International media channels have been showing pictures of a young man and his daughter lying dead in the Rio Grande, the river which separates Mexico from the United States of America. They were trying to enter America when they were washed away to their deaths.

This very powerful image has galvanised opposition to the way migrants are being treated by the American Government at that country’s border with Mexico. Were different persons in charge of that country, this image would have brought about a change in policy. By the same token, one might say that if different persons were in charge this would never have happened, for the policy which created this desperation was contrived for political gain and is otherwise unnecessary.

It is sickening that human life could be sacrificed on the altar of political expediency, but that is nothing new. Should it become obvious that the incumbent President is likely to lose the next election, expect war to be declared on some country that is unable to fight back, for nothing galvanises Americans behind their leader like war. This would not be the first nor the last time that this strategy would be used.

Our concern today, however, is not on the lessons of American politics, but on what drives people from Central and South America to walk for weeks and risk their lives to enter the United States of America. There is certainly no pull factor, for they know that in America they will be treated like second class citizens. They will be second class residents and may never be citizens. If this is true, then the push factor must be very powerful.

These people are being forced out of their countries by poverty and crime. Our own history includes migration because of poverty. This explains why it is part of our folklore that you may find a Barbadian in every corner of the world.

For much of our colonial and early post-independence history, Barbados did not provide a decent living for black Barbadians. This pushed many of our fore parents to Panama, Cuba, British Guiana, Britain, North America and elsewhere.

We live on an island so there was no option of walking anywhere. This forced our departures to be more legitimate, for the most part, but the motive to leave was the same as it is for those who migrate to solve poverty issues everywhere.

But we have not known what it is to have to run from Barbados because of crime. An individual was more likely to leave Barbados to escape justice rather than to save the lives of his family owing to the threat of crime.

One spin off of the persistent poverty that is a feature of life in some of these Central and South American countries, is the emergence of criminal gangs. These gangs terrorise their communities and have plunged them into a dark under-worldly existence.

The authorities in these countries are aware of the existence of their gangs and have discussed methods of dealing with them, but to no avail. All efforts to deal with them have failed because there have never found a way to interrupt their recruitment of young members. A supply of young members is the life blood of gangs. Members must be recruited before they reach the age of rational thought.

Recruitment has not been curbed because new members come from both the willing and the unwilling. Parents know that if their ten-year-old son does not sign up, he and them may be killed. The only way to avoid gang membership, therefore, is to run.

The very scale of the people on the move from these countries demonstrates the measure of the problem. What is especially troubling is that the problem is well known to these governments, but they have not been able to develop a solution.

The English-speaking Caribbean has been seeing a microcosm of the Latin American situation. We have already seen gang leaders create garrison communities in which they control all social and commercial activity. In one country, it took that country’s army, assisted by foreign forces, to extract a “community leader” and extradite him for prosecution. There was no likelihood of him being successfully prosecuted in his country.

Problems of this nature are usually compounded by the corruption of the countries’ justice system through the use of these gang leaders to deliver political power to those who are unscrupulous enough to work with them. When politicians and crime bosses collaborate, the communities that host them will eventually die and become wastelands.

Governments lose all moral authority to deal with crime when those who are behind the crime are their financiers or recruiters to their political cause. They may continue forever to pay lip service to crime issues, but can never take effective steps to deal with it.

When Christopher “Dudus” Coke was removed from Jamaica, the Prime Minister had to go from office. It appeared that Coke operated with the support and consent of the Prime Minister, or probably, rather, the Prime Minister held office with the support and consent of Coke.

Dudus’ father, Lester Coke, alias Jim Brown, was an enforcer and bodyguard of leader of the Jamaica Labour Party, Edward Seaga. Lester Coke was a founder of the Shower Posse which his son later took over. Politicians and crime have been intimately linked in Jamaica.

After what has become known as Wikileaks, concern was expressed in the neighbouring island of St. Lucia where is was alleged that there were Ministers in that country’s Government who were involved in the drugs trade. Commentators there feared that that country’s situation could be more dangerous than Jamaica’s because of the in-government connection with the criminal element.

Fear was also expressed about the future of the country as “community leaders” were recruiting children to political parties. This had implications for garrison building and the perpetuation of divisions in the country.

Where are we in Barbados?

Barbados Advocate

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