Spain has become the main gateway into Europe for cocaine and hashish.
It has now stepped up the fight against drug trafficking by rings which are changing their tactics to maintain their access to the lucrative European market the head of the anti-cocaine squad of the anti-drugs unit of Spain’s national police force, Jose Antonio Rodriguez, said.
‘Traffickers have money on their side, a lack of scruples and they can develop their activities without limit.’
Latin American drug rings can rely on the help of strong local networks in Africa to help move their narcotics to Europe, said Rodriguez.
‘We have found that groups in the region such as Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb cooperate with them, they get paid to transport drugs to North Africa,’ he said.
Spain’s proximity to Morocco and its easy access to the Atlantic Ocean make it ‘a natural entry point for drug shipments for all of Europe,’ said Rodriguez.
Cocaine arrives in Spain from Latin America in Galicia, on the northwestern coast, and also in the southern port of Cadiz, and is then shipped overland by truck to France, Italy, Germany and the Netherlands.
Last year Spain seized 20.7 tonnes of cocaine, 24.9 percent more than in the previous year and 325.5 tonnes of hashish, down 8.5 percent from 2011, Interior Minister Jorge Fernandez-Diaz reported.
That represents 41.21 percent of the total amount of cocaine which was seized in Europe last year and 73.69 percent of the hashish, according to the minister.
Susanne Gratius, an analyst with FRIDE, a think tank specialising in European affairs, who wrote a report about the fight against drug trafficking for the European Parliament, said ‘Very often drugs no longer arrive directly from Latin America, instead they pass through Africa using the traditional routes for hashish trafficking.’
Ghana, Liberia, Mali, Nigeria and Senegal are countries used by traffickers to get cocaine from Latin America to Spain, she added.
The drug rings sending cocaine to Spain have changed as well.
The Colombians who dominated the trade in the 1980s have now been replaced by Mexican cartels, said Gratius.
Drug traffickers’ interest in Europe has increased because demand from the continent for cocaine is growing, she added. Demand for the drug has plunged by 33 percent in the United States, she said, but consumers in Europe have doubled.
Hiding cocaine in banana shipments remains one of the favourite tactics used by traffickers because ports are busy and perishable goods leave quickly. The traffickers are always looking for new ways to bring in the drugs and even live animals have been used, including a labarador dog which had been stuffed with packages of cocaine inside its body.