• Connect with us on Linkedin

Brazil Arrests Point to Southern Africa Cocaine Trade

For the second time in a month, São Paulo police arrested a large group allegedly trying to smuggle cocaine to Angola, in a sign of southern Africa's importance as transit hub and market for the drug trade.

Linkedin
Google +

Police at São Paulo airport stopped 24 people trying to board a flight to Luanda, capital of Angola, on Monday. The men were all carrying Nigerian passports, though police suspect some may be fake, and had apparently swallowed capsules of cocaine. They were arrested and taken to a city hospital to expel the drugs from their bodies.

This was the biggest group to be caught in Brazil transporting drugs in this way, according to police, but the men are part of a larger pattern. Less than a month before, 23 Nigerians were stopped at the same airport with cocaine capsules in their stomachs and a suitcase with eight kilos of the drug, also trying to board a flight to Luanda. They join hundreds of other mules, often African, charged with trying to smuggle drugs from Brazil to southern Africa.

Brazil does not produce cocaine, but its extensive land borders include permeable frontiers with Colombia, Peru and Bolivia, the world’s principal cocaine producers, as well as with various transit countries, such as Paraguay and Venezuela.

brazil_africa_cocaine

The United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime reported as far back as 2005 that Brazilian criminal groups were increasingly developing trafficking links with southern Africa, where Angola is located. In the years since then, the amount of South American cocaine passing through Brazil has increased exponentially. The number of seizures of cocaine that could be traced back to Brazil went up 10-fold between 2005 and 2009. In 2010, São Paulo's international airport seized a record quantity of cocaine, confiscating some 1.8 tons over the course of the year.

As InSight Crime has previously reported, there has been evidence in recent years of the growing presence of drug gangs in North and West Africa, particularly in nations like Nigeria and Guinea-Bissau. The increased importance of Brazil as a transit point for cocaine may be driven in part by the country having easier access to the African continent than anywhere else in South America.

Much of the cocaine that passes through West and southern Africa is in transit to Europe, which has become a much larger cocaine market in the last decade. As the map, left, indicates, Europe’s rising demand has been fed by a proliferation of trafficking routes, with the emergence of a Brazil-southern Africa-Europe route, some of which passes through West Africa, in the decade between 1998 and 2008.

Some of the cocaine heading to southern Africa is intended for consumption in the region’s richest country, South Africa. Some 60 percent of cocaine trafficked into South Africa in 2009 went to the domestic market, according to government figures quoted by the UN. Much of the rest of it goes north to Europe, on direct flights or via West Africa. Angola does not have a significant domestic demand for cocaine, and much of the drug passes straight through the country, heading north to Nigeria and Europe, often entering the continent through Portugal. (Angola is Portugese-speaking, making it easier for local criminal groups to deal with Brazilian and Portuguese traffickers.)

An indication of the amounts trafficked through Angola is given by the fact that, according to local media, police seized 74 kilos of cocaine at Luanda’s main airport in 2010.

Most of the cocaine going from Brazil to southern Africa is transported by individuals traveling on commercial flights who conceal it on their persons. Local newspaper the Jornal de Angola reported in April that, according to a police source, more than 90 percent of the drug that reaches the country by air is brought from Brazil, mostly transported by mules from São Paulo or Rio de Janeiro. It said that these mules are mostly Africans, often from Nigeria, Senegal, the Democratic Republic of Congo, and Mali, as well as Angola. As the newspaper details, these individuals often say they were unaware of the cargo they would be transporting until they arrived in Brazil, having been promised large sums of money if they traveled to the South American country to perform licit business errands. One South African campaign group said in 2009 that around 30 South African citizens are arrested on suspicion of drug smuggling in Brazil every month, and that the figure had shot up in the previous two years. UN figures from 2005 said that just under 35 percent of drug couriers caught in Brazil were Africans.

It seems that Africans may also be increasingly involved in the higher echelons of the business. One UNDOC official stated in June that increasingly sophisticated African groups are taking control of the drug trade in their region, displacing South American trafficking organizations.

Linkedin
Google +

---

What are your thoughts? Click here to send InSight Crime your comments.

We also encourage readers to copy and distribute our work for non-commercial purposes, provided that it is attributed to InSight Crime in the byline, with a link to the original at both the top and bottom of the article. Check the Creative Commons website for more details of how to share our work, and please send us an email if you use an article.

InSight Crime Search

The Complete Organized Crime Database on the Americas

InSight Crime Social

facebooktwittergooglelinkedin

InSight Crime Special Series

The Zetas in Nuevo Laredo

Los Zetas in Nuevo Laredo

After the capture of Zetas boss "Z40," Nuevo Laredo is bracing itself for the worst. This investigation breaks down what makes the city such an important trafficking corridor, and what it will take for the Zetas to maintain their grip on the city.

See entire series »

 

Uruguay's Marijuana Bill

Uruguay: Marijuana, Organized Crime and the Politics of Drugs

Uruguay is poised to become the first country on the planet to regulate the production, sale, and distribution of the drug.

See entire series »

El Salvador's Gang Truce

El Salvador's Gang Truce

The truce between El Salvador's two largest gangs -- the MS-13 and the Barrio 18 -- opens up new possibilities in how to deal with

See entire series »

Juarez After The War

Juarez After The War

As a bitter war between rival cartels grinds to an end, Ciudad Juarez has lost the title of world murder capital, and is moving towards something more like normality.

See entire series »

The Zetas And The Battle For Monterrey

The Zetas and the Battle for Monterrey

InSight Crime delves into the Zetas' battle for Mexico’s industrial capital, Monterrey, getting to the essence of a criminal gang that defies easy definition.

See entire series »

Slavery in Latin America

Slavery in Latin America

InSight Crime coordinated an investigation into modern slavery, looking at how Latin America’s criminal groups traffic human beings and force them to work as slaves.

See entire series »

FARC, Peace and Criminalization

FARC, Peace and Possible Criminalization

The possibility of ending nearly 50 years of civil conflict is being dangled before Colombia. While the vast majority of the Colombian public want to see peace, the enemies of the negotiations appear to be strong, and the risks inherent in the process are high.

See entire series »

Displacement in Latin America

Displacement in Latin America

InSight Crime coordinated an investigation into the new face of displacement in Latin America, where organized criminal groups are expanding and forcing people to flee.

See entire series »

Target: Migrants

Target: Migrants

The growth of organized crime in Mexico and Central America has led to an increase in violence and insecurity across the region, posing challenges to citizens, public security forces, and travelers.

See entire series »

Zetas in Guatemala

The Zetas in Guatemala

Mexico's Zetas have taken Guatemala by storm, and they are testing this country and the rest of the region: fail this test, and Central America sinks deeper into the abyss.

See entire series »

Most Read

Mapping MS13, Barrio 18 Territory in Guatemala City

Mapping MS13, Barrio 18 Territory in Guatemala City

Officials in Guatemala have identified the areas of the capital controlled by the MS13 and Barrio 18 gangs, illustrating the degree of gang infiltration in the city with the third highest homicide rate in the...

Read more

Phone Calls Illustrate Power of Guatemalan Ex-Army Officer

Phone Calls Illustrate Power of Guatemalan Ex-Army Officer

As the trial begins of a Guatemalan ex-military officer accused of running a bribery ring from prison, where he is serving a sentence for a high-profile murder, phone recordings presented as evidence provide an inside...

Read more

Brazil's Red Command and the Police Who Fight Them

Brazil's Red Command and the Police Who Fight Them

In the Antares favela, a flat dusty slum in the far west of Rio de Janeiro, the control of the Red Command remains intact and blatant.

Read more

Latest Criminal Profile