INTERNATIONAL CRIME: Drug Cartels Know No Borders

March 8, 2013 at 6:04 pm Leave a comment

Transnational Crime

In the days since the March 5 death of Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, security analysts have speculated on whether regime change in Caracas will have any effect on transnational narcotics cartels operating in Latin America.

Cocaine seized in Central American waters. (U.S. Navy photo)

Cocaine seized in Central American waters.
(U.S. Navy photo)

Since 1999, when Chavez began his 14-year rule, Venezuela has been considered a major hub for the shipment of illegal narcotics from neighboring Colombia to the United States and Europe. The U.S. Treasury Department has added several high-level Venezuelan military and intelligence officials to its Foreign Narcotics Kingpin list, for alleged “material assistance” to the Colombian rebel group known as FARC (the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia) which Washington has labeled a “narco-terrorist organization.”

In the last decade, the battle against transnational criminal organizations has stretched from Central and South America across the Atlantic to West Africa and beyond. Officials say drug trafficking is destablizing, promotes corruption and other illegal activity including human trafficking and piracy. Increasingly, U.S. and other militaries are helping local and national law enforcement agencies with intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance to battle criminal cartels.

By law, the U.S. Defense Department is the lead agency for the detection and monitoring of aerial and maritime transit of illegal drugs, although federal law also limits the military’s assistance in U.S. territory to civil support. However, the Coast Guard, a unit of the Department of Homeland Security, has dual military and law enforcement authority.

But as authorities increase pressure on them in the Western Hemisphere, narco-cartels have been turning to Africa, especially the politically unstable countries of West Africa, to use as transit points for Europe-bound illicit drug shipments.

Nigerian special operations sailors and U.S. sailors conduct boarding, search and seizure training with the Joint Maritime Special Operations Training Command in Lagos, Nigeria in 2011. (U.S. Navy photo by Petty Officer 1st Class Darryl Wood)

Nigerian special operations sailors and U.S. sailors conduct boarding, search and seizure training with the Joint Maritime Special Operations Training Command in Lagos, Nigeria in 2011.
(U.S. Navy photo by Petty Officer 1st Class Darryl Wood)

A United Nations report released Feb. 25 listed the growing influence of narco-cartels both foreign and home-grown in West Africa. Cocaine trafficking remains the most lucrative criminal activity of international groups operating in the region, but one “worrying development” is the emergence of methamphetamine production and related trafficking, according to the report by the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime.

The report also discussed human trafficking between West Africa and Europe and arms trafficking across Africa.

Top government officials from the United States and other countries are slated to discuss the toll of trafficking in drugs, guns and humans at the Countering Transnational Organized Crime conference in Alexandria, Va. next month. To read the whole story, visit the Institute for Defense and Government Advancement site (http://www.idga.org) or click here.

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Entry filed under: Africa, International Crime, Latin America, National Security and Defense, Unconventional Warfare. Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , .

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