Wednesday, 24 June 2009

Venezuela and cocaine traffic to Europe

United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime just published its yearly report on world drug. There is a lot of interesting and equally horrifying information in there. I just point to the issues relating to Venezuela.

Most cocaine is still produced in Colombia, although cocaine production can be found in Bolivia, Ecuador, Peru and Venezuela. Venezuelans used to say "Venezuela is a transit country, not a consumption, the problem lies in the producing areas and at the consumer side". It is true consumers of illegal drugs should be made responsible as well as they are financing a criminal and very lethal activity. Still, the Venezuelan public (not physicians and some other workers in the area of health) is deluding itself if it thinks the cocaine problem is not a big threat for Venezuela as well, in every sense. Cocaine consumption in Venezuela has been increasing for a long time already. You don't have many thousands of people working in the transport of cocaine and expect them to remain without addiction.

According to the UNODC, Venezuela accounted for the seizure of 32 metric tones in 2007. Colombia accounted for 60% of all seizures. The report confirms what we wrote earlier:

"Cocaine trafficked to North America typicall originates in Colombia and reaches the US through Mexico, either directly by speed boats or via cocuntries such as the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela, Ecuador and Panama. Most of the cocaine (close to 70%) is estimated to be transported via the Eastern-Pacific route towards Mexio and some 20% via the Western Caribbean route."

Further, it says:

"The most frequently memntioned country of origin of the cocaine trafficked to Europe is Colombia (48% of countries reported Colombia as the source country for their seizures) followed by Peru (30%) and the Plurinational State of Bolivia (18% of the countries). The most frequently reported transit countries were the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela and Ecuador".

Further it reads "the most important cocaine transit country [for Europe] in 2007 in volume terms was the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela".

Very worryingly for Venezuelans is that whether cocaine consumption in the US decreased slightly and it stagnated in Europe, it has kept increasing in their land. The report lists Venezuela first in the list of South American countries where cocaine consumption has increased.

Venezuelans were the third largest group of foreigners detained for cocaine trafficking in Portugal in 2007. It is interesting to see Venezuelans follow with 10% of detentions the people of Cape Verde (with 52%), and those from Guineau-Bisseau (12%). Brazil, with a much larger population than Venezuela and speaking Portuguese, represented 8% of the foreigners caught trafficking cocaine in Portugal. So: Venezuelans are much more likely to be caught as cocaine traffiquers in Portugal than Brazilians. You could think that:

1- Venezuelans are more represented than Brazilians because they often don't speak Portuguese well and thus they don't find their way around as drug mules or

2- Venezuelans indeed have "issues": they are more likely to be involved with that traffic in Portugal than Brazilians.

Brazil has many more people, a higher purchasing power than Venezuela and the mother tongue is Portuguese and yet more Venezuelans than Brazilians get caught trafficking cocaine in Portugal. I haven't been able to find the statistics on Venezuelan versus Brazilian visitors to Portugal but I am sure more Brazilians visit Portugal than Venezuelans.

The report also talks about the increasing importance of West Africa as a transit route to Europe. The cocaine comes mostly from South America. As previously mentioned in this blog, Venezuela is one of the routes taken to ship the drugs to Africa. It goes through the Caribbean Islands or through the Orinoco Delta to the Atlantic Ocean and from there indirectly through Western Africa or directly to Europe.

A responsible Venezuelan government (hopefully we have a better one in 2013) should:
  1. Recognize that even if Venezuelan cocaine consumption may not be particularly high, they are a big threat to the country and contribute to violent crimes
  2. Enforce a policy of informing all foreign nationals that cocaine consumers are also guilty of cocaine-related crimes as they support a traffic that is illegal
  3. Permanently bring forward to the international opinion the need to discuss how to tackle the drug problem: either you legalize the traffic and control it through hospitals and the like or you also follow a mature campaign in Europe and the US (and everywhere else) where everyone becomes aware cocaine consumers are financing drug cartels.
  4. Cooperate fully with other countries in the drug control

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