Newsbriefing – Week of 7 October

Drug trafficking in Central America is damaging the Amazon forest. Traffickers are cutting down trees to build illegal roads and airstrips to transport cocaine. Narco-deforestation now affects large tropical forests in Guatemala, Honduras and Nicaragua. Protected wetlands and coastal areas are also used to supply maritime routes. Environmental degradation caused by drug trafficking leads to losses of about $215 million annually across Central America.

Kenya struggles to cope with ever increasing number of heroin seizures. The number of drug users in the country jumped by more than 50% in the past eight years, the majority of which use heroin. The drug enters this East African country through the port of Mombasa, an international hub for drugs from Afghanistan bound for Europe. Africa is the world fastest heroin market in the world.

Ecuador’s President Lenin Moreno deployed the army on to the streets of Quito after a week of increasingly violent protests. Thousands of indigenous groups protested the sudden rise in fuel prices as part of an IMF backed austerity package. Moreno blamed the violence on drug traffickers, organised crime and followers of former president Rafael Correa. Indigenous groups and the government announced negotiations are underway.

Buenos Aires international airport remains a hotspot for cocaine smuggling to Western Europe. End of September, authorities seized 250 kilos of cocaine which was bound for Madrid. Beginning of October, two dozen people were arrested in Italy for smuggling cocaine in their luggage from Buenos Aires to Palermo via Paris. They transported over 3.1 tonnes of cocaine in a single operation.

Beginning of October, heads of state and government met at the first high-level conference on wildlife trafficking in the Americas in Lima, Peru. They flagged wildlife trafficking is on the rise all across the region, called for international police cooperation and transnational investigations. A special focus was given to jaguar trafficking and the use of mercury which is a dangerous contaminant used in illegal mining in the Amazon forest. Illegal wildlife trafficking is a $20 billion global market.

European police seized 85 million euros worth of synthetic drugs and arrested 411 suspects during a continent-wide joint operation against organised crime. The haul included the seizure of 11.3 tonnes of MAPA precursor, used in the manufacturing of amphetamines, and 1.3 tonnes of cocaine. 54 victims of human trafficking were rescued.

Spanish authorities seized half a tonne of cocaine from Brazil transported in hidden cabins on a boat in the Azores, Portugal. They dismantled the organised crime groups operating from the Netherlands with connections in Brazil, Estonia, Portugal and the UK, using Spain as a gateway to trafficking narcotics substances into Europe.

 ritish authorities have dismantled the country’s biggest ever drug trafficking gang. Officers arrested thirteen men suspected of importing as much as fifty tonnes of drug from the Netherlands between 2017 and 2018. The NCA also seized 351 kilos of cocaine, 100 kilos of heroine and 250 kilos of cannabis.

Romania border police seized 750 kilos of cannabis hidden inside a minibus coming from Serbia near the border.