Cocaine and Instability in Africa: Lessons from Latin America and the Caribbean (Africa Security Brief, Number 5, July 2010)
NATIONAL DEFENSE UNIV WASHINGTON DC AFRICA CENTER FOR STRATEGIC STUDIES
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Beginning in 2006, several West African countries seized extremely large volumes of cocaine measured in the hundreds and thousands of kilograms in single hauls. These seizures were often accidental, indicating that actual traffic was likely much higher. Cocaine departs Venezuela, Colombia, and elsewhere in South America in shipping containers, on yachts, and by small planes and jets. South American organized criminal and militant groups commonly deliver bulk shipments to West African traffickers in Ghana, Nigeria, Guinea, and Guinea Bissau, countries that the UN Office on Drugs and Crime UNODC frequently characterizes as the subregions cocaine hubs. The cocaine is then repackaged and moved to neighboring countries before being transferred to syndicates in Europe, often composed of African expatriates, who handle wholesale and retail sales. Seizures in West Africa have resulted in the arrests of African, South American, European, and other nationals. The dollar value of cocaine trafficked through West Africa has risen rapidly and surpassed all other illicit commodities smuggled in the subregion. Experience from Latin America and the Caribbean demonstrates that cocaine traffic contributes to dramatically higher levels of violence and instability. Co-opting key government officials is the preferred modus operandi of Latin American cocaine traffickers. African governments need to act urgently to protect the integrity of their counternarcotics institutions to prevent this threat from developing deeper roots on the continent.
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