Brazil Developing Technology to Trace Cocaine ‘DNA’

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Brazil’s Federal Police director said that his nation was developing ways to trace cocaine’s origins through chemical analysis, more evidence of resolve by Latin America’s superpower to confront drug trafficking in the region. 

Police Director Leandro Daiello said that Brazil was experimenting with scientific procedures that would detect the “DNA” of cocaine seized inside the country, EFE reported. Brazil has already built up a database to facilitate this process and is willing to share the information with Bolivia, believed to be the main producer of the cocaine seized in Brazil, Daiello added.

The practice is already used by US Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) and has been employed inside Colombia, in order to track batches of cocaine back to particular coca-growing regions. It involves analyzing trace alkaloids in cocaine samples, and then tracing them back to coca leaves grown in specific areas. Coca leaves are the raw material for cocaine production. 

Daiello made the remarks during a two-day meeting between security and government representatives from Bolivia and Peru in La Paz. Representatives from Colombia and the United Nations also attended the meeting, which is expected to result in a pact outlining terms under which unmanned Brazilian aircraft may monitor Bolivian airspace for suspected drug traffickers.

InSight Crime Analysis

Brazil’s cocaine tracking is likely to face some of the same challenges confronted by the DEA in the Andean region. Because coca leaves may be processed into coca base in one country, then refined into cocaine hydrochloride (HCl) in other countries, this could make the identification of the cocaine’s geographical origin difficult to determine. 

Daiello’s comments speak to the amount of resources — both scientific and military — that Brazil is willing to invest in the war against drug trafficking in the Southern Cone region. Brazil is facing a crack cocaine epidemic and has become the single biggest consumer of the drug after the United States, as well as being a transhipment point for drugs heading to Europe. Asides from donating technological assistance and anti-narcotics training to its neighbors, Brazil has become more active in anti-drug operations in other countries, particularly Bolivia

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