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Africa: New drug trafficking route

Methamphetamine and cocaine dealers in Latin America have found another way to reach Europe
Photo: Joe Penney/REUTERS
01/07/2017
16:02
Germán de los Santos - La Nación/GDA
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In Buenos Aires, Argentina, the Portuguese Fernando Martins Frutuoso and the Colombian Wilmar Yuriano Valencia Estrada, from the cartel of Los Urabeños, were cooking rice in a large pot.

They were practicing a sophisticated method for making cocaine stick to the grains of rice.

This organization of Colombian, Argentine, Ecuadorian and Portuguese drug dealers, led by brothers Erman and Williams Triana Peña, planned to send a cargo of 46 tons of rice to Guinea Bissau, Africa, through Euro Export SRL. The cargo was to reach the country through the "Zero Hunger" program of the United Nations (UN).

The cargo was discovered in September 2015 by the Argentine Gendarmerie, along with the fact that this transnational organization had created 30 companies in Argentina to launder USD$5.337.000.

Former Argentine Secretary of Justice, Guillermo Heisinger, was one of the main members of this organization which laundered money in the agricultural and financial sectors, as well as in funeral services.

Africa is a new route of drug trafficking from Latin America that begins to be worrisome. The African intermediaries who introduce drugs in Europe belong to criminal organizations related to governments with direct links to terrorism and arms trade.

The Argentine Security Minister, Patricia Bullrich, said that Argentina is an attractive market for dealers and that part of the local export of cocaine "finances terrorist groups" in Africa. Bullrich explained that cocaine is sent to Africa to reach Europe.

According to a report by the Police Community of the Americas (Ameripol), 30% of the cocaine destined for Europe passes through the African route. Africa has become a key point on the world drug map for the past five years. And for criminal organizations in Latin America, it is an increasingly used alternative route.

Pioneers

The United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) raised the alarm and called for intensified "efforts to eradicate drug trafficking and organized crime in West Africa."

The main Mexican drug cartels were the first to penetrate the African route. Los Zetas, the Sinaloa and Jalisco New Generation Cartels created bridges with that continent with the help of the Italian Mafia Ndrangheta for more than seven years.

The cartel led by Joaquín Archivaldo Guzmán Loera, aka El Chapo, extradited to the United States last January, uses Guinea Bissau's route to introduce the drug into Europe. In that region, three factions of the Sinaloa Cartel operate, one of them led by Damaso López Serrano, aka Minilic.

The Colombian cartels also have ties with the African continent. The authorities of that country estimate that 130 tons of cocaine end up in African ports and usually leave through the port of Santos, Brazil.

Alliances

In Togo and Guinea-Bissau, several Colombians were captured for carrying drug shipments in alliance with Venezuelan and Brazilian networks. Brazilian organizations such as the Northern Family (FDN) and the First Command of the Capital (PCC) work with the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC), the powerful Gulf Clan and the criminal gang Caqueteños which operates in southern Colombia.

According to sources from the Central Directorate of the Judicial Police and Intelligence (DIJIN), Los Caqueteños along with the FDN control the drug traffic across the land and river frontiers between Brazil, Peru, and Colombia.

American federal agents assure that the drug which enters Brazil ends up in Europe, via Suriname and Africa. Several of the leaders of the Brazilian gangs murdered in prison massacres last January were killed for the control of those routes with Colombian drug dealers.

In the case of Venezuela, drug leaves from the area of Catatumbo, in the north of the country, the crops of which have doubled in the last four years. Almost all the narco routes leave from the south of Bolivar, Cesar, La Guajira, Arauca and Vichada in Colombia.

On the night of June 2, Peru's Anti-Drug Police seized 1.045 pounds (474 kilograms) of cocaine which was to be shipped from the port of Paita, Perú, to Abidjan, in Ivory Coast. The cocaine was camouflaged in cones of threads stored in cardboard boxes.

In Brazil, the door to Africa is the port of Santos, where 88% of the drug that leaves the country is exported. The modus operandi is the so-called rip-on rip-off: drug dealers, with the help of accomplices, camouflage cocaine in licit cargo inside containers.

One of the most dynamic routes to Africa is the so-called Carretera 10, through which cocaine leaves Brazil to West African countries. Other ports are Montevideo, in Uruguay, and Buenos Aires and Rosario, in Argentina.

In Uruguay, drug shipments by mail to Africa were discovered. On April 10, FedEx reported two suspicious packages in Montevideo. Impregnated cocaine was found in clothing and inside a drill. The culprit had sent parcels with cocaine to Hong Kong, Cape Verde, South Africa, and Madrid.

Costa Rica also uses mail to introduce drugs to Africa. Most of the time they are small amounts and are sent by mail or in travelers' suitcases from Nigeria, Congo, Ghana and South Africa.

In the face of these new routes and movements of the cartels, the Directorate for Fighting Organized Crime and Interpol try to do coordinated work to find out the modus operandi of the organizations and then catch the dealers.

According to Amado de Andrés, regional representative of the UNODC, cocaine production in Latin America has grown in the last three years. The official acknowledged that the increase in narcotic production is due to key factors: the peace process in Colombia and FARC operations.

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