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  • A policeman handling seized drugs in Chinandega City, Nicaragua, May 16, 2010.

    A policeman handling seized drugs in Chinandega City, Nicaragua, May 16, 2010. | Photo: Reuters

Published 2 June 2016

Illegal trafficking appeared to be increasing in Central America and the Caribbean.

The EU Drug Trafficking Report revealed that EU citizens spent around US$27 billion on drugs every year, with high profit margins for the European market as a key driving factor for the illegal routes.

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The report also detailed how the illegal drug trade operates between Europe and Latin America, revealing some of the key trafficking points and smuggling methods.

The reported named South America and especially Colombia, Venezuela and Brazil as key departure points for cocaine headed for Europe via sea and air.

Cocaine production figures from Colombia reportedly increased as Colombian and Italian criminal groups continued to dominate the wholesale cocaine markets to Europe. The border between Colombia and Venezuela was seen as a weak control point for drugs headed to the EU.

In 2015, Venezuela closed border points with neighboring Colombia as a means of combating the flow of contraband feeding criminal organizations, including right-wing paramilitary groups.

The report said that globally “Coca cultivation appears to be increasing after a period of decline but there is uncertainty about how much cocaine is produced and where this occurs."

The illegal drug trade trade also intersected with other criminal activities such as corruption, providing financing for other crimes, and when violence and intimidation is used by groups to maintain their market position.

Central America and the Caribbean were the only areas that saw an increase in cocaine seizures, with an 800 percent increase in cocaine seizures from the Dominican Republic. The increase in illegal trafficking to Europe through Central America and the Caribbean has generally been attributed to recent crackdowns by authorities in the area, which has boosted the amounts of seizures.

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The report highlighted how criminal groups have been constantly evolving, including new smuggling techniques such as traffickers ingesting liquids instead of powdered cocaine, concealing drugs in breast implants, and using port workers to stash illegal cargo in legal shipping containers that have been cleared by customs.

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