That old familiar refrain "trouble in paradise," which we first read back in the 1970s when it was already ancient, surfaced again in the Travel Section of the Sunday, April 8, issue of The Washington Post. When we first heard this line, it referred specifically to criminal attacks on tourists in the U.S. Virgin Islands and read "Trouble in America's Paradise."
This time, the Post was applying the label to the entire Caribbean, the Virgin Islands included. A related article alongside the main one listed St. Thomas as one of six Caribbean locations where serious crime is on the increase. It cited a shooting in Charlotte Amalie in April of last year which left a "teenage American tourist paralyzed from the waist down."
Never mind that the teenage "tourist" had been living with his family on Tortola for several years and could more accurately have been described as a visitor from the B.V.I. The crime was heinous of itself, but for it to happen to a tourist apparently made for a better story as far as the Post Travel Section editors were concerned. It's somewhat as if the Post were to describe me as a tourist if I drove into Washington, D.C., to do some shopping or have dinner, and got robbed.
The "unsolved" aspect also spices up such accounts. For example, in the Charlotte Amalie case, the Post reports, "Even though his attacker's bicycle was found at the scene, the shooter was never apprehended." And, with respect to a St. Lucia crime, "a local witness to a 1999 murder came forward but disappeared before he could testify." And on Jamaica, the "press and police are not doing everything they can to investigate the case."
The traditional tendency on the part of Caribbean officialdom when queried about such troubles in paradise is typified in these quotes from the Post story:
"There have been security challenges to tourists in various parts of the Caribbean, but nothing we would call alarming," said O'Neill Hamilton, a spokesman for the Jamaican Embassy in Washington. "The biggest headache is over-aggressiveness on the part of the vendors."
Security challenges? Apparently this refers to the half-dozen reported rapes of tourists in Jamaica last year.
Over-aggressiveness of vendors? Presumably this refers to someone being shot because they turned down a drug offer, the reputed cause of the April 2000 St. Thomas shooting.
In any event, it's nothing to be concerned about. As Michael Youngman, director of marketing for the New York-based Caribbean Tourism Organization, told the Post, "If you put aside petty thefts, serious crime is pretty low throughout the Caribbean."
It's remarkable how Caribbean government officials, their tourism marketing people and other cronies are insulated from crime and the knowledge thereof. Do they live in gated communities, or do they just have their minds focused on loftier topics?
Whatever, we've heard the denial of crime problems from Virgin Islands officialdom back in the '70s and before, along with assurances that the police were doing their job.
Doing their job? Like those two playing quick draw at the Fort — a game which got one cop shot?
And no crime problem? I recall the Daily Nuisance once printing a list of 15 or so unsolved V.I. murders. And then there was, of course, Fountain Valley.
Never mind. Throughout the Caribbean, government officials and business owners alike have the innate ability to speak (as the first Americans said of the white man) with a forked tongue. They deny the existence of a crime problem with one fork, while with the other they berate the media for reporting any news of crime.
If you don't read about it, it didn't happen!
It would be good to know that, in the V.I. at least, things have changed. I'm afraid to place much of a bet on it, though.
WOULD YOU BELIEVE THERE'S TROUBLE IN PARADISE?
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