Caribbean PM cancels Cancun to counter crime crisis

By Earl Bousquet
0 CommentsPrint E-mail, December 10, 2010
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Cancun made the headlines in St. Lucia Wednesday, but for all the wrong reasons.

Prime Minister Stephenson King announced he'd cancelled his Wednesday flight to the Climate Change talks in Mexico to stay home to address an escalating crime wave that's gone out of control.

He said he knew Cancun was "about making decisions that will affect the world," but the almost daily gang-related killings that had subsided after Hurricane Tomas last month had resumed.

He was therefore remaining home to coordinate the government's response to the latest wave of killings and shootings, particularly in the capital, Castries.

As the Prime Minister spoke, the homicide rate on this small 238 square-mile (606 square-kilometer) island of 160,000 persons had reached 44 percent for the year – a record high, passing the record of 2006.

Last weekend, there were at least four separate gang-related shootings that left two persons dead and five others injured in parts of Castries and its depressed urban and suburban areas, as well as at Rodney Bay, the island's major north coast tourism center.

The incidents involved masked murder and drive-by shootings by suspected gang elements and the government is understandably worried.

King chaired a Cabinet meeting on crime with the top brass of the police on Tuesday, which gave the police a free hand to "do whatever is necessary" to stop the spate of killings.

The island's national security agencies also met earlier this week and promised tougher action than ever.

Tourism Minister Allen Chastanet said Wednesday the police "will step up their patrols" in the tourism related areas, especially Rodney Bay, where families of crew on the 239 yachts participating in the annual Atlantic Rally for Cruisers (ARC), the world's largest and longest trans-Atlantic sailing yacht race, have begun to arrive.

Police Commissioner Vernon Francois, announcing his latest anti-crime police drive, said Wednesday, "Enough is enough" and warned criminals that "We are coming for you."

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