The Dutch Caribbean consists of the six entities of the former Netherlands Antilles: Aruba, Curaçao, Sint Maarten, Bonaire, St. Eustatius, and Saba. In 2010, the Netherlands Antilles dissolved as a political unit.
Curaçao and Sint Maarten acquired the same “autonomous country” status within the Kingdom of the Netherlands as Aruba, which became an autonomous entity in 1986. The three smallest islands, Bonaire, St. Eustatius and Saba (BES), became part of the country of the Netherlands in a status similar to municipalities.
Aruba, Bonaire, and Curaçao (often referred to as the ABC Islands) are located 30 to 40 miles north of Venezuela and continue to serve as northbound transshipment points for cocaine originating from the Guajira Peninsula in Colombia and from the Maracaibo, Venezuela area.
Cocaine is primarily transported via fishing boats and inter-coastal freighters for transshipment to the United States, other Caribbean islands, Africa, and Europe. Sint Maarten, the Dutch half of the island of the same name (the French side is called Saint Martin), is located in the Eastern Caribbean and is a transshipment hub for cocaine, heroin, and marijuana destined for Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands as well as Europe.
B. Drug Control Accomplishments, Policies, and Trends
1. Institutional Development
Aruba, Curaçao, and Sint Maarten have a high degree of autonomy over their internal affairs, with the right to exercise independent decision-making in a number of counternarcotics areas. The Kingdom of the Netherlands is responsible for the islands’ defense and foreign affairs, and assists the Governments of Aruba, Curaçao, Sint Maarten, and the BES islands in their efforts to combat narcotics trafficking through its support for the RST (Dutch acronym for “Special Police Task Force”). The RST maintains its headquarters in Curaçao and has its largest presence there.
In 2012, both Curaçao and Sint Maarten adopted the BOP (Dutch acronym for “law on special investigative techniques”), which governs the use of techniques such as electronic surveillance and the infiltration of criminal organizations by the police on those islands. The BOP was already in effect in Aruba. No new counternarcotics programs were initiated in 2015. Although the BOP law has been authorized, local authorities are reluctant to use it to infiltrate criminal organizations because it is relatively new.
The Netherlands extended the 1988 UN Convention against Illicit Traffic in Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances, the 1961 UN Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs, the UN Convention against Transnational Organized Crime, the 1971 UN Convention on Psychotropic Substances and the 1981 Netherlands-U.S. Mutual Legal Assistance Treaty to the former Netherlands Antilles and Aruba. Additionally, the former Netherlands Antilles and Aruba adopted the Agreement Regarding Mutual Cooperation in the Tracing, Freezing, Seizure and Forfeiture of the Proceeds and Instrumentalities of Crime and the Sharing of Forfeited Assets, which was signed by the Kingdom of the Netherlands in 1994.
Aruba’s police force, the Korps Politie Aruba (KPA), continues to evolve into a regional leader in the fight against narcotics trafficking and international criminal organizations. The KPA is at the forefront in collecting and sharing intelligence with regional law enforcement partners. Despite systemic problems of prison overcrowding and insufficient resources, the KPA continues to investigate trafficking organizations effectively. The Organized Crime Unit of the KPA conducted several successful investigations in 2015, which led to over 92 kilograms (kg) in cocaine seizures and the confiscation of over $120,000 in drug related proceeds, along with the arrest of multiple subjects.
Curaçao has vastly improved its effectiveness and efficiency in addressing endemic drug-related crime, violence, and corruption. In January 2015, the Korps Politie Curaçao (KPC) appointed a new police chief who has greatly enhanced the leadership and stability of the KPC, which in turn has led to successful counter narcotics operations. The KPC has made dramatic strides in aggressively countering the narcotics trade in Curaçao. The local price per kilogram of cocaine has increased due to increased narcotics seizures in Curaçao.
Sint Maarten is co-located on a single island with French St. Martin. This division provides unique challenges for law enforcement investigations. Colombian and Dominican-based drug-trafficking organizations have expanded their operations into Sint Maarten believing that law enforcement is less prevalent than in their respective countries. However, regional law enforcement agencies have increased cooperation. In 2015, authorities successfully investigated several trafficking groups that were transporting hundreds of kilograms of cocaine from Sint Maarten to the United States and Europe. These investigations included unprecedented cooperation from the Korps Politie Sint Maarten (KPSM), RST, French, Dutch, British and U.S. authorities. In addition, the KPSM, in cooperation with U.S. authorities, seized approximately 200 kg of cocaine arriving on commercial air carriers, over 450 kg of marijuana, significant cash and assets from Dominican and Colombian based trafficking groups operating in Sint Maarten, and arrested multiple subjects.
Kingdom Relations Minister Ronald Plasterk commissioned a private firm in 2014 to write report on public integrity issues in Sint Maarten. The report found that “governance challenges facing Sint Maarten are real and substantial” and noted significant gaps to prevent corruption. Based on the findings of the report, the Kingdom government instituted a public integrity screening process of all incoming Ministers beginning with the 2014 Parliamentary elections.
Bonaire, St. Eustatius, Saba
The National Office for the Caribbean in the Netherlands assumes the responsibilities of law enforcement, security, and other administrative functions on behalf of the Government of the Netherlands for Bonaire, St. Eustatius, and Saba islands.
C. National Goals, Bilateral Cooperation, and U.S. Policy Initiatives
The objectives of U.S. counternacotics policy in the Dutch Caribbean are to promote counternarcotics cooperation between law enforcement and military partners, and to reduce illicit drug trafficking. The U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration works with their island counterparts to advance joint investigations, both within the Dutch Caribbean and the United States.
The Kingdom of the Netherlands maintains support for counternarcotics efforts through participation in the Caribbean Region Agreement to suppress illicit maritime and air trafficking and by continuing to support U.S. Air Force Forward Operating Locations in Curacao and Aruba. U.S. military aircraft conduct counternarcotics detection and monitoring flights over the southern Caribbean Sea. In addition, the Royal Netherlands Navy regularly conducts counternarcotics operations in the region and is a member of Joint Interagency Task Force South (JIATF-S). In 2015, nine JIATF-S cases were supported by the Royal Netherlands Navy, including the seizure of 2.8 metric tons (MT) of cocaine and the disruption of 1.45 MT in cocaine shipments. Nearly six MT of marijuana were also seized during the year. The volume of seized and disrupted shipments of all illicit drugs increased by nearly 300 percent in 2015 from the previous year.
The United States continues to support demand reduction programs with local schools, community-based youth organizations, and the Curaçao National Baseball League.
Five years into the dissolution of the Netherlands Antilles, Curacao and Sint Maarten are still establishing counternarcotics organizational structures among their various agencies. It is imperative that both islands embrace regional cooperation and intelligence sharing efforts. Both Curaçao and Sint Maarten can look to Aruba as an example of how this is accomplished.