Briefing Paper

Briefing Paper 132 (2013)   

Transatlantic drug trade:
Europe, Latin America and the need to strengthen anti-narcotics cooperation


Published 5.6.2013

Mikael Wigell & Mauricio Romero
The Finnish Institute of International Affairs

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The cocaine business has changed significantly in recent years. Once concentrated in Colombia, it has now expanded to the entire Latin American region with Brazil, Mexico, Central America, and Venezuela having become central corridors for the illegal traffic.

As the market for cocaine has been contracting in North America, Latin American drug networks have switched their attention to Europe, which is now the world’s fastest growing market for cocaine.

The cocaine enters Europe mainly by exploiting the legitimate container trade. Most shipments continue to be directed to Western Europe, but recently the illicit trade has been expanding eastward with new entry points opening up in the Black Sea and Balkan area. There are also indications of a possible new entry point in the Eastern Baltic Sea area.

Not only are Latin American criminal organizations expanding their activities on the European drug market, but they are also exploiting the European financial crisis to launder their profits and move into other branches of the economy.

The growing transatlantic cocaine trade calls for improving inter-regional counter-narcotics cooperation. Concrete steps should be taken to promote stronger links between anti-drugs programmes, development cooperation and public security policies on both sides of the Atlantic.

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