Africa’s Drug Gangs Pushing out LatAm Groups

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UN officials expressed concern about Africa’s conversion into a major transit point for the transcontinental drug trade, and said homegrown groups may be taking over the trade from Latin American traffickers.

As Reuters reports, South American cocaine traffickers have long used Africa as a staging area for merchandise being sent to Europe. An estimated $800 million dollars in narcotics passes through the region each year.

Latin American cells have typically been in charge of the African drug trade. However, Alexandre Schmidt, the local chief of the UN’s Office on Drugs and Crime, said that just as the Mexicans have come to replace the Colombians as the dominant force in the Western Hemisphere’s drug trade, the local African groups are playing an increasingly significant role in their region’s trafficking business.

In addition to its geographical advantages, war-wracked West Africa is an appealing site for organized crime because of the weakness of local governments, ready access to weapons, and the large numbers of youths looking for work.

According to Schmidt, the drop in the seizures of cocaine in the region in recent years is not a reflection of a reduced flow of the drug, but rather of increasingly intricate trafficking routes, which governments have so far been unable to keep pace with.

See InSight’s timeline on drug smuggling in North Africa.

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