Examining the Caribbean Basin Security Initiative Authorization Act

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TACOMA, Washington — The Caribbean Basin Security Initiative (CBSI) Authorization Act was first instituted in 2009 to create safer communities in Caribbean nations targeted by drug trafficking. The H.R. 7703 bill was introduced to authorize appropriations for the initiative, to implement disaster resilience strategies and to strengthen the security partnership between the United States and the Caribbean nations.

Security Concerns in the Caribbean

All 15 Caribbean countries, especially the Bahamas, Jamaica, Haiti and the Dominican Republic, make up a network of illicit drug smuggling from South America to the United States. Due to the intervention from outside nations, including the U.S., there has been a significant decrease in the quantity of cocaine brought into the U.S. from the Caribbean, relative to the total shipments from South America since the 1980s. In 2001, 26% of the cocaine trafficked flowed through the Caribbean, but by 2012, the percentage fell to 5%.

Although drug trafficking rates have decreased, crime and violence related to drugs have been on an upwards trend. In 2010, homicide rates were especially high in Honduras, with 77 homicides per 100,000 people, followed by Jamaica and the Bahamas. To protect security among the Caribbean nations, the CBSI act was implemented in 2009.

The Caribbean Basin Security Initiative’s Decreasing Budget

The U.S. launched the Caribbean Basin Security Initiative to provide foreign assistance in the Caribbean in five areas: maritime and aerial cooperation, justice sector reform, border security and firearms interdiction, law enforcement capacity building and crime prevention. All aims of the initiative target threats to public safety and social justice within the Caribbean that are caused by drug trafficking.

From 2010 through 2020, Congress allocated nearly $677 million to support 13 countries in the Caribbean to carry out the CBSI. However, since 2018, the current presidential administration has been requesting significant budget cuts from the CBSI. For the 2021 fiscal year, only $32 million was requested by the administration, which is a 47% cut from the previous year’s budget. Threats to the funding of the initiative provoked the introduction of H.R. 7707, which seeks to protect the CBSI’s budget and the people of the Caribbean.

The Importance of the Caribbean Basin Security Initiative

On July 21, 2020, Representative Adriano Espaillat of New York introduced the H.R. 7707: Caribbean Basin Security Initiative Authorization Act to allow for appropriations for the CBSI, to improve the security relationship between the United States and the Caribbean and to enhance disaster resilience. Compared to the proposed $32 million from the administration, authorization of at least $74.8 million for each fiscal year for the CBSI, is the top priority for the bill.

As an authorization bill, H.R. 7707 directs how increased federal funding can strengthen “citizen safety, security and the rule of law” in the Caribbean. The bill calls for the prioritization of efforts to counter corruption and carry out strategic engagement with the governments in the 13 countries covered under the CBSI. Cooperation between the U.S. and the Caribbean would be improved through the development of a public diplomacy strategy that educates Caribbean citizens on the benefits of the security and assistance cooperation programs.

H.R. 7707 is currently under review by the House Committee on Foreign Affairs and is predicted by Skopos lab to have a 26% chance of being enacted. Appropriating more funding to the Caribbean Basin Security Initiative will create more opportunities to promote safety not only in the Caribbean but for surrounding countries. The Caribbean Basin Security Initiative Authorization Act can build up the rule of law in the Caribbean and oppose future terrorist threats created by drug-related violence.

—Ilana Issula
Photo: Flickr 

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