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Caribbean: A More Violent World?

Are we living in a more violent world? Some say we are; others believe that violence is simply more widely reported. Earlier this year, the World Bank suggested that the Caribbean (as a region) may have the highest murder rate in the world – and it is having a serious effect on economic growth. More and more, Caribbean bloggers are discussing the issue – and their concerns transcend territorial boundaries, economic realities and regional politics…

Living in Barbados posts an overview of the regional crime situation:

Most countries in the Caribbean region have had a long experience of peace with other nations; few have actually been directly at war with other nations. However, we find that we are increasingly “at war” amongst ourselves.

He also worries about the escalating crime rate in Jamaica, the island of his birth:

If you have no notion of what violent crime does to a society you need to visit Jamaica. A rate of murders that leads the world and many acts of brutal violence has scarred this country and changed dramatically how people live their lives.

On the heels of two high-profile murders in the Bahamas, Craig Butler, writing at Bahama Pundit, says we're living in “trying times”:

…We as a nation need to figure out what the nature of our problem is before we can adequately address it. It is my view that education, or the lack of it amongst marginalized young men, is the key. I will continue to say that a man who has no training, and thus an inability to think and make reasoned decisions, is susceptible to anything. In our case, it’s a life of easy money derived from crime.

Butler's fellow Bahamaian blogger, Nicolette Bethel, writes:

There’s a lot of fear going about out there. My mailbox lights up on a regular — almost daily — basis. I receive local news circulars, you see, and the focus of every one is violent crime. There’s one email update that keeps count of 2007’s murder rate; there are others that blaze headlines across their tops when you open them. And talk shows and newspapers keep us thinking about our crime rate.

In analysing her country's crime situation, she refers to studies which suggest that “the higher the religiosity of any society, the more violent that society is.”

Like many other bloggers, Daniel Henrich, a journalism professor at the College of the Bahamas is trying to be an agent of change, outlining a “barebones strategy to combat the rising incidences of violence in Bahamian society among at-risk youth.”

Even heads of state are not immune to threats of violence, notes A Limey In Bermuda, who was “horrified to hear about the bullet and threatening letter sent to the Premier.” He is also uncomfortable with the political intonations that accompanied the death threat:

I suspect it's still too early for the police to say who mailed the bullet. It could have just as easily come from a deranged PLP supporter unhappy about Dr. Brown's leadership as it could from a supporter of the UBP. It's time for all politicians and their supporters to end the spiral of nastiness and mistrust that has lead to this latest low.

Cuban bloggers are quite vocal about the violent tactics used against demonstrators who chose to march on International Human Rights Day, while Jamaican Francis Wade attempts to find a link between violent crime and GDP. Domestic violence is also quite prevalent in Caribbean societies and Stella Ramsaroop blogs about the issue from a Guyanese perspective.

Trinidad and Tobago bloggers have a lot to say about spiraling crime rates in the twin-island nation. Jumbie's Watch posts front-page images from the local media to make his point:

This is what crime is doing to the people of Trinidad and Tobago. This is the face of grief, of pain, of hopelessness.

Ramblings and Reason acknowledges that “things are bad. The numbers are undeniable…such an awful picture, such horrible statistics!” She also wonders about the media's role in shaping perceptions of violence.

Now Is Wow says ” there was a time when seeing the photo of a dead body on the street inspired shock and horror. Then, sadly, we ‘get used to it’ as a nation.”

If the reaction of the regional blogosphere is any indication, the Caribbean does not want to ‘get used to it’, but Ramblings and Reason laments that “we are giving in to the fear”:

It causes churches to reschedule midnight mass and priests to turn away murder witnesses. It gives rise to notions about which kinds of places are safe to lime in and which kinds of people are likely to rob us. It makes us crawl inside the safety of ourselves, separating us from each other more and more.

8 comments

  • Esteban Agosto Reid

    We are definitely living in a more violent Caribbean.Anxieties and excessive fear abound in the Caribbean.A tsunami of crime has totally engulfed these island states.Specifically,Jamaica,where murders have already exceeded fifteen hundred for the year and counting.And it is becoming increasingly apparent that law enforcement officials are impotent and incapable of stemming or curbing this wave of violence that is crippling these societies.Ruthless thugs,hooligans,gangsters,et al have transformed these once idyllic islands into brutal killing fields.

  • Kaywil

    I think it has to do with economics…police can’t do anything when they’re strapped themselves. Thank you, IMF and World Bank!

  • I cannot think of a single decade when Guyana did NOT suffer from some kind of violence [well, apart from those colonial times that the older folks still talk about…it seems so idyllic, even unreal, back then.]

    In the 60s, there was the dreadful civil unrest; in the 70’s and 80’s, there were the kick-down-the-door bandits. In the 90’s, more violence that folks have linked to politics. And still linking, today, in the 2000’s.

    In Jamaica, people have confided that some politicians used to give them bicycles and GUNS for votes and whatever favours politicians wanted. Politicians’ gunmen, working LEGITIMATELY in a govt. office, carried their guns under their shirts. I thought those men were drivers for the vehicles but I was told they were “politicians’ gunmen”.

    It’s easy to say that violence is caused by economics. Yes, in part, but I believe it’s more complex than that.

    I’m still trying to understand it all.

  • […] CEDAW (Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women), elections, violence and “Globalisation” were among the many blog topics. The blogs were passionate, […]

  • I’m from the USA and I didn’t know things had gotten so rough in the Caribbean. I still hope to visit there one day. I heard the beaches are amazing!

  • […] generic-looking skyscrapers makes no sense when your health care system is in shambles; when crime is out of control; when there is no environmental awareness. I do not accept that the changes happening in Trinidad […]

  • […] As a country struggling with spiraling rates of violent crime, Jamaica has voted to re-introduce the death penalty, despite appeals from Amnesty International […]

  • kendrick

    I am not satisefied that our political systems are protecting our people. They seem to keep the small island government leaders rich, powerful and able to be the very leaders of crime and crookedness.

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