Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Growing Evidence of the Transcontinental Cocaine Pipeline

Via CT Blog -

One of the disturbing and little noticed events of recent weeks was the crash (or destruction) of a Boeing 727 in the desert of Mali.

The crash is disturbing for many reasons, among them these three: 1) the aircraft was carrying between 2 to 3 tons of cocaine, far more than other, smaller aircraft and boats that have been detected in recent months, indicating an escalation of the trade through the Trans-Sahel region; 2) The region where the aircraft was found, most likely torched by its crew to destroy evidence, in a area of heavy operation of Al Qaeda in the Islamic Magreb (AQIM); and 3) the aircraft departed from Venezuela, now Latin America's primary transshipment hub from Latin America to West Africa, and source of all the major air shipments of cocaine that have been interdicted in West Africa.

Finally, as the Observer article notes, British, U.S. and French authorities in West Africa have discovered HCL labs, used to make finished cocaine for the European market, as well as capsules and other items for making Meth capsules there, also likely for export to Europe.

All this points to a disturbing set conclusions. One is that the Colombian and Mexican traffickers are feeling sufficiently confident in their ability to move product through West Africa and upping the size of their loads based on that confidence. In testing new routes they always start small, to minimize losses if the route isn't working. Once they are confident they flood the zone. It seems that this is the first indication that the West Africa zone is now being flooded.

Another is that there could be a growing role of at least some branches of al Qaeda or other Islamist terrorist groups now willing to help move or protect the drugs as they move north. The crash indicates the cocaine was not going to be moved to Europe via boats, as it was far inland. The Tuareg and other groups that control the smuggling routes north through the Sahel will be making much more money as they move into the cocaine protection and movement business, much as the FARC in Colombia found itself awash in cash when they did. My full blog is here.

No comments:

Post a Comment