The instability and economic crisis that several countries in the continent are going through have empowered an activity that for the 20th century was considered extinct: maritime piracy
Since 2016, several reports indicate that pirate attacks have increased ostensibly in the Americas. The absence of an effective government causes the creation and empowerment of groups outside the law. Unfortunately, Latin America and the Caribbean have become the new scenarios of this illegal activity. According to the organization Oceans Beyond Piracy (OBP), in the Americas there was an increase in the activity of maritime pirates of 163% in 2017. The places most hit by piracy are the anchorages in Venezuela, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, Colombia, and Santa Lucia.
The OBP report states that of the 71 reported piracy incidents, 40 were robbery cases, 17 were unsuccessful attacks, 13 were armed robberies and one was an attempted kidnapping. Most of the attacks occurred in the territorial sea of the American States. According to the OBP, the cost of piracy exceeds the figure of 900,000 dollars.
In the 21st century, the international system took action against the growth of piracy in Africa and the southern Gulf of Aden, regions that have been affected by piracy due to governmental, social, and economic instability in the region. Unfortunately, piracy has crossed borders and it is now found in Latin America and the Caribbean.
Incidents of piracy in 2018
The most mediatic case of piracy so far this year is the so-called "Double Highbush massacre" occurred in Suriname, where pirates murdered 16 fishermen, in order to steal engines, gasoline, and fish, among other belongings.
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For Suriname, piracy is not a recent problem, according to the BBC report, fishermen have witnessed pirate attacks on many occasions. However, the incident reported in May is the most cruel and frightening of the recent history of Suriname, which has caused fear in the population that subsists thanks to fishing and other maritime economic activities.
It should be noted that the government of Suriname and Guayana have worked, according to their capabilities, to combat piracy in the region. Piracy cases had decreased and maritime control was more effective thanks to cooperation agreements. However, this terrifying case has threatened one of the engines of Suriname's economy, given that several fishermen fear returning to the sea and being victims of these criminal gangs. As a result, the perception of insecurity has increased.
What is the reason for piracy increase?
Piracy is an illegal activity that usually results from economic and governmental problems. The state's abandonment or the little presence of the State empowers criminal groups that operate in the continent and in maritime territory. As a result, the democratic and economic problems of several Latin American and Caribbean nations have allowed the creation of pirate structures that commit crimes in the region.
The economic problems of Suriname, the crisis of Venezuela, the little presence of the Colombian State in some parts of the territorial sea, strengthen the criminal gangs dedicated to the theft of goods on the high seas and in the territorial sea of several Latin American nations. Piracy is a growing problem for the region, which must be controlled and mitigated to prevent this activity from becoming a major threat to the American states and to citizens who subsist on maritime activities.
Latin American Post | Bryan Andrés Murcia
Translated from “América Latina y el Caribe enfrentan el resurgimiento de la piratería marítima”