At a press conference in Trinidad’s capital, Kamla Persad-Bissessar gave no specifics of the alleged plot, but indicated that it was a response by criminal groups to her government’s ongoing state of emergency to tackle crime and dismantle gangs.
“The criminals are hurting in their pockets and so I am not surprised such elements would seek to make good on their threats of reprisals,” Persad-Bissessar told reporters in Port-of-Spain.
Police Commissioner Dwayne Gibbs also declined to provide any details regarding the alleged plot. But he said about a dozen people have been detained. Their identities were not released.
“It would be imprudent to provide further details as we are engaged in looking at the threats,” Gibbs said.
Earlier this month, Persad-Bissessar’s government lifted a nearly three-month curfew that had helped stem a surging homicide rate but disgruntled many in a Caribbean country known for its party culture and carnival celebrations.
At the time, Persad-Bissessar said the state of emergency, which allows police to search properties without warrants, would remain in place and warned that limited curfews would be applied in some areas as needed.
The emergency orders, which have helped dramatically reduce homicides, come up for review in December and the country is divided on whether it has been a success.
On Thursday, the prime minister said the alleged assassination plot would not deter her government and the security forces from dismantling criminal gangs.
“We will noted be cowed in any way and we will give no quarter to them and our resolve has been strengthened to return Trinidad and Tobago to the peaceful place it used to be,” she said.
She did not specifically say if she would push to have the state of emergency extended.
Trinidad and Tobago, the full name of the twin-island nation of 1.3 million people, is one of the most prosperous Caribbean countries thanks to oil and natural gas that make it a major fuel supplier for the U.S. and other nations.
It has one of the region’s most diverse populations, a blend of African, Indian, Chinese and Middle Eastern cultures. But like other Caribbean nations, it also has developed a gang culture fueled by drug trafficking that has caused crime to soar.
The country has experienced political turmoil in the past, including a 1990 attempted coup by Muslim extremists that prompted the last state of emergency in Trinidad.