An investigative report by Daniel Gold of Vice News has gone viral in Trinidad and Tobago. The video, which is titled Murder and Corruption in Trinidad examines the crime situation in the twin-island republic, with specific reference to the narcotics trade and its impact on gangs and illegal guns in the country.
In its description of the documentary, Vice News posted:
Many of the murders are attributed to ruthless and politically connected street gangs who control territories that are sometimes no larger than a city block. The gangs fight over lucrative government contracts meant to provide social services and combat unemployment.
But gang violence is merely a symptom of a bigger problem. Trinidad has become an important stop for drugs headed to West Africa and the United States. Many observers point to ‘the big fish’ — the nameless political and business elites who are behind drug trafficking and the culture of endemic corruption and murder that come with it. They are accused of turning a country rich in oil and gas deposits into their own personal narco-state, fostering impunity through a web of bribes and murders. Unlike the profits from the energy industry, however, this phenomenon trickles all the way down to the street level.
The video comes in the wake of the recent execution of prominent Senior Counsel Dana Seetahal, whose death shocked the nation. Citizens from all walks of life have taken to the web to address the state of crime in the nation.
Blogger Ryan Ramoutar posted in a piece aptly entitled Gotham, about the issue of corruption as featured in Gold's documentary:
The fact of the matter is that this country is rotten from the top to the core… Everyone in this country knows that the problem is drugs. Everyone knows that the young boys from Laventille cannot finance it. Everyone knows of the corruption at the ports. Everyone knows. And that is the point. Don't insult my intelligence by telling me that you working on theories and no resources will be spared to catch her killers because I don't care about the ones who pulled the triggers. They are certainly not the ones from whom orders came. They are most probably not the ones who brought military grade weapons into the country. Where are the arrests and prosecution of these ‘big fishes'? You know, the ones who actually have the financial whereitall (sic) to conduct the narco trade.
In reaction to the video, several netizens shared their impressions on Twitter:
Vice News does a mini documentary on Murder and drugs in Trinidad… Is this more Bad Press or an Eye Opener? The… http://t.co/cLfFEn6UF5
— Vibes Fusion (@vibesfusion) May 20, 2014
@EllaRamona Lol dan drugs actually reall easy to stop from coming into trinidad …we island rell small….but bribe beats all
— Miguel HomerSimpson (@miggmajick) May 20, 2014
Do I really live in this country? Kinda surreal watching this. Crazy stuff. https://t.co/PSQFjUreQu
— Sasha Edwards (@kristi_eddie) May 20, 2014
The TRUTH about Trinidad… Told y'all it's becoming another Mexico or Venezuela but hey, what do I know?… http://t.co/dUYEvX3pqC
— Caleb BraveHart Hart (@BraveHartMusic) May 21, 2014
This is scary. I always wanted to visit, but I might just wait until carnival. @VICE https://t.co/Kl9jcWsle9 Great piece. #trinidad
— JSNJΛY (@JSNJAY) May 21, 2014
Others posted their comments on the YouTube page on which the documentary was uploaded. Among them was Stephanie Stewart, who lamented:
No where in this video did he address the ties most government officials have with known drug leaders. And not the drug leaders on the streets, the ones in the offices. What this video highlights, is only a small part of what occurs in T&T, because the persons in Laventille and other ‘hot spots’ are at the bottom of the barrel when time to pass blame on the crime problem.
Disappointed they keep pushing the idea of Rasta City v Muslims as the focus of lower level crime/gang issues. Rasta City is a group of criminals that just decided on the name. They are not a religion or a movement. They're a gang. That's it. The Muslims they're referring to aren't the everyday people following the religion. They're talking about those related to and who engage in negative activities of the Jamaat al Muslimeen. In any case, I'm not sure why the police gave them Muslims vs Rasta City as the reasoning for gang warfare. There IS gang warfare, big men hiding behind curtains – big fish, corruption, etc. But I disagree that Rasta City v Muslims is a ‘thing’.
Another poster, Jennifer Chee-A-Tow, made an even bolder statement:
Trinidad has become a narco state and the people living there are not seeing it. Life is sweet until there are no more judges, or courts. Drugs and murder is ruling now. God help them later.
Yes there is corruption, cocaine and murder in Trinidad, but it's not the worst…I LOVE MY COUNTRY and you people who are looking at this and judging what Trinidad is really like I feel sorry for you, because this does not even cover the tip of the iceburg (sic)…because this video was only shot in one small area in Trinidad…the entire island IS NOT what people assume it to be after looking at this video.
Despite our ‘wealth’, this country is a failed state. State institutions do not work, from health to national security to education to finance. Transparency and accountability are nonexistent and those who call for it are treated (by whomever controls the treasury) as mischief makers. Our system and structure of governance is a failure. It is a failure because our government finances the trade. It is complicit in money laundering and drug running. And not because individual ministers are. It is because the state readily provides financing via URP/CEPEP contracts. The Ministry of Finance does not conduct audits of citizens who for some reason manage to live like kings and queens while declaring income like paupers. It is because the Security Apparatus cannot or will not control our borders or intelligently conduct investigations. How many times have there been drug busts with no arrests?
I should note that Mr. Ramoutar did not end on a gloomy note, but gave 6 simple solutions to the crime problem.