The illegal use of cocaine has been a favorite past time for many people for decades.
Its illegal trafficking causes issues on a political, ethical and global level.
However, before addressing this predicament, which the world has been dealing with for some time now, let’s have a look at what cocaine really is.
Why is this substance of such great importance to many?
“Snow,” “Flake,” “C,” “Charlie”
“Snow,” “Flake,” “C,” “Charlie” is the street name for Cocaine – the drug that has been around since the dawn of man.
The Coca plant is native to Argentina, Bolivia, Colombia, Ecuador, and Peru.
The Coca leaves are the raw material from which the drug itself is manufactured.
One of the main reasons this plant is extremely popular is its psychoactive alkaloid, cocaine.
An interesting fact about the plant’s leaves is that chewing on them will not have the same effect as the processed drug.
What is more, a well-known product, Coca Cola has been using coca leaf extract since 1885.
Thus, it is easy to conclude that there are a few beneficial and legal uses of this herb, but unfortunately this is not the reason why the majority vies for this plant.
The purified chemical (known as cocaine hydrochloride), has been one of the most abused substances for over 100 years.
Cocaine is also known as the drug of the 80s and 90s due to its extremely high usage during those years.
Often times, street dealers mix cocaine with various “camouflage” substances like corn starch or sugar.
Its trafficking, illegal growth and usage has somewhat declined since then, especially in North America, but unfortunately its illegal growth and popularity continued to rise in other parts of the world like Europe.
The United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime
The United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) was founded in 1997.
The organization’s prime objective is to engage in battle against illegal drugs and international crime.
It was on May 10th in 2011 that representative countries gathered for a crucial meeting in Paris to discuss the problem of drug trafficking.
One of the main points that have been brought up during the meeting was the fact that the use of cocaine has been on the rise in Europe, though it has been declining in the U.S. since 1998.
Another solemn fact that was brought to light was the various negative effects this drug and its illegal trafficking have on families, and even entire nations.
Source Countries, Transit Areas, and Final Destinations
Colombia is one of the main countries responsible for the production and growth of the illicit drug – cocaine. In 2014 alone, the production of the drug grew 39 percent.
In other words, they went from producing 185 tons to (a worrying) 245 tons a year.
Peru and Bolivia, the two other major sources of Coca production have not seen such a high rise, and President Evo Morales (a former coca farmer) has been successfully controlling coca’s spread in Bolivia.
Thus, it can be easily concluded that Colombia is the main source of all cocaine-related trafficking.
Its two major transit areas and final destinations are North America and Europe.
When it comes to routes, it is important to mention that a lot has changed since the 1970s, when the Colombian traffickers used US pilots (veterans) who directly delivered the drug to the U.S.
After some time radar surveillance was implemented, which made trafficking a lot more difficult, and that was the time that smuggling became popular.
Today, one of the most popular final destinations of this drug is Florida, where drug-related crime continues to rise.
Mexico and the Caribbean are also famous transit areas as well as final destinations when addressing cocaine.
Nowadays, cocaine transportation from Colombia to Mexico and Central America usually occurs by sea.
The remainder of the trip continues on land, till it reaches the final destination in the U.S. and Canada.
According to the US authorities approximately 90 percent of cocaine enters the U.S. through the following states: New Mexico, Texas, Arizona and California.
The majority of trafficking, in this case, takes place on land and the traffickers first have to cross the U.S. – Mexico border.
Other evidence indicates that 70 percent of the drug is exported from Colombia via the Pacific Ocean, 20 percent via the Atlantic Ocean, and 10 percent via the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela and the Caribbean.
As for Europe, the biggest cocaine markets are the following countries:
The United Kingdom, ranking as number one, followed by Italy, France, Spain and Germany.
The majority of the illegal transportation of cocaine to Europe occurs by sea.
However, in some cases deliveries are made by air and postal services.
According to the national Crime Agency of the United Kingdom, between 25-30 tons of cocaine are imported annually in the country.
United Kingdom’s illegal drug market is one of the most attractive ones for organized criminals, which results in prices that are some of the highest in Europe.
Furthermore, United Kingdom has been one of the top consumers of cocaine in Europe for decades, according to the European Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Drug Addiction.
It’s especially worth pointing out that, during 2013 and 2014, 2.4% of 16 to 59-year-olds in England and Wales had used cocaine powder.
Most of the cocaine destined for the UK enters the country either via Spain or one of the major European hub ports, such as Rotterdam and Antwerp.
Maritime container ships are used for transporting bulk amounts of cocaine, as well as yachts, couriers and general cargo vessels.
Cocaine arrives in Italy from Columbian, Dominican, as well as other trafficking groups from South America.
Containerized shipments are mostly used such as those arriving through the port of Gioia Tauro, in the region of Calabria, which is one of Italy’s poorest regions.
Since 2007, the Camorra crime syndicate has been reported to have begun trafficking cocaine from Spain to Italy.
Drug trafficking in Italy is loosely linked to mafia.
The police estimate that the criminal organization ‘Ndrangheta controls between 60 and 80 percent of all cocaine market in Europe, through their influence in the port of Gioia Tauro in southern Italy.
The organization started investing in the illegal international drug trade in the 1990s, importing cocaine from Colombia.
In recent years, the Sicilian Mafia got involved as well, getting support from ‘Ndrangheta and Camorra in brining cocaine into the areas the mafia controls.
In the past, ‘Ndrangheta’s smuggling technique mostly involved establishing fake cargo companies, however, in the recent years they have started planting their own people in the port, in a so-called “rip-off technique.”
The latter involves planting people inside ports so that they could smuggle drugs in random shipping containers.
It is estimated that 1.5 million people in France have taken cocaine at some point in their life.
Although it sounds alarming, this number is ten times lower compared to the number of people who have taken cannabis.
The cocaine situation in France wasn’t very serious in the past; however that’s been changing the previous years, with the influx of shipments coming from West Africa and North Africa, other important cocaine transit locations.
One of the ways in which Cocaine gets transported out of France is the northern port of Calais, and from there it’s transported to the United Kingdom and further on.
Most of the cocaine seizures in France are made at sea, close to West Africa or Caribbean, close to the country’s overseas territories.
As for the transit, Brazil was identified as the main transit country in 2008, followed by Venezuela.
Since 1980s, Spain’s northwestern region of Galicia has been used as a bridgepoint to Europe by Colombian narcotic cartels.
However, since the early 1990, the police have been more effective in this region, which made the cartel also focus on the ports of Asturias, Cantabria and the Basque Country.
Spain, along with Portugal, represents a regional hub for drug trafficking, covering the south of Europe.
Spain is one of the most important countries in the international illegal drug trade, as it is considered an entry point for the European market, according to a report of the European Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Drug Addiction (EMCDDA) and Europol.
Furthermore, The United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) estimated in 2007 that the amount of cocaine intercepted in Spain was almost ten times bigger compared to Italy (38 vs. 4 metric tons).
The money spent on fighting drugs in Germany is estimated to be between 4.8 and 6 billion dollars annually.
However, drug trafficking remains a problems due to the country’s central position in Europe, which makes it a key crossroad for drug trafficking.
The German police divide trafficking offences into 2 categories, as “sales” and “import.”
Almost half of the people arrested for cocaine sales in 2008 were non-German, while for importing, that number goes up to 63%.
Furthermore, it was discovered that more than one fifth of German passport holders in organized groups were not actually born in Germany.
Among the arrested were also persons associated with ‘Ndrangheta and other Italian mafia groups.
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