The Coke Coast: Cocaine's New Venezuelan Address
Read Part I and Part II of this series.
As European cocaine use has increased, heightened sea interdiction by the U.S. and the EU has pushed more traditional transatlantic cocaine trafficking routes -- and their profits -- further south in the Americas, making Venezuela and Brazil, via West Africa, Europe's main suppliers of cocaine. While it is unknown exactly how much of the estimated 250 metric tons of cocaine that enters the EU by sea or air each year arrives from Africa, it is believed that the cocaine smuggled across the continent's fragile Western region has a street value of at least $2 billion. Of this, 50 percent originates in Brazil, which borders each of the major coca-producing Andean nations, while another 30 percent comes from Venezuela.
The shift is reflected in the 15.8 million tons of cocaine seized in Brazil in 2005, more than double the amount confiscated in 2004, according to the State Department's 2006 International Narcotics Control Strategy Report. Brazilian authorities have fought back, adopting a policy in 2004 to shoot down drug-transporting planes. But that appears to have only pushed the cocaine overland. Organized crime by urban gangs, meanwhile, has also proven to be a considerable challenge for Brazilian authorities. ...