sought to broaden their purview. The PNM remained in power following the death of Dr. Williams, but its 30-year rule ended in 1986 when the National Alliance for Reconstruction (NAR), a rainbow party aimed at Trinidadians of both African and Indian descent, won a landslide victory by capturing 33 of 36 seats. Tobago's A.N.R. Robinson, the NAR's political leader, was named Prime Minister. The NAR also won 11of the 12 seats in the Tobago House of Assembly. The NAR began to break down when the Indian component withdrew in 1988. Basdeo Panday, leader of the old United Labor Front (ULF), formed the new opposition with the UNC. The NAR's margin was immediately reduced to 27 seats, with six for the UNC and three for the PNM.

In July 1990, the Jamaat al Muslimeen, an extremist Black Muslim group with an unresolved grievance against the government over land claims, tried to overthrow the NAR government. The group held the prime minister and members of parliament hostage for 5 days while rioting shook Port of Spain. After a long standoff with the police and military, the Jamaat al Muslimeen leader, Yasin Abu Bakr, and his followers surrendered to Trinidadian authorities. In July1992, the Court of Appeal upheld the validity of a government amnesty given to the Jamaat members during the hostage crisis. Abu Bakr and 113 other Jamaat members were jailed for two years while other courts debated the amnesty's validity. All 114 members were eventually released after a ruling by the U.K. Privy Council. In December 1991, the NAR captured only the two districts in Tobago. The PNM, led by Patrick Manning, carried a majority of 21 seats, and the UNC came in second. Manning became the new Prime Minister and Basdeo Panday continued to lead the opposition. In November 1995, Manning called early elections, in which the PNM and UNC both won 17 seats and the NAR won two seats. The UNC allied with the NAR and formed the new government, with Panday becoming prime minister--the first prime minister of Indo-Trinidadian descent. Elections held in December 2000 returned the UNC to power when they won 19 seats, while the opposition PNM won 16, and the NAR 1. The UNC government fell in October 2001 with the defection of three of its parliamentarians, and the December 2001 elections resulted in an even 18 to 18 split between the UNC and the PNM. President Robinson invited PNM leader Manning to form a government before the end of the year, but the inability to break the tie delayed Parliament from meeting. Prime Minister Manning called elections in October of 2002. The PNM formed the next government after winning 20 seats, while the UNC won 16. Both parties are committed to free market economic policies and increased foreign investment. Trinidad and Tobago has remained cooperative with the United States in the regional fight against narcotics trafficking and on other issues.

Barbados will assert its claim before UNCLOS that the northern limit of Trinidad and Tobago's maritime boundary with Venezuela extends into its waters; Guyana has also expressed its intention to challenge this boundary as it may extend into its waters as well

ECONOMY

The twin-island nation of Trinidad and Tobago continues to experience real GDP growth as a result of economic reforms, tight monetary policy and fiscal responsibility, and high oil prices. In 2004 the country experienced a real GDP growth rate of 6.2%, which followed 13.2% growth in 2003. The PNM-led government has continued the sound macroeconomic policies of the previous UNC government. Long-term growth looks promising, as Trinidad and Tobago further develops its oil and gas resources and the industries dependent on natural gas, including petrochemicals, fertilizers, iron/steel and aluminum. Additional growth potential also exists in financial services, telecommunications and transport. Strong growth in Trinidad and Tobago over the past few years has led to trade surpluses, even with high import levels due to industrial expansion and increased consumer demand. The debt service ratio, 15.4% in 1997, fell to as low as 3.7% in 2001 and was a moderate 4.7% in 2004. Unemployment, which was 12.1% in 2001, had fallen to 8.4% by 2004. Inflation, however, has begun to worsen with prices rising at an annualized rate of 7.34% in March 2005, as opposed to 5.6% in December 2004. Food prices have been rising at a rate of over 20% in the first half of 2005, and the Central Bank has raised interest rates twice in 2005 after no action for several years. There are no currency or capital controls and the central bank maintains the TT dollar in a lightly managed, stable float against the U.S. dollar. The exchange rate in mid-2005 was about TT 6.22=U.S. $1.

Trinidad and Tobago has made a transition from an oil-based economy to one based on natural gas. In 2004, natural gas production averaged 2.9 trillion cubic feet per day (tcf/d), an increase of 12.9% from 2003. The petrochemical sector, including plants producing methanol, ammonia, urea, and natural gas liquids, has continued to grow in line with natural gas production, which continues to expand and should meet the needs of new industrial plants coming on stream in the next few years. The major development in 2005 will be the likely opening of the fourth production module or "train" for liquefied natural gas (LNG) at Atlantic LNG. Train 4 will increase Atlantic LNG overall output by almost 50% and will be the largest LNG train in the world at 5.2 million tons/year of LNG. Trinidad and Tobago is the 5th largest exporter of LNG in the world and the single largest supplier of LNG to the U.S., supplying between 70-75% of all LNG imported into the U.S. Overall, the petroleum sector grew by 10.5% in 2004, the third straight year of double-digit growth.

The non-energy sector grew at a slower pace in 2004. Output in this sector increased by a modest 2.9% in 2004 compared to 3.8% in 2003 with the impetus coming from the Manufacturing and Services sectors. The rate of growth in the Manufacturing sector was 6.6% in 2004, thanks to the Food, Beverages and Tobacco, and Assembly-Type industries. The Services sector grew by 2.9%, led by Construction. Construction sector growth was due mainly to Trinidad and Tobago Government investment in housing and infrastructure, and ongoing projects in the energy sector. Performance in the Agriculture sector has been weak and declined by 20.2% in 2004. The decline in output resulted largely from the shrinking and restructuring of the sugar industry. Recognizing the role that energy plays in the economic life of Trinidad and Tobago, where it was the source last year of 37% of governmental revenues, the government is seeking to diversify the economy to reduce dependence on the energy sector and to achieve self-sustaining growth. The diversification strategy focuses on six main sectors: traditional manufacturing; a new technology-based industrial sector; tourism; financial services; agriculture; and small business.

The investment climate is good. Since 1992, almost all investment barriers have been eliminated. The government continues to welcome foreign investors. The government has a double taxation agreement, a bilateral investment treaty and an intellectual property rights agreement with the United States. U.S. investment in Trinidad and Tobago exceeds a billion dollars. Total foreign direct investment has averaged $700 million annually over the last decade. Among recent and ongoing investment projects are several involving U.S. firms: ISG Trinidad started operations in November 2004 in a plant that has the capacity to produce 500,000 metric tons annually of hot briquetted iron. Nucor has received approval from the Trinidad and Tobago Government to set up a plant to produce up to 1.5 million tons annually of direct reduced iron. Two aluminum smelter plants are also planned, one of them to be owned by ALCOA. The first major business-class hotel to be opened in several years bears the Marriott Courtyard brand. Hyatt has announced plans to manage a property at the multimillion-dollar port development project in Port of Spain.

Trinidad and Tobago's infrastructure is adequate by regional standards. Expansion of the Crown Point airport on Tobago is being planned, which follows opening of the Piarco terminal on Trinidad in 2000. There is an extensive network of paved roads. Traffic is a worsening problem throughout Trinidad, as the road network is not well suited to the volume of vehicles, and no mass transport system exists as an alternative. Utilities are fairly reliable in cities, but some rural areas suffer from water shortages, power failures, and inadequate drainage. Infrastructure improvement is one of the government’s budget priorities, especially rehabilitating rural roads and bridges, rural electrification, flood control and improved drainage and sewerage. A multi-year plan for light rail transport has been announced.

Telephone service is modern and reliable, although significantly more costly to consumers than comparable U.S. service, including for wireline, wireless and broadband services. Change began this year in the wireless market when the new Telecommunications Authority invited two firms to offer competition to state-owned monopoly incumbent TSTT (co-owned by Cable & Wireless). The new wireless providers, Digicel and Laqtel, are planning to provide service by 2006. Long distance, cable and Internet services have not yet been deregulated, but the government has indicated that it will do so in those markets as well, beginning with cable TV. Internet has come into widespread use, but broadband services are limited to a few upscale residential areas, although some wireless "hot spots" have emerged. Improvements in service and price are likely as TSTT prepares itself to meet competition for Internet services in coming years.

BELIEFS

The Constitution provides for freedom of religion, and the Government generally respected this right in practice. There was no official state religion and the Government did not subsidize any particular religion. The Government limited the number of foreign missionaries allowed to enter the country to 30 per denomination. Missionaries must meet standard requirements for an entry visa, must represent a registered religious group, and may not remain in the country for more than 3 years at a time.

INCIDENCE OF CRIME

The crime rate in Trinidad and Tobago is low compared to industrialized countries. An analysis was done using INTERPOL data for Trinidad and Tobago. For purpose of comparison, data were drawn for the seven offenses used to compute the United States FBI's index of crime. Index offenses include murder, forcible rape, robbery, aggravated assault, burglary, larceny, and motor vehicle theft. The combined total of these offenses constitutes the Index used for trend calculation purposes. Trinidad and Tobago will be compared with Japan (Trinidad & Tobago with a low crime rate) and USA (Trinidad & Tobago with a high crime rate). According to the INTERPOL data, for murder, the rate in 2001 was 14.46 per 100,000 population for Trinidad and Tobago, 1.10 for Japan, and 5.61 for USA. For rape, the rate in 2001 was 21.62 for Trinidad and Tobago, compared with 1.78 for Japan and 31.77 for USA. For robbery, the rate in 2001 was 328.69 for Trinidad and Tobago, 4.08 for Japan, and 148.50 for USA. For aggravated assault, the rate in 2001 was 48.77 for Trinidad and Tobago, 23.78 for Japan, and 318.55 for USA. For burglary, the rate in 2001 was 385.85 for Trinidad and Tobago, 233.60 for Japan, and 740.80 for USA. The rate of larceny for 2001 was 127.77 for Trinidad and Tobago, 1401.26 for Japan, and 2484.64 for USA. The rate for motor vehicle theft in 2001 was 124.85 for Trinidad and Tobago, compared with 44.28 for Japan and 430.64 for USA. The rate for all index offenses combined was 1052.01 for Trinidad and Tobago, compared with 1709.88 for Japan and 4160.51 for USA. (Note that Japan data are for year 2000)

TRENDS IN CRIME

Between 1997 and 2001, according to INTERPOL data, the rate of murder increased from 7.77 to 14.46 per 100,000 population, an increase of 86.1%. The rate for rape increased from 17.77 to 21.62, an increase of 21.6%. The rate of robbery increased from 261.0 to 328.7, an increase of 25.9%. The rate for aggravated assault increased from 81.77 to 48.77, a decrease of 40.3%. The rate for burglary decreased from 514.0 to 385.8, a decrease of 24.9%. The rate of larceny decreased from 166.62 to 127.77, a decrease of 23.3%. The rate of motor vehicle theft increased from 113.31 to 124.85, an increase of 10.1%. The rate of total index offenses decreased from 1162.24 to 1052.01, a decrease of 9.5%.

POLICE

The Ministry of National Security oversees the police service, prison service, and the defense force, rendering them responsive to civilian authority. The police service maintains internal security. The defense force is responsible for external security but also has certain domestic security responsibilities. An independent body, the Police Service Commission, makes hiring and firing decisions in the police service, and the Ministry had little direct influence over changes in senior positions. While the civilian authorities maintained effective control of the security forces, some members of the security forces committed human rights abuses. There were no politically motivated killings by the Government and its agents; however, 21 persons died during the year while in police custody or at the hands of police. Excessive use of force continued to be a concern. The national police force is divided into 9 countrywide divisions, including 17 specialized branches, and had approximately 7,000 members. The Police Service Commission, upon consultation with the Prime Minister, appoints a Commissioner of Police to oversee the police force. Municipal police under the jurisdiction of 14 regional administrative bodies supplement the national service. A Special Crime Fighting Unit, composed of police and Defense Force personnel, conducted joint operations to combat violent crime, kidnappings for ransom, and other security issues.

Police corruption continued to be a problem. On at least two occasions during the year, police were apprehended with drugs, guns, and grenades and in connection with other illicit activities. An independent body, the Police Complaints Authority, received complaints about the conduct of police officers, monitored the investigation of complaints, and determined disciplinary measures where appropriate, including dismissal. However, Police Service Commission restrictions limited the authority's ability to dismiss police officers, and a large backlog of outstanding complaints eroded the public's confidence in this organization. Recent governments identified a need for reform because the commission inhibits how the commissioner and his senior staff may discipline offending officers operationally.

DETENTION

The Constitution prohibits arbitrary arrest and detention, and the Government generally observed these prohibitions.

The national police force is divided into 9 countrywide divisions, including 17 specialized branches, and had approximately 7,000 members. The Police Service Commission, upon consultation with the Prime Minister, appoints a Commissioner of Police to oversee the police force. Municipal police under the jurisdiction of 14 regional administrative bodies supplement the national service. A Special Crime Fighting Unit, composed of police and Defense Force personnel, conducted joint operations to combat violent crime, kidnappings for ransom, and other security issues.

Police corruption continued to be a problem. On at least two occasions during the year, police were apprehended with drugs, guns, and grenades and in connection with other illicit activities. An independent body, the Police Complaints Authority, received complaints about the conduct of police officers, monitored the investigation of complaints, and determined disciplinary measures where appropriate, including dismissal. However, Police Service Commission restrictions limited the authority's ability to dismiss police officers, and a large backlog of outstanding complaints eroded the public's confidence in this organization. Recent governments identified a need for reform because the commission inhibits how the commissioner and his senior staff may discipline offending officers operationally.

A police officer may arrest a person either based on a warrant issued or authorized by a magistrate or without a warrant when the officer witnesses commission of the alleged offense. For less serious offenses, the authorities typically brought the accused before a magistrate by way of a summons, requiring the accused to appear within 48 hours, at which time the accused could enter a plea. For more serious offenses, when the accused was brought before the court, the magistrate proceeded with a preliminary inquiry or, alternatively, committed the accused to prison on remand or allowed the accused to post bail until the inquiry. In practice, serious offenders also were charged within 48 hours following arrest.

The court may, and customarily did, grant bail to any person charged with any offense other than murder, treason, piracy, hijacking, or for any other offense for which death was the penalty fixed by law. In cases in which bail was refused, magistrates advised the accused of their right to an attorney and, with few exceptions, allowed them access to an attorney once they were in custody and prior to any interrogation. Police have the authority, under the Summary Courts Act, to grant bail to individuals charged with summary offenses. Detainees were granted prompt access to a lawyer and to family members.

The Minister of National Security may authorize preventive detention in order to prevent actions prejudicial to public safety, public order, or national defense, and the Minister must state the grounds for the detention. There were no reports that the authorities abused this procedure.

Lengthy pretrial detention, which resulted from heavy court backlogs and an inefficient judiciary system, continued to be a problem. On average, criminal indictees waited 19 months before going to trial, and some inmates had not seen an attorney for 3 years or more. In July, the Fourth Criminal Court acquitted Nicholas John and Keino Lewis of murder after they had spent 7 years in jail awaiting trial. In July, two men sued the Attorney General for false imprisonment and malicious prosecution after spending more than a year in prison on charges for which they later were acquitted. As of July, more than 17,000 matters remained outstanding before the courts, dating from 1998. Courts handled an average of 35 to 60 matters per day and 11,434 cases per year.

COURTS

The Constitution provides for an independent judiciary, and the Government generally respected this provision in practice. The judiciary provided citizens with a fair judicial process, albeit at a slow pace due to backlogs and inefficiencies. In a speech opening the annual law term, Chief Justice Satnarine Sharma described dilapidated court buildings unfit for proceedings, archaic rules, an antiquated court reporting system, poor caseload management, and slow, expensive, and inequitable access to justice. The judiciary is divided into a Supreme Court of Judicature and the Magistracy. The Supreme Court is composed of the Court of Appeal and the High Court; the Magistracy includes the summary courts and the petty civil courts.

All criminal proceedings commence with the filing of a complaint in the summary court. Magistrates try minor offenses. For more serious offenses, the magistrate must conduct a preliminary inquiry. If there is sufficient evidence to support the charge, the accused is committed to stand trial before a judge and jury of the High Court. All civil matters are heard by the High Court. Both civil and criminal appeals may be filed with the local court of appeal and ultimately to the Privy Council in London. The Constitution provides for the right to a fair trial, and an independent judiciary generally enforced this right. All criminal defendants have the right to an attorney and are considered innocent until proven guilty. In practice, the courts sometimes appointed attorneys for indigent persons charged with indictable offenses (serious crimes). The law requires the provision of an attorney to a person accused of murder. An indigent person may refuse to accept an assigned attorney for cause and may obtain a replacement. There were no reports of political prisoners.

CORRECTIONS

Prison conditions were harsh. Overcrowding was severe, particularly at the Port of Spain Prison, which held approximately 900 prisoners, although designed to hold only 250 inmates when it was built in 1812. Amnesty International (AI) reported that one cellblock held 114 prisoners in 10 feet by 10 feet cells, with upwards of 14 prisoners per cell. Conditions were extremely unsanitary. Illnesses such as tuberculosis, HIV/AIDS, conjunctivitis, and scabies spread easily. Waste for one cellblock was disposed of within 5 feet of the meal preparation area, and there were reports of insects infesting the entire facility. During the year, AI reported that conditions amounted to "cruel, inhuman, and degrading treatment." Conditions at the maximum-security prison in Arouca and the Golden Grove Remand Center also were poor. On two separate occasions, judges declined to sentence elderly convicts to prison terms, citing the risk of death due to unsanitary conditions and inadequate medical facilities. The maximum security prison had an intended capacity of 2,400 persons but, due to a faulty sewage system and inadequate electronic security, held only 800 prisoners and did little to relieve the overcrowding in the detention system.

There was a separate prison facility for women, and conditions generally met international standards. The Youth Training Center held children between the ages of 15 and 19. Younger children were sent to the Boy's Industrial School. Pretrial detainees were held separately from convicted prisoners, although they could be in the remand section of the same facilities as convicted prisoners. The Government permitted prison visits by independent human rights observers, but the Ministry of National Security must approve each visit. Following prison visits during the year, members of the Criminal Bar Association threatened legal action if the Government did not take steps to improve prison conditions.

WOMEN

Abuse of women continued to be a significant problem. Local NGOs estimated that abuse affected 20 to 25 percent of women, although there were no reliable statistics available. There was increased media coverage of domestic abuse cases and signs of a shift in public opinion, which previously had held that such cases were a private matter. The Domestic Violence Act provides for penalties, including fines and imprisonment, for spousal abuse. Police were somewhat responsive to reports of domestic violence, but NGOs reported a need for further reforms. The Government operated a 24-hour hotline for victims of rape, domestic violence, or other violence against women, which received calls and referred victims to shelters, counseling, or other assistance. The police service reorganized its community police unit, which had been trained especially to deal with crimes against women, attaching its members to regular units to train other officers and expand its reach. Rape was illegal and punishable by life imprisonment, although the courts often issued significantly shorter sentences. Murder, rape, and other crimes against women were reported frequently, but NGOs estimated that many sexual crimes went unreported. Police generally were responsive to reports of rape; however, there also were many complaints of police insensitivity in dealing with rape victims.

Two government ministries, operating independently, directed the NGOs that ran most of the country's social programs addressing domestic violence, including eight shelters for battered women. A rape crisis center offered counseling for rape victims on a voluntary basis.Prostitution is illegal, and the authorities continued to monitor and pursue prosecutions against persons charged with soliciting for the purpose of prostitution.There are no laws specifically pertaining to sexual harassment, although related laws could be applied. Most cases of sexual harassment in the workplace went unreported.

Many women held positions in business, the professions, and government. Nevertheless, men still tended to hold most senior positions. There was no law or regulation requiring equal pay for equal work, and pay discrepancies existed. Women had equal inheritance rights, including after divorce or separation from their spouses. Women's attendance in primary and secondary school was equal to that of men's. The Division of Gender Affairs in the Ministry of Community Development, Culture, and Gender Affairs was responsible for protecting women's rights in all aspects of government and legislation. Several active women's rights groups also existed, including the Women's Federation and Working Women for Social Progress.

CHILDREN

A lack of funds and expanding social needs challenged the Government's ability to carry out its commitment to protect children's rights and welfare. Education was free, compulsory, and universal up to age 12. The Ministry of Education estimated that 89 percent of school age children attended school. Public education was available through age 20, and most students achieved the equivalent of a high school diploma. Some parts of the public school system failed to meet the needs of the school age population due to overcrowding, substandard physical facilities, and occasional classroom violence. The Government committed resources to building new facilities and expanded access to free secondary education. Medical care for children was widely available, and both girls and boys enjoyed equal access. The Domestic Violence Act provides protection for children abused at home. Abused children removed from the home were placed with relatives, government institutions, or NGOs.

The law establishes the upper age in the definition of a child at 18 years of age, abolishes corporal punishment for children under 18, and prohibits sentencing a person under 18 to prison. There was no organized exploitation of child labor, but a 2002 UNICEF study estimated that 1.2 percent of children from 5 to 14 years of age were engaged in paid work, and that 0.3 percent were engaged in unpaid work for someone other than a family member. The Government ratified ILO Convention 182 on elimination of the worst forms of child labor in April 2003; however, it had yet to enact the relevant enabling legislation by year's end. In August, the Government held the inaugural meeting of the National Steering Committee on the Prevention and Elimination of Child Labour. The Committee was tasked with developing a comprehensive National Policy on child labor.

TRAFFICKING IN PERSONS

The law does not specifically prohibit trafficking in persons; however, there were no reports that persons were trafficked to, from, or within the country. In the event of trafficking, perpetrators can be prosecuted under several related laws, with penalties ranging from 7 years' to life imprisonment. There were no prosecutions during the year. The Government had not designated a specific agency to combat trafficking in persons, and it sponsored no public awareness campaigns to address this issue during the year. Domestic NGOs handled the care and oversight of trafficking victims.

DRUG TRAFFICKING

Trinidad and Tobago is a transshipment point for South American drugs destined for the US and Europe and is a producer of cannabis.

Although Trinidad and Tobago is increasingly used as a transit country for cocaine and, to a lesser extent, heroin, evidence is insufficient to establish that the quantity of drugs coming into the U.S. from Trinidad and Tobago has a significant effect on the U.S. The country produces and exports marijuana to other countries in the region, although there is no information available to indicate production reaches the threshold for Trinidad and Tobago to be considered a major producer of marijuana. There is also evidence that higher quality marijuana is imported from St. Vincent. Narcotics-related violence, money laundering, and drug abuse have increased. The Government of Trinidad and Tobago (GOTT) continued to improve its counternarcotics capabilities and cooperated fully with U.S. Government (USG) law enforcement agencies. To improve surveillance of its sea and air lanes, the two-island country is refurbishing its coast guard vessels and soon will augment its fleets with USG-donated planes and patrol boats. It created an interagency center that gathers narcotics-related information from multiple sources for dissemination to military and enforcement agencies. For the first time, the GOTT used a narcotics law to charge four people with money laundering. The GOTT allowed the extradition to the U.S. of a suspected cocaine trafficker and a suspect in a drug-related murder, bringing to four the number of such extraditions since 1995.

The GOTT became a party to the 1988 UN Drug Convention in 1995 and continues to work vigorously toward meeting the Convention's objectives.

Trinidad and Tobago's location--just seven miles off the Venezuelan coast--makes it an attractive transshipment point for South American cocaine destined for the U.S. and other international markets. Small, but relatively fast, fishing boats are the primary conveyance for cocaine brought to Trinidad and Tobago. It also arrives in cargo vessels and pleasure craft. Cocaine also has been found on commercial airline flights that stopped in Trinidad en route from Guyana to North America. Small landing strips have been discovered near marijuana fields.

Illicit cargo can be easily shipped in and out by air and sea because of the country's small airports and harbors, high volume of cargo traffic, large number of tourists and highly mobile population. The country's maritime and air surveillance is limited, though improving. Cargo from Trinidad and Tobago is less vigorously scrutinized at North American and European ports than cargo originating from cocaine-producing countries.

A significant amount of marijuana is grown year-round in Trinidad and Tobago. However, we do not have evidence establishing that Trinidad and Tobago is a major drug producing country. Recent discoveries of marijuana arriving on both commercial and private aircraft indicate that the drug also is being imported. Eradication efforts destroyed more than 4.2 million marijuana plants and seedlings in 1998. Trinidad and Tobago is not a producer of coca or opium.

Although Trinidad and Tobago is not an important regional financial center and has historically taken a strong regulatory approach to its banking sector, there is cause for concern about money laundering. The nation's oil-based and growing economy, with well-developed communications and transportation systems, produces a large number of sizable transactions that could obscure laundering of illicitly obtained monies.

Intimidation of witnesses in narcotics cases is a serious problem. At least 15 witnesses were killed in the last four years in the country.

As an easy jumping-off point a short distance from the South American mainland, Trinidad and Tobago is increasingly targeted as a transshipment point for cocaine bound for North America and Europe. Cocaine arrives on small fishing boats, as well as on container vessels and pleasure craft. It then is smuggled out in cargo vessels, air cargo and by couriers. The recent discoveries of cocaine on commercial aircraft during layovers in Port of Spain en route from Guyana to North America indicates increased use of this route. Cocaine seizures and arrests increased markedly in 1998 compared to 1997, indicating a rise in trafficking and/or improved law enforcement.

The seizure of several shipments of incoming marijuana at Trinidad's airport indicates that local supply may not be meeting demand, possibly as a result of the GOTT's eradication efforts. The imported marijuana--from St. Vincent--also appeared to be of higher quality than the domestically grown drug.

ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS

Internet research assisted by Claudia Betancourt and Kathrina Pestano

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