Pubdate: Sun, 01 Apr 2007 Source: Foreign Policy (US) Copyright: 2007 Foreign Policy Contact: http://www.foreignpolicy.com/ Details: http://www.mapinc.org/media/3927 Bookmark: http://www.mapinc.org/pot.htm (Cannabis) Bookmark: http://www.mapinc.org/coke.htm (Cocaine) Bookmark: http://www.mapinc.org/meth.htm (Methamphetamine) THE LIST: THE DRUG WAR'S NEW BATTLEGROUNDS Despite efforts to stem the global trade in narcotics--indeed, often because of them--new trade routes are emerging around the world, posing challenges to authorities and local populations alike. In this week's List, FP takes a look at the newest fronts in the global war on drugs. Cocaine To The United States Traditional source: Colombia, via Mexico or Central America New front: Venezuela, via Haiti and the Dominican Republic. The U.S. State Department noted a 167 percent increase in cocaine flight traffic to Hispaniola from 2005 to 2006, and the Miami Herald uncovered a classified U.S. document in March that reports a nearly fourfold increase in cocaine-smuggling flights to the island since 2003. Traffickers are 98 percent successful, according to the paper's summary of the report. Reason for the shift: The deteriorating U.S.-Venezuela relationship. Hugo Chavez's heated anti-American populist stance led to the cessation of 17 years of anti-drug cooperation with the United States in 2005. But that's not the only reason for cocaine's new path: As Assistant U.S. Secretary of State Anne Patterson said in March, "Success in Colombia has basically led to a migration to some of this into Venezuela." The effect: Bolivia's populist leader Evo Morales looks to be taking cues from his regional mentor, Chavez, and resisting international cooperation on the drug trade. Gang crime and drug violence are up in Venezuelan border areas, and the movement of Colombian cocaine to Venezuela also threatens development for poor local populations who have yet to see the fruits of Chavez's grandiose promises to alleviate poverty. The crackdown: In response to growing international outcry, Venezuela announced last month that it would purchase Chinese satellite systems and Russian spy planes to help monitor the situation. But without meaningful international cooperation with the leading destination country, Venezuela looks primed to continue its new role as the "principal transit country for Andean cocaine," as the U.S. State Department's 2007 "International Narcotics Control Strategy Report" (INCSR) described it in March. Opiates To Iran, Russia, And Eastern Europe Traditional source: Afghanistan, Burma, and Laos, via Iran and neighboring Central Asian countries New front: Through the hands of a resurgent Taliban. The 2006 U.N. "World Drug Report" credits Afghanistan with producing 89 percent of the world's opium in 2005. Last year's crop was the largest on record in Afghanistan, and opium from Latin America and Laos has even tumbled as a result. Although poppy production has been on the rise since coalition forces toppled the Taliban in 2001, the past few years have seen the group reemerge as a major trafficking organization. Reason for the shift: A power vacuum that emerged once the Taliban was first defeated in 2001-02 has again been exploited by the group. Corruption among top Afghan officials remains a major problem, as President Hamid Karzai's government has failed to meet Afghans' security and economic needs. The effect: Addiction in Iran, Central Asia, Russia, Europe, and Turkey is up, thanks to increased traffic and easier access. And just at the time international investment in Afghanistan has never been more necessary, drug trafficking and Taliban-related violence deters potential investors and donors. And, of course, the Taliban is able to fund its growing criminal and military activities with ever more drug money, threatening to derail hopes for Afghanistan's democratic development based on the rule of law. The crackdown: Karzai's government has taken the lead in eradication and counternarcotics efforts, with pitiable results. Accordingly, NATO forces are launching an offensive of their own in Taliban-friendly Helmand province, which accounts for 45 percent of the country's poppy crop. Facing mounting addiction problems at home, Russia plans to establish anti-drug bureaus in more than 50 countries, including Afghanistan. The U.S. government is emphasizing judicial interventions, working with the Afghan government and Norwegian prosecutors to establish a task force for convicting traffickers. But it may be Iran, surprisingly, that is doing the most to halt the westward flow of opiates, earning the country rare praise from U.S. officials. Assistant Secretary Patterson said in March, "[Iran's] been very active on the border in preventing--in interdicting--shipments coming out of Afghanistan ... They've been, of the neighbors, by far the most aggressive." Methamphetamine To The United States Traditional source: "Mom-and-pop" operations in the U.S. Midwest, California, and other rural areas New front: Mexico, with component parts shipped primarily from China, India, and Germany. Mexican organized crime is producing stronger meth in "superlabs," then sending it along via the traditional routes for cocaine and marijuana trafficking: from Tijuana into San Diego and up the West Coast of the United States, or from western Mexico through major Texas cities and other southern U.S. urban hubs. Today, U.S. officials estimate that 80 percent of the meth in the United States originates in Mexico. Reason for the shift: The U.S. Congress passed the Combat Methamphetamine Epidemic Act in 2006, which tightened restrictions on the component parts (ephedrine and pseudoephedrine) that producers were using to concoct meth in their basements and garages. Pharmacies and discount stores clamped down, moving Sudafed and NyQuil behind the counter and pushing production of the dangerous drug south of the border. The effect: As production has moved south, so too has addiction. According to the 2006 U.N. "World Drug Report," treatment for drug use in Mexico is "growing more strongly for methamphetamine than for any other substance." And though Americans have the boom in Mexican meth to thank for lower street prices and fewer meth lab explosions, the shift is boosting drug-related crime in Mexico, where warring cartels dropped 2,100 murder victims in 2006--more than double the 2001 figure. The crackdown: The March seizure of more than $200 million in meth money from a Mexico City mansion hints at just how far the U.S.-Mexico trade in this drug may extend. The INCSR praised the "strong [anti-drug] actions" of the new administration of Mexican President Felipe Calderon. His dispatching of 24,000 police and soldiers to drug-soaked areas was a strong first step, but Mexico's cartels have often outlasted even the most well-intentioned of officials. Cocaine To Western Europe Traditional source: The Andean region of South America, via the Caribbean New front: West Africa, along the Gulf of Guinea. The 2007 INCSR referred to Ghana as a "major transshipment point for illegal drugs, particularly cocaine from South America," and the Los Angeles Times reported in March that "Colombian gangsters" are "setting up elaborate front companies, rolling around in flashy cars and allegedly buying high-level protection" in Guinea-Bissau. Reason for the shift: Better cover. Increasingly effective interdiction methods in both the Caribbean and the Mediterranean have forced some drug cartels to reconsider old routes for cocaine bound for Britain, Italy, the Netherlands, and Spain in favor of the Gulf of Guinea's unpatrolled coastlines and rudimentary counternarcotics infrastructure. And poverty and underdevelopment in West Africa have left the region particularly vulnerable to global organized crime. "Ghana's interest in attracting investment provides good cover for foreign drug barons to enter the country under the guise of doing legitimate business," the INCSR found. The effect: Africa's role in feeding record-high cocaine use in Europe has also fed addiction in transfer points in Africa. The ensuing health problems, as well as drug-related corruption and criminals' co-option of the legitimate shipping industry, threaten to stunt development in poor countries. The crackdown: In Ghana, the government is training new law-enforcement officers in Accra. In addition, several European countries, including the United Kingdom, Portugal, and Spain, are collaborating to stem the increased drug trade. However, recent indications suggest that drug money from the region is being channeled to terror groups responsible for recent North African bombings, such as the recent al Qaeda attacks in Algiers. Expect increased scrutiny of terror financing--and the drug money from which it often originates.