By Ryan C. Kossler
Impunity Watch Reporter, South America
Colombia – Latin American drug cartels have crossed the Atlantic Ocean seeking to expand their share of the drug market into West Africa. The Drug Enforcement Agency’s regional director for Europe and Africa said that “the same organizations that we investigate in Central and South America that are involved in drug activity toward the United States are engaged in this trafficking in Western Africa.” He further said that “there’s not one country that hasn’t been touched to some extent,” by the Latin American drug cartels.
There are several factors that have led the cartels’ to seek West Africa as a viable market source. West Africa is one of the poorest and least stable regions in the world. Its Governments are weak and often corrupted and law enforcement in the region is also often riddled with corruption. Further, due to its large population of desperate indignant inhabitants, it is relatively simple for the cartels to recruit soldiers from the area. The combination of these factors makes West Africa particularly vulnerable to penetration by the drug cartels.
Geography also plays an important role. West Africa is close to Colombia, Peru, and Bolivia, which are the three Latin American countries that produce most of the world’s cocaine. Cartels transport the drugs through Venezuela and across the Atlantic Ocean to the West Africa region. A recent U.N. report said that nearly 1,000 tons of pure cocaine is produced each year. Of this nearly 1,000 tons, approximately 60 percent evades the detection of law enforcement agencies, making for a wholesale global market value of $70 billion dollars.
Colombia’s Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia (FARC) has already been identified by the DEA as one of the Latin American groups involved in the drug trafficking in West Africa. Recently, Colombian and United States officials signed an agreement that would allow the United States access to Colombian military bases. This agreement is intended to help battle the drug epidemic in the region. Unfortunately, surrounding nations have condemned the agreement. Nations such as Venezuela and Ecuador provide refuge to criminal organizations such as Colombia’s FARC and have been vocal in stating that they would not condemn any military activity against these organizations within their borders.
The United States has pressed Latin American countries to meet there counter narcotics obligations. In a recent annual report, the United States identified Bolivia as the world’s third largest cocaine producer and charged Venezuela as failing to do enough to fight the drug trade. The United States, however, said that it would continue to provide humanitarian aid to the Latin American countries, even though the aid was intended to be dependent on the countries counter narcotics obligations.
For more information, please see:
CNN – Latin American Drug Cartels Find Home in West Africa – 21 September 2009
The Spectator – South American Spat – 24 September 2009
Reuters – U.S. keeps Venezuela, Bolivia atop narcotics list – 16 September 2009